Friday, January 13, 2012

Choosing a Name for Your Blog

A friend contacted me recently with some questions about starting a blog. One of the questions was about choosing a name for the blog.  This is something I have thought about a lot so I wanted to share my answer here.

There are certain factors for everyone to consider when starting a blog. Professionals, regardless of their field, need to take into consideration how much integration their blog will have with their business.  That decision will impact the choices that they make.

Even people who are blogging casually or for family need to keep a few things in mind.  Some blogs, even when started just for fun, can become wildly popular on the internet.  That may not be your intention but you never know how much you will enjoy blogging or where it will take you so keep these thoughts in mind.

Choose a Unique Name

When I started blogging I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn't even think of a name. I asked my Facebook friends to help me come up with one and that's how I pulled together Roots & Rambles.

Fast forward a year or so to the Family Tree Magazine 2011 Top 40 Genealogy blogs contest. Someone nominated Roots & Rambles.  The ballot list contained the names of blogs but not the blog authors. Many of the blogs had genealogy-themed names such as Roots & Rambles, Roots & Branches, Climbing My Family Tree etc.  It was mind numbingly impossible to tell who wrote which blog without the name of the author listed.  I decided right there and then to at least modify the name of my blog to make it more unique. That was when I made the small change to Marian's Roots & Rambles. At least people would be able to tell who wrote my blog.

Interestingly enough, and perhaps not surprisingly, many of the winners (I was not one) had blogs with unique names.  When choosing a name for your blog try to come up with one that will stand on its own.  If your title can also evoke a sense of what the blog is about that is even better. Two successful blogs names are the We Tree Genealogy Blog by Amy Coffin which succeeds because of its unusual combination of words and the Clue Wagon blog by Kerry Scott with its successfully evocative name. In Kerry's case the blog title also lead to a very iconic red wagon logo for her blog.

Check out the list of all 40 Family Tree blog winners to see if you can spot any blogs with successful names that could act as an inspiration for you.

Getting Published

You may have no intention of publishing (other than on your blog) or getting published. But funny things can happen along the way in the blog world so best to be prepared now while you are choosing your name.

>Book Reviews

If you decide to review books on your blog there is a strong chance that your review will be quoted by the publisher or the author.  I have had quotes from my reviews appear in the NEHGS book catalog and on author websites.  I think I cringed the first time I saw Marian Pierre-Louis of Marian's Roots and Rambles. It's not that I don't like the name of my blog it's just that I never expected to see it in print like that. And it looks so silly next to quotes from prestigious authors or esteemed colleagues. Keep in mind that your blog may take you to places that you never imagined and choose your name accordingly.

>Newspapers and Magazines

I'm not sure if my blog has ever been mentioned in a newspaper before. More and more bloggers of all genres are being interviewed and featured in articles. How are you going to feel when you see your blog name in print? Will it provide the sense of dignity and pride that you had hoped for? Will it become a source of future jokes when you visit home and catch up with you high school or college friends? When you consider the name for your blog, think about how everyone in your life, not just your genealogy friends and colleagues, will respond to it.

Safety in Names

Personal names can be a safe bet when choosing a blog title. Take for instance Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter. The name is simple but it works. If you choose to use a surname you will need to include some other word that lets people know what the blog is about. In this case the word Genealogy acts to provide clarity. 

My suggestion would be to stick with last names rather than choosing first names. There are exceptions to that rule but first names evoke a sense of casualness that you might later regret.

Marian's Roots and Rambles

I chose my blog name in the wrong way, never imagining where blogging would lead me. I feel that the title of my blog is too casual and yes, hokey, for what I would like. But I have reached a saturation point where it would be difficult for me to change the name of my blog.

Sometimes blogs become bigger than their names and then the name of the blog is less important.  If I'm lucky some day that will happen to my blog and I can be less embarrassed about having such a goofy name.

Final Thoughts

Choose a blog name:
  • that you are comfortable with
  • that you can grow with
  • that will appeal to a broad group of people
  • that looks good in print
  • that reinforces your business goals (if you are blogging for business)

Good luck! I hope these suggestions help! As for blogging, just get started.  Coming up with a good name is the hardest part.

16 comments:

  1. One thing I would like to add from experience is to make your URL similar/identical to the name of your blog so that people can find it easily. When I started out, my url address had absolutely nothing to do with my blog title and people had a hard time finding it. I eventually changed it so that they both have my blog title in them.

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  2. I like the name of my blog but I wish I had not put hyphens in it. I get a lot of spam from granite countertop companies.

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  3. This is great information. I am giving a presentation this Saturday to a group of genealogists about "Blogging Your Family History." I will be mentioning choosing your blog name, something I would have went over quickly. Thank you.

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    1. as a matter of fact I am crediting these final thoughts below to you in my presentation.


      According to Marian’s Roots and Rambles:

      “Choose a blog name: that you are comfortable with
      that you can grow with
      that will appeal to a broad group of people
      that looks good in print
      that reinforces your business goals (if you are blogging for business)"

      Delete
  4. Some very good advice here, Marian. The only other thing I would suggest is that when choosing a name for a blog, make sure it doesn't limit your content, unless that is your intent.

    Oh, and for the record, I don't think the name of your blog is hokey at all - I love it!

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  5. And then there's the part where your blog turns into something you never imagined, even remotely. When I started out, I was thinking something along the lines of a casual (and short) notebook, with the design of a spiral binder (which I think was there at one time) so JLog sort of made sense. It's totally non-descript and that's good because the content is easily adjustable, but who would ever know what's it about if you didn't already know? Not good.

    Also, there are dozens of variations of the domain name 'jlog' (jlog.org, jlog.biz, crazygoodsex.jlog.com, etc) so I'm in competition with all of them. Try to pick a name where you're going to stand out in position 1 when someone types you into a search engine.

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  6. Another excellent piece. Sometimes we just need to listen to our own conversations and consider our purpose. I'm not a professional. Just a 72 yr old retired Gr. Grandma dedicated to leaving a legacy for our family which is scattered through out the States. With their input we chose a project name that would encompass the various relationships. Whenever we got together we frequently noted our similar, and sometimes quirky, traits and blamed "Our Gene Pool". THE name was born. For continuity, I would suggest getting the domain as well. They are not expensive. When I got OurGenePool both org and net and a gmail account. (But,I wasn't quick enough for Blogger) I never anticipated the growth of the project or that I would create a website, but have published the first page and creating content for more. Also, another interested family member can assume the "Genee" role when I'm gone.

    Thanks to you, NGS, and Geoff's terrific Legacy Family Tree webinars my expertise is growing. A genealogy certification may be in my future. I don't want to waste my time on mythology.

    Kudos for sharing your expertise. Sorry for the length of this. You have an avid fan here!

    Marsha Lancaster. aka "Genee"

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  7. Thank you Marian for this post - I only wish I'd been able to read it back in 2006 when I was trying to come up with a name for my genealogy/history blog. I like Virtual Dime Museum, most of the time, but having said that I wish that I'd gone for a title that made it clear I focused on NYC. I love the name Brooklynology, for example, but so did the brooklyn Public Library ;)

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  8. Wonderful points. No sooner had I started "Nolichucky Roots" than I started actively researching my Rusyn ancestors. Not a great fit!

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  9. I had a hard time coming up with a name for my blog but eventually it hit me what I wanted to call it. Then I decided I wanted my own domain name using the name of my blog but was disappointed to find it was taken by a military base with the same name as my surname. I really liked the name I picked, so I threw in the word "genealogy." I ended up liking this name better. After all, it is a genealogy blog :) Then I worried that people would think it was all about my surname line since I use my surname in the title, so in my first blog post I explained the name of my blog. (I should probably put that in my "about" page.) Sometimes I wish I hadn't picked such a long name for my blog (The Pendleton Genealogy Post) but I was giving a nod to my paternal great grandfather and 2nd great grandfather with the name I chose.

    Catherine

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  10. Thank you Marian for the informative post. I know I had a terrible time coming up with a blog name. I started with McManigle Family, but felt it confined me to that surname. I sure did not want a new blog for every surname! Then I received a box of letter from the mid 1800's and they did not seem to fit in with McManigle, so I started another one, Borden Papers. Again I felt very limited. I was so frustrated with the names that I pretty much quit writing blogs. BUT, I enjoyed blogging and decided I needed a name that was more open for my adventures that were always changing. I remembered my Granddaughter, Bayleigh, was always telling me to "Focus Grandma! FOCUS! I know it does not sound very professional, but it so fits me. ~smiles~

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  11. I sometimes wonder if my blog name will come back to bite me! I started with just the domain name, moore-mays.org. I've had that since 2003, so when I started the blog I wanted something to add to it. Misadventures seems to fit my personality but it's not so professional. I don't have professional aspirations at this time, but that doesn't mean later it wouldn't come into play.

    These are all great tips for beginners to take into account! I agree with Ed. Your url should always be similar to your website name. There is no doubt that people will type in whatever the name is, add the .com and hope for the best. So you want to corner your market and already have that in place, even if it's just a redirect.

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  12. When I decided to start my blog last spring, it took me about a week to come up with a name for it. One night, the title of From Maine to Kentucky came to me, however, a reader does need to read the sub-title at the home page to understand why I chose it: A Genealogy Blog about ancestors who lived in almost every state between Maine, Virginia, and Illinois. I also explain it more in my "About Me" section. Same with my second blog, A Jewish Genealogy Journey - the title for that one came to me more easily and I explain it in the "About Me" page.

    And I like the title of your blog; you've established yourself and your blog as a respected resource so I would think most readers wouldn't think twice about the title being too casual or "hokey."

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  13. I have had a gardening blog for over nine years, and agree with all the points you made, plus the one in the comments about having the title and url match. That helps, but Google can usually find the right url if the title is correct. I would also add, if you have cryptic name for your blog, make sure the subtitle explains it well. That will help those who don't already know of your blog find it when they are searching on one of your surnames.

    This post was very timely for me because I want to start a genealogy blog, but am stumped on a good title. Also, do I want to cover all my lines, plus my husband's, in one blog? Should I have the surnames in the title or subtitle? Should I make a cute pun on the last name Purdy? (Probably not. I get tired of hearing others make those puns.) These are the questions I have been mulling over. I am waiting for the right name to reveal itself to me. I might have to do like you did and ask my friends for help.

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  14. Great post (as usual) but it leaves me in a quandry. When I started my blog it seemed all the good "Gen-Gene-Genea" names were already taken. Naming the blog after one family name seemed a disservice to the other surnames I research.
    So I started with a plain-vanilla "Alabama Genealogy and Ramblings" (well...YOU inspired the last part!). Still didn't seem to fit. I have since changed it to Alabama Free-Range Organic Genealogy (A-FROG for short). Tongue-in-cheek, light hearted, fun, just seems to fit! After all, my posts are 'free-ranging'; covering a bunch of topics, ideas, and stories.

    BUT... I never thought of even remotely of being quoted somewhere. How would A-FROG look in a journal? {sigh} Decisions, decisions. Fun or professional? Light-hearted or scholarly? Authoritative or irrelevant? The choices never end.................

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