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Better Blog Branding: What’s In a Name?

One critical consideration when launching a blog is what you are going to call it. Why did I choose to use my old chrisg.com domain rather than create a new one?

Branding was part of the reason. OK, now I said the ‘B’ word some people will have clenched. Please relax. It is a much talked about, much derided and even more misunderstood topic. My personal take on branding is that it is what people think about you, your product or service. It’s about giving the right impression. I don’t know about you but I think a good impression is worth working on.

With a domain of course there is more to it than just branding so let’s talk about those issues first.

What other considerations are there?

  1. Time to live – I had the domain, I wasn’t using it and I could have it working very quickly
  2. SEO benefits – It is a 9-year-old domain, that has some benefits where trust from search engines is concerned. Plus there are still some inbound links that still work, despite many many years of neglect, server moves, breaking site changes, and other dumb-ass moves on my part. There are no keywords in my domain, I think the SEO benefit of keywords is small, I would much rather have a memorable name than a keyword-laden one.
  3. Its “Me” – chrisg has been my shorthand identity for quite a while. Obviously the vast majority of the time I used my full name but chrisg as a short form has worked pretty well. Which brings me to branding …

Brand Implications of Blog Names

When choosing a domain name there are some factors to consider:

  • How original and unique is it?
  • How descriptive is it?
  • What image does it convey?
  • Would you remember it after seeing it once?
  • Could you spell it after hearing it once?

Choosing a name for your blog is like choosing a name for a child, you have to choose carefully because it could stick around for a long time. How do you go about selecting the perfect name?

Names are tricky, along with choosing your niche a name can be one of the harder initial decisions. When you do find a name that you like then you have to go back to the drawing board because the ideal domain is taken. You can only do this properly after settling on a niche for your blog, each niche will have different expectations and requirements. For example “Flickr” wouldn’t play well to a straight-laced-grammar-nazi audience, the missing ‘e’ would just annoy, but the Web2.0 audience embraced it.

First a word to the cynics amongst you. Yes I know that a great deal of your brand will come gradually from what is written, and how. A good name though really can help.

First have a think about what sort of blog you are writing. Take a look around at what sort of blogs are in your subscription list, here are some examples.

What do they say to you? Would you say they are memorable?

A good name is

  1. Readable
  2. Pronounceable
  3. Spellable
  4. Memorable
  5. Concise
  6. Unique

So have a think about what your blog is going to be and think about what type of name you need to choose. Descriptive, evocative, direct or metaphor?

I chose to use chrisg.com and for the blog to be titled with my name because this blog is about the stuff in my head. Narcissistic? Possibly, but this blog will succeed or fail by my efforts and using my own name shows I stand by what I say. I’m hoping “being me” makes this blog a little more approachable to encourage people to post comments knowing they are dealing with an actual person.

An identity doesn’t require your own name of course. ProBlogger and CopyBlogger are good examples. A Rowse by any other name … ok, bad joke. In both cases Darren and Brian are closely identified with the blogs but other bloggers can post without breaking the format. This is also what has allowed Aaron to put his blog up for sale, Technosailor can transfer to another owner where chrisg.com could not unless the owner was also called Chris G____.

Completely made-up names, the Xerox type names, are a lot harder to sell. It takes far more effort. On the other hand they are definitely unique and sometimes memorable. I try to stick to at least variations on familiar words though.

When looking at evocative or metaphorical names it is sometimes useful to think about the benefit that your blog will provide, or the problem you are solving? I’m thinking Shoemoney is good here, as are SEOBook and Tropical SEO (with a bit of imagination). Standing out is important you need to consider what your competitions names are like. If they are all descriptive a more creative name might give you that bit of difference. Your name is very important in positioning. It wouldn’t work so well launching a new blog to compete with Darren and calling it BlogPro, ProBlogr, BloggingProf, etc. There is only one ProBlogger.

Expansion vs Focus

Will your blog always have focus or will you want to extend out? A more generic name might be necessary if you will want to have multiple blogs off the same root name. DSLRBlog is fixed forever as a blog about a particular type of camera. Nothing I can do about that. But it does mean my audience is very targeted. Focus is good. It’s the old idea of specialist versus generalist; in most cases people prefer the specialist.

Brainstorm

Try to create a long list of options. Play with ideas. Combining words and creating new words, checking a thesaurus, getting the help of friends and family can all help. Switch off your internal critic while you create. Jot down every name no matter how daft, at this point you are aiming for quantity, not quality!

Sometimes it is good to see the names in a list, there are some names that sound great but look bad (“powergenitalia.com” anybody?) and vice versa.

Once you have a big long list go through and ditch the worst offenders then copy the remaining list and either choose or get friends to each score a top three. Those you take to the computer and check for domain name availability.

Finally

Nobody can tell you the right name for your blog, the name you choose has to be up to you as you have to live with it. While I have suggested you take others opinions into account, you go with what you believe is right.


Look out for 10 ways you could be destroying your brand in part two …

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Comments

  1. I am (unsurprisingly) a fan of unique, memorable names. I think nicknames are tricky though – if I ever wanted to sell my site, I’d probably find it tricky.

    It seems to me that the Web 2.0 crop of names are good examples of site names. Most of them are memorable, short, easy to type and related to the theme of the site they reference. However most of them are not too restrictive either, allowing for expansion etc with minimal fuss.

    The other big issue with names is availability of domains, of course, especially dotcoms. Web 2.0 style names seem to avoid this by taking normal words and changing them in non-fundamental ways.

  2. I am (unsurprisingly) a fan of unique, memorable names. I think nicknames are tricky though – if I ever wanted to sell my site, I’d probably find it tricky.

    It seems to me that the Web 2.0 crop of names are good examples of site names. Most of them are memorable, short, easy to type and related to the theme of the site they reference. However most of them are not too restrictive either, allowing for expansion etc with minimal fuss.

    The other big issue with names is availability of domains, of course, especially dotcoms. Web 2.0 style names seem to avoid this by taking normal words and changing them in non-fundamental ways.

  3. ilovejackdaniels is one of the more memorable names definitely!

  4. ilovejackdaniels is one of the more memorable names definitely!

  5. Thanks for this great post.

    Although I am quite settled now with my blog’s name, this is the kind of info I will re-read when in preparing for a new site.

    While I have suggested you take others opinions into account, you go with what you believe is right.

    This, in the end, is what it comes down to indeed. Only thing is that it takes some time and experience before you can judge “right” rightly…

  6. Thanks for this great post.

    Although I am quite settled now with my blog’s name, this is the kind of info I will re-read when in preparing for a new site.

    While I have suggested you take others opinions into account, you go with what you believe is right.

    This, in the end, is what it comes down to indeed. Only thing is that it takes some time and experience before you can judge “right” rightly…

  7. Last July I provided some stats associated with changing my blog’s name.

    Great article!

  8. Last July I provided some stats associated with changing my blog’s name.

    Great article!

  9. Chris – thanks for a very comprehensive post.

    I particularly think having a blog name that people can understand no matter where they are in the world is something to consider.

    Increasingly business is global and if you are in a business such as professional services such as yourself, it’s highly likely that you may be connecting to people and potential clients across the globe through teleseminars and podcasts.

    So if you can determine a name for your website/blog that is easy to say and easy to understand without having to be spelt out each time and is easy to remember there that increases the liklihood of someone actually clicking through.

  10. Chris – thanks for a very comprehensive post.

    I particularly think having a blog name that people can understand no matter where they are in the world is something to consider.

    Increasingly business is global and if you are in a business such as professional services such as yourself, it’s highly likely that you may be connecting to people and potential clients across the globe through teleseminars and podcasts.

    So if you can determine a name for your website/blog that is easy to say and easy to understand without having to be spelt out each time and is easy to remember there that increases the liklihood of someone actually clicking through.

  11. International considerations are an excellent point. People such as myself who only speak one language could well be at a disadvantage here …

  12. International considerations are an excellent point. People such as myself who only speak one language could well be at a disadvantage here …

  13. Hey Chris,

    Quote:

    “My personal take on branding is that it is what people think about you, your product or service. It’s about giving the right impression.”

    I’m currently reading a review copy of BrandJam by Marc Gobé and what you’re saying there is a very powerful statement. Gobé is all about humanizing brands and lifestyle marketing. I haven’t made it past the introduction yet (I started on the bus this morning) but he very strongly seems to agree with your statement about what branding is.

    How do you feel about top level domain suffixes as an extension of branding? For example, is a mediocre brand with a .com extension better than a stronger brand with a .net or .org extension?

  14. Hey Chris,

    Quote:

    “My personal take on branding is that it is what people think about you, your product or service. It’s about giving the right impression.”

    I’m currently reading a review copy of BrandJam by Marc Gobé and what you’re saying there is a very powerful statement. Gobé is all about humanizing brands and lifestyle marketing. I haven’t made it past the introduction yet (I started on the bus this morning) but he very strongly seems to agree with your statement about what branding is.

    How do you feel about top level domain suffixes as an extension of branding? For example, is a mediocre brand with a .com extension better than a stronger brand with a .net or .org extension?

  15. .com is best because that is what people think of first but if you can’t find a good name with .com then .net, .org etc are acceptable at a push. What counts most is what you do with it though so don’t dispair.

  16. .com is best because that is what people think of first but if you can’t find a good name with .com then .net, .org etc are acceptable at a push. What counts most is what you do with it though so don’t dispair.

  17. I’m pretty happy with my dot-net but I’ve been giving vague thought to buying out the dot-com version of my name and just putting a redirect to dot-net there. d-n has the pagerank and backlinks and traffic, so I wouldn’t want to make the full switch to .com.

    I guess it comes down to cost, I’ll have to look into it.

  18. I’m pretty happy with my dot-net but I’ve been giving vague thought to buying out the dot-com version of my name and just putting a redirect to dot-net there. d-n has the pagerank and backlinks and traffic, so I wouldn’t want to make the full switch to .com.

    I guess it comes down to cost, I’ll have to look into it.

  19. My wife & I chose 2Dolphins several years ago because it reflected one of her passions (dolphins, of course) and seemed like an easily remembered site name. And it made me think of tucows.com.

    So, it’s always surprising to me when I get (verbal) comments like, “Now, how do you spell that?” or “Is that with an ‘F’?”

    Nonetheless, we’re happy with the name.

    Rob

  20. My wife & I chose 2Dolphins several years ago because it reflected one of her passions (dolphins, of course) and seemed like an easily remembered site name. And it made me think of tucows.com.

    So, it’s always surprising to me when I get (verbal) comments like, “Now, how do you spell that?” or “Is that with an ‘F’?”

    Nonetheless, we’re happy with the name.

    Rob

  21. Truly naming what we call as branding in the technical parlance is one of the impotatant decisions in launching the blog. Our own experience in our visits to many sites make it evident. Easily recalled names definitely have an advantage

  22. Truly naming what we call as branding in the technical parlance is one of the impotatant decisions in launching the blog. Our own experience in our visits to many sites make it evident. Easily recalled names definitely have an advantage