Ask Inkwell: What should I name my blog?

January 14 by

Ask Inkwell: What should I name my blog?

I have a great blog idea, but am wondering how best to title it.  Should I go for something unique or something broader that will get a lot of traffic?  Can I change my blog name later?  How do I know what’s best to choose?

Thanks in advance,

Frustrated Anonymous

This is definitely an overwhelming problem to have. I have been there, and it’s no fun! On the plus side, once this is resolved, just about every other decision you make for your site will be simpler.

Almost everything you choose for your blog can be changed at a later date: your theme, your layout, your graphics, your features, even your topic, if you really had to. But when you’re choosing your blog title and domain name, it’s a tricky situation. There are many things to keep in mind. While no one can tell you what will best fit YOU and your blog, here are some good rules of thumb to keep in mind.

 

Know what a blog title actually is.

A blog domain name is unchanging. A title, on most hosts, can be changed later, but it’s ill advised. You will need to pick a title that matches your domain name, ideally, and stick with it. Don’t rush into this decision!

Keywords are important, yes, but they are not reliant upon your blog title and domain name alone. You’ll also have a subtitle field to play with, tags to create, categories to include, and your individual post titles — and every one of those things can be changed easily (though don’t do it often, or you’ll break all the links you’ve left scattered around to lead people to you.)

The blog title is vital, but it’s not the only place you will describe yourself.  It’s your identity, and the phrase you will lead with when you tell people what you’re working on. It’s the word or words you want them to remember when you talk on a radio show, or have an ad run in the newspaper. Make it count, but don’t try to fit it ALL into one place.

Prioritize. Who are you?

 

Ask your friends!

Tell them, in person or online, just a two-line, basic blueprint for what you’re going to pitch.  If that’s a real estate office, ask them what they would Google if they were suddenly house-shopping. If you run a fitness center, ask them what they’d need to know about a fitness center before they’d want to join it.

Better yet, just ask them what words come to mind!  For real estate, I think of these words: housing, homes, buyer’s market, escrow, Realtor, foreclosure, rentals. Fitness makes me think of weight loss, perseverance, sweat, fat, exercise, health, stationary bicycles, weights, nutrition supplements.

These examples don’t matter. I’m showing you the process. Let them free associate, and take advantage of all those Facebook and Twitter eyes to brainstorm en masse. You might be surprised what they come up with! (And besides, later on, it’s fun to point out your website with a post saying, “You guys helped me name this — check out my new blog here!”  People love and respond to being involved.)

 

Wear your reader’s Googling shoes.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself as someone else who is looking for you. If you are looking for affordable roof repair, are you going to start with “best prices for dormer installations and weather sealing” as your terms?  No.  More likely, you’re going to Google something like “cheap home roof repair” or “Chicago roofing companies” at the start. You might get more specific from there, once you see what’s available. But studies show that most people never stray very far from that first page of Google results.  Get yourself onto THAT page, and now you’re talking major discoverability.

If you’re trying to keep within your physical geographical area or pitch directly to locals only, your location is a good thing to include in your name.  If your blog needs to reach across the country or internationally, keywords may be the smarter choice.

Obviously, the best place to start is your business or product name (authors, that means either your pen name or your book title), but if those are already taken by someone else, you’ll have to stretch your imagination a bit and use that in your subtitle, instead. Both blog names and subtitles are picked up by the major search engines, and the subtitles are changeable after the fact. Domain names, not so much. Once you create a specific web address, that’s what it will be, permanently, until you take it down.

 

Beware spelling issues.

If you have a clever name but most people can’t spell it offhand, guess what?  They’re not going to find you. If it sounds too much like something else, or it’s a jargon term that only people in your industry are used to?  Ditto. Same problem.

Cutesy names and plays-on-words are fun and show your creative side, sure, but the most important thing here is that you have someone to show it to. If they can’t find you, what’s the point? Make sure your domain name is basic enough to be remembered and spelled easily, and save the more complicated stuff for a subtitle or a post topic, if you simply must use it.

 

Research your competition thoroughly.

When Cathy and I started Inkwell Basics, it literally took us weeks to come up with a name we both loved. We spent the whole first week or two just trying to eliminate all of the names we loved but were already taken! It’s discouraging to see all the ones you can’t have, or really, could have had if you’d been quicker on the draw. But don’t let that get to you — you’ll have to operate in today’s market; therefore, knowing today’s market is the obvious first step to competing successfully.

Another way the research helps is that you can see what works and what doesn’t in your own niche.  Some names will seem so clever you’ll be angry and jealous. Some will seem so stupid that you’ll feel like a genius and the best in the field for knowing better. Some will springboard new ideas or areas of your industry you hadn’t thought to talk about. Look through online synonym databases or the table-of-contents in a trade magazine or website for more wording ideas. Average the inspiration out and see where your project will land. DO, though, make especially sure to watch out for trademarked names and phrases. The last thing your new project needs is a lawsuit!

 

Test your favorites through a domain registrar service

If you hit on a memorable, catchy title that’s easy to remember and spell, the next step is domain naming. Fortunately, with most sites (such as GoDaddy) you don’t have to pay or create an account to look up whether a name is available or taken. Just plug in your favorites and search away, noting which are the best price and which are marked owned until 2025.

Oftentimes, domain registrars are after your business, so they’ll suggest names which are close to your query, but end in .NET or .ORG.  In my personal opinion, unless you’re a non-profit, I would stick with .COM if at all possible.  Even when your potential reader is told KnittingIsGroovy-dot-net in conversation, the brain will tend to remember the “Knitting Is Groovy” bit, but not the whatever-you-said-after-that bit. They’ll assume it’s .COM anyway, because we all do. We’re used to it.  That’s not to say you can’t use a .NET. or .ORG to great success; but be aware that you can lose customers — and that means sales! — when they type the wrong thing out of habit, find a broken link, and give up.

 

Again, ask your friends!

Before buying and committing to a name, try it out on some objective minds.  One thing I tell writing students is to try on a character name when you order at the coffee shop, see how it feels in real life. Maybe you have a great name, but will feel clumsy when you say it aloud at parties. Maybe it’s surprisingly hard for other people to pronounce, or maybe they mistakenly hear another name or phrase when you actually say it. Wouldn’t it be better to know now rather than after you’ve ponied up cash and paid a web developer and printed it on a thousand business cards?

Especially in today’s world of constant social media, it’s easier than ever to take a quick, unofficial poll of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Most people are happy to share their opinions, and there are always surprises.  I posted a favorite name idea as a friendly aside to my feed when I was brainstorming for our baby, and immediately had a couple of replies that made me realize a huge blunder. Glad I asked before it was put onto a birth certificate!

You don’t have to take every opinion offered, of course. Dismiss them all, even. But do ask.  It’s a forest-for-the-trees kind of thing, and sometimes outside feedback is exactly what will protect you from major naming regrets.

 

Tracy Lucas

About Tracy Lucas

Tracy Lucas is a writer, editor, and the co-owner of Inkwell Basics. She owns Four Square Creative and Smash Cake Press, and she blogs about writing and publishing at her personal website. She has written and sold more than one hundred and fifty pieces for print, web, radio, and stage.

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