This is part 1 in a 5 part series on How to Start a Blog. This post will deal with how to name your blog. Also see Part 2 – Choosing a Platform and a Blog Host, Part 3 – The Basics of Blog Design Part 4 – Creating Great Blog Content, and Part 5 – Promoting Your Blog.
As a long-time (and semi-successful) blogger, one of the questions I get asked all the time in “real” life is how to start a blog. Since I am me, and terribly bossy, I of course have lots of opinions on the subject. Instead of sending the same email again and again, I thought I’d write this guide to the Five Steps to Starting a Blog for beginners.
OK, Five steps is maybe a misnomer. How to start a blog with Five overarching considerations and lots of subtopics, and by the way I’m skipping over a bunch so I think this will be a series is maybe a more accurate title. I’m not getting into blog monetization, or wordpress plugins, or the nitty gritty technical details. This is just the first steps to get you up and running. Since this got longer than I intended (like I said – lots of opinions!) I decided to break this up into five separate posts. This post will deal with things you should think about when naming your blog.
STEP ONE: Name your blog
Maybe you are a genius at this, and you already have the perfect name picked out, and not only are you a genius, but you are also the luckiest person in the world and the perfect name is not taken anywhere. Good luck with that. There are a few components to picking the name for your blog – finding a good name, and finding an available name.
Finding A Good Name
Naming a blog is an art, not a science. It’s important to know what you want to say – what you want your blog to be about – and find a clever or memorable way to describe this. It’s harder than you think. A few more questions to ask when you’re naming your blog:
- Is my name easy to spell? Finding alternative spellings may help you with availability, but it’s going to make your blog hard to market (says the woman who named her blog Savour Fare. Don’t do that.) Other things to avoid are leaving off the letter g in an “ing”, or adding in special characters if you can avoid it. Names in the language you’re writing in are also a good bet. There are exceptions to every rule.
- Is my name easy to say? Numbers can be great for alphabetized lists, but if you need to specify whether you’re using the numeral or the word, you may be in trouble (you may be able to get around this by purchasing both domains and having one direct to the other – for example both foodfiftytwo.com and food52.com point to the same page). When you tell people the name of your blog, you want them to be able to go back and type that in. Hyphens should be avoided whenever possible as well (again, savour-fare. Sigh.) A great website to check out for lots of thoughts on naming is GoodURLBadURL.
- Is my name unique? NounAndNoun.com is a huge blogging cliche (unless you’re writing a blog parody site, in which case go buy nounandnoun.com right now! You’re welcome for the idea.) Adding “ista” to the end of anything has been done. Using “kitchen” and “gourmet” in food blogs, “mama” or “mommy” in mommy blogs, or “diva” in anything may not be the best bet. (Not that there’s inherently anything wrong with these, but you won’t stand out from the pack – many have gone before you.)
- Is my name a frequently-searched phrase? If it is, that’s GREAT for driving blog traffic. But this isn’t essential. Your content will bring people to your blog even if the name is never searched.
Finding an Available Name
This is the tough part. I’d recommend coming up with several possibilities because these next steps can be a doozy.
- Buy your URL. Once you’ve found the perfect name, buy the URL for the name. URL-squatting has become a huge business, so your first choice (or first three choices) may not be available. There are some ways around this – things like buying the .net instead of the .com, adding an article (like thedomesticfront.com) to your URL, or adding the word blog to the end of the URL. You can also look up who owns your preferred URL and make them an offer to buy the domain. Always keep in mind the spelling rule above when selecting your URL, though. You can search any URL registrar to find what’s available – I like searching on nameboy.com and whois.com, but I usually buy my URLs at Go Daddy or 1 and 1. 1 and 1 is especially great if you want to register a bunch of domains while you’re deciding, since the first year is only $1, but you can also change your registrar later if you want to, and godaddy frequently runs coupon codes for steep discounts. See also this list of domain registrars from Digital Trends. When you’re buying your URL, you may want to pay a little extra (or not, at 1 and 1) to make your domain private, since domain registrations are public, and if you’re using your home address, you may not want that information available.
- Check whether your chosen name is trademarked. Once you’ve found a name and made sure the URL is available, you may want to take a few more steps. With my lawyer hat on (though THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE) you don’t want to start out infringing on someone else’s trademark. (Quick lesson – a trademark is basically legal protection for a name, and trademarks can only be registered in certain categories. For example, if there’s a board game called Domestic Front, chances are they’re registered in the games category, and I can start a website with impunity). You can have a common law trademark without registration, but I always check the registrations just in case. Here’s the website to search US trademark registrations.
- Check how your name is being used elsewhere. This is where google is your friend. If your chosen name is googled, what comes up? Is it a site that would be competitive with yours? Has someone else given that name to their blog with a different URL? This will cause confusion. Confusion is what you want to avoid when you’re choosing a name (or doing anything, really.) It’s better to be unique. I also check blogspot.com and wordpress.com to see if people have started blogs with my name or any variations thereof. Since the web is no longer in its infancy you may find sites with the same name as yours – DO NOT PANIC. You could still use the site. domesticfront.blogspot.com is a blog. So is thedomesticfront.wordpress.com. But they haven’t been updated since 2008 and 2011 respectively, so I figured the opportunity for confusion was not that great. There’s also a website at domesticfront.com, but it appears to be broken.
- Check availability on social media accounts. This is less important because you have some control over social media account naming even if your blog name is taken, and people frequently use their name instead of their blog name in their social media accounts. For example, I’m now KateCWheeler on Twitter, and KateTDF on Instagram and Pinterest (I was a little bit sorry about losing savour as a username on these platforms, but I was able to change my name without staring from scratch.) An exception to this is Facebook, where you’re really going to want your page name to have the same name as your blog, but again, you can add things like “blog” to the end if necessary. Plus, if it passes the google test, it’s likely to be available on Facebook as well.
To summarize, when you’re looking for a name for your blog, there are two main areas of concern – finding a good name, and finding an available name. A good blog name is easy to spell, easy to say, unique, and ideally a frequently-searched phrase. To find an available blog name, check for your URL (and buy it!), check US trademark registrations, check google, and check social media to make sure you can consistently use your name on all platforms without infringing on someone else’s rights or causing confusion.
Now you’ve got a name and a URL (and you registered those social media accounts, right?) what to do with them?
Next in the series: Picking a Platform.