11.12.2012

What not to name your blog

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What you can name your blog is Lola. I totally approve.

In roaming around the parenting blogosphere, I've seen my share of ill-fitting blog names and usernames (such as on Twitter or forums) that don't grow with the blog or the blogger. This idea list is not meant to snicker at anyone who chose a name poorly, just to offer some guidance as you name — or rename — your blog. I will focus primarily on parenting blogs since that's my realm, but many of these suggestions can apply when choosing any blog or username.

Don't go current.

Yes, when you selected your Twitter handle Rebecca23, you were 23 — but guess what? You'll be 24 next year. And then even older the next! Shocking, I know. Try to pick names that will stand the test of time. More on this same theme in subsequent rules.

Don't name it after your children.

I can't tell you how many blogs I see named "My Two Angels" or usernames like "MommyofAiden." And then said mommy has another angel or two, or Aiden becomes a big brother, and now the header has the "two" crossed out and "four" written in on top, or "Plus Annabelle" is scrawled alongside Aiden. I know it's tempting to declare your passion for your offspring. But if you're not sure sure sure you're "done," don't slight your future kidlets for the current one(s). (This can also extend, sadly enough, to naming based on a present partner, or even a pet. I'd keep things focused on you, since you're the one aspect of your blog that will stay put.)

Don't name it after your locale unless that's significant — and permanent.

In many cases, this rule can and should be broken, such as if you're naming a regional blog that focuses on local issues. But if you're naming yourself "Philadelphia Stacy" when there's a good chance your partner will take a job in Phoenix next year, things might get fuzzy for your new readers.

Don't narrow your focus if you want to broaden later.

There are certain blogs in the parenting world that focus solely on breastfeeding or birth — and those ones make total sense to have names that reflect just that. But if your blog is wider in scope (or you think it might be), remember that breastfeeding and birth (or babyhood or toddlerhood or first-time parenthood, etc.) take up only so much of your parenting career — and therefore might not be the focus if you're still blogging years down the road (and you hope you will be, right?).

Protect your own privacy.

Decide how much you want to share with the internet — and avoid putting anything too identifying into your username or blog name. This will vary from person to person according to comfort levels, but I'd steer clear of naming blogs with details about your address, your birthdate, possibly your children's names (see above, anyway), or the like. I can think of examples of usernames more so than blog names where this rule is violated, but I'd just advise you to be mindful as you set your boundaries.

Keep it simple.

Ideally, you want your blog name and your domain name to be the same (e.g., Hobo Mama and www.HoboMama.com), so check on that before you name your blog. Buying a domain isn't expensive and is well worth your annual investment even if you want Blogger or Wordpress.com to host your site. (We buy ours at MyDomain.com, but there are plenty of sites to use.) You want people to understand the words when you speak them verbally rather than have to explain (e.g., "It's Fr8t-train-ramblings, only with a number 8 for the eigh part and hyphens between all the words"). Try not to make your domain too long, or people will have trouble remembering it. You also, if at all possible, want to choose a name where you can snap up the .com version of the domain — when people can't remember what the ending is to your URL, they default to .com, and you want visitors landing on your site!

Check for duplicates.

Make sure you look at all the social media sites as well as the more obvious places:
  • domain (is the .com available?)
  • blogging platforms (I suggest snapping it up at least at Blogger and Wordpress so no one else can take it; you could add Tumblr to that list as well)
  • Gmail (so you can have a blogging email address — you can always have the email forwarded if you want your inbox centralized)
  • Facebook page
  • Twitter handle
  • Pinterest username
  • General Google search to see if anyone's already using that name, if even informally
Am I missing any? Do your homework so you can brand yourself across the board — by far the easiest and most memorable way!

Keep it interesting.

I have a hard time remembering names that sound alike (e.g., the three sites in your Reader named "Mommy Blog," "Just Another Mom Blog" and "Blogging Mommy" — I seriously am trying to make up random names; my apologies if these exist). Try to use something memorable, funny, or unique in your name — people will be more likely to remember it and distinguish you from the other blogs out there.

Keep it clean.

This one might partially be personal preference, but I'd refrain from naming your blog anything too overtly vulgar or offensive, for fear of turning away readers. That should be obvious … but, then, I'm referencing hoboes, aren't I?

On that note:

What about your blog names, hotshot?

Just for fun, let's critique my blog names, shall we? LaurenWayne.com — ok, that one's easy, and I think will stand the test of time. It's not very descriptive, which is where my subhead comes in: "A behind-the-scenes look at blogging and writing." I want the domain in my name for when I'm a famous (!) published (!) author.

Hobo Mama — I swear I made up this name while reading John Hodgman's first book with its 700 hobo names, so let's blame him, shall we? I didn't follow my own advice about checking for duplicates, so there's another blog called Hobo Mama and a Twitter user with the handle. However, I got the domain name, so that's something. I think the word "hobo" is funny. It suggests a laid-back, make-do vibe, and that's me, y'all. I do worry it's offensive to hoboes and have gotten a couple disgruntled emails, but … ah, well. I don't want to change it now. It also has "mama" in it, and I am that — and will be for the rest of my life. It's possible I'll someday be blogging about something other than parenting, at which point it might not be the best name. But I think it's vague enough to work regardless. Plus, I get amused when people address me as Hobo Mama instead of Lauren, like it's a title.

How to change your name

If you're discouraged with the blog name you've already chosen, don't despair! Plenty of bloggers do rename their blogs — it might muddle things up for you for awhile as you direct people to the new site, but you can power through it and people will adapt. I suggest an auto-redirect of your domain and a prominent announcement on your main page or sidebar for a time. You might even include the information in your header temporarily (e.g., "Hobo Mama, [in small print:] formerly Boxcar Joan").

Facebook doesn't take kindly to changing your page URL, unfortunately, so it's best to create an entirely separate page and beg your readers to flock over. Have your last post on the old page be a prominent message to follow you at the new one.

Twitter will let you change your username, but you might want to retain your old username as well, to catch stray mentions and prevent anyone else from taking it over. You can follow the tutorial here to make the process painless. Again, let the top Tweet on your old username tell your followers to trek over to your new one.

Do you love or hate your blog name(s)? Anything you'd change about them now if you could or would? Any other tips for our would-be namers?

Photo Credit: eraser place holders by hownowdesign, on Flickr
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