Hello! My name is John Smith! You can call me agent Smith. What’s your name? Come on! That’s an innocent question, isn’t it?
OK, I admit it! I tricked you. My name is not Smith. It could have been though. There are so many of them!
My real name is truly bizarre for most English speakers and no person can really pronounce it let alone memorize it. When you’re a secret agent on the Matrix it’s hard to blend in with that one.
Why Using Your Real Name May Be a Problem
Do you get my point? You most probably can’t simply use your name for a website or blog. Even when you are John Smith you will face difficulties.
Why not come up with a cool name like Neo, Trinity, Morpheus or even Cypher instead? They may already be taken too.
You have to actively decide what your name is or come up with a nickname, business name or brand name. Then you can start a blog or create a website.
In this post we will learn how to choose a name for your blog, website, business or even yourself. Then we will see how that name or names will fit onto your blog or website.
What’s in a Name? How to Put it There?
When you started out on the Web in the late nineties it was liberating. You could communicate with people all over the world in an instant! Hooray!
The times when you were stuck with schoolmates or neighbors who weren’t interested at all in you or what you love were over. You could find like-minded individuals all over the planet now!
Now that it was possible to connect with Europeans or Asians there was a new issue. They needed to be able to know who you are. It was not just the cultural background (where you were born) but also who you actually were now (your self chosen identity based on interests).
Prejudice didn’t matter as much anymore as before the Web.
- Skin color
- Political affiliation
Who cared as long as you had the same hobby online?
“on the Internet nobody knew that you’re a dog!” – Peter Steiner
We didn’t even use avatars in those early days on the Web and real names weren’t the norm until Facebook convinced most of us to give up anonymity roughly ten years later.
For most services short and crisp nicknames were required, the same applied to mail addresses and website names or domains.
The Web has changed a lot ever since but names pose still the same challenges now.
- Do you really want to use your real name? Can it work?
- Do you need a name for your business, website or blog or does a generic description like “x-services-atlanta” suffice?
- Is calling a blog simply “blog” good for memorability?
- Why do people need to memorize your name at all in times of Google?
As you see, there are a lot of questions that we have to ask ourselves before going online. Your nationality, ethnic or even religious background are contained in your name.
You may have a beautiful name like Goldberg but because it’s Jewish some people may be affected by their prejudice against Jews. Prejudice affects other religions and ethnic backgrounds too. That’s the sad reality.
A personal or business website should deal with the topic you choose not automatically your birthplace or parents. You can still be who you choose to be on the Web!
Should You Use Your Real Name for Your Site?
Are you one of the few lucky people who have the perfect online name from birth? It needs to be less common than John Smith but more memorable than my outlandish name. It also needs to be more unique than John Smith so that you can register a domain name like ideally .com for it.
As you may imagine johnsmith.com is already registered. At the same time my name is still available. Would it be a wise decision to use it for a website though?
Even in case you’d decide to use your real name for a domain it would be very easy to get mixed up with all kinds of people with the same name when you’re John Smith or have some other common English name.
Many Asian bloggers and website owners face the opposite issue. They have very long names with uncommon character combinations so that people in other countries can’t read, pronounce or memorize their names.
Only use ethnic sounding names when they really matter. Think kosher food or Chinese restaurants.
The founder of Namecheap – the company behind EasyWP who pays for that post – has both a unique and memorable name: Richard Kirkendall. Yet he chose to name the company after the main product – domain names.
The second part refers to pricing obviously. it worked well for many years. Yet down the road with many new products and services added the name was also limiting. what about premium products? They aren’t cheap.
Even when owning a domain name for John Smith has its drawbacks beyond being too common. Most people outside English speaking countries can’t pronounce or sometimes even spell the English “th”. Let me summarize:
real names alone are rarely a good option for a domain or website name.
You have plenty of name options for everybody who hasn’t the perfect real name. Also remember that marriage and divorce can change you name significantly so that using your real name for a website or business is not always the best option even when it works fine initially.
How to Choose a Website Name Without Embarrassing Yourself
Screenshot from Namecheap.com
What’s your online name then? Is it a business name or personal name? When your personal name is too complicated you may choose your business name for a website or you may have to come up with a business name in the first place.
You may also combine personal and business name. For example you can use a nickname for a business as well. When Web was still new many people at first experimented a lot with nicknames. Online most of the early adopters used a lot of different and often bizarre nicknames.
Some of them mimicked existing names or brand names. Others were ambiguous and some completely made up. Many early nicknames led to some embarrassing misunderstandings sooner or later and felt awkward when people would address you by a name that was not really yours. It felt like a fake.
Many of us ended up with a fully made up nickname. Ideally it’s also a pun. Make sure your website is
- simply spelled
- easy to understand
unlike John Smith’s name to make it work well on the Web. Even Rand Fishkin, the founder of Moz and SparkToro has similar advice for you.
As you see it’s hard to come up with a name that will last for many years to come but as long as it does for a few years you are already pretty good.
When you just want to set up a personal website for the rest of your life you may want to prefer your actual real name. Ideally you have both, a personal site with your name and a business site with a made up specific name to stay findable and visible online for as long as possible.
Sometimes the Best of All Options is a Combination of Them
Even a great name like Rand Fishkin or Brian Dean is not always the best option as it’s original meaning is lost. Rand has nothing to do with fish, Brian is not a dean and John not a smith. Ideally you also express what you do in your website name!
What can you do then? Combine the best parts! Name things you cover or offer by name not just yourself!
- What’s your first name?
- What is your primary topic you cover or business you’re in?
- Where are you or your visitors based?
For a local business that’s easy and most small business business are still local in nature these days. John’s Bakery Brooklyn may perfectly suffice and even lead to more search visitors looking for a baker in Brooklyn!
You are planning to expand in future? Maybe limiting your domain name or website to a location is not a good idea then! John’s Bakery may be too broad then. What’s your specialty though? John’s Vegan Bakery maybe? That’s already pretty unique again.
When you add a blog to it something funny would be more memorable than just a mere “blog”. johnsveganbakery.com/thedailybread
This is almost perfect for more than just a local audience. A blog is read all over the place not just around the corner so it’s a good fit!
You could also make it the other way around. Brooklynsveganbakery.com would draw even more local customers. It’s about long and descriptive though. Again a pun or ambiguity could help. Thedailybread.blog could also work well as a standalone domain name.
When it comes to real names you can also put them elsewhere in your site. My favorite places are the title tag that’s only visible when you look for it or the about page. Instead of a generic about page you can add the real name to the address right away. example.com/about-john-smith
You Can Choose More than One Name
No matter how long you search for the perfect website or domain name you won’t find the silver bullet.
Sometimes it’s better to register more than one domain and redirect the secondary names to the main one. This way you get the best options all in one. You can use both your real name, a nickname and a made up name along with the descriptive domain name then.
In our example it could mean something like this:
could all lead to
would redirect to them homepage.
thedailybread.blog would be rerouted to the brooklynsveganbakery.com/thedailybread address.
johnsmithbakernyc.me could send visitors to the about-john-smith page.
All of these are fine but quite long so at the end of the day you may want to also find a short domain name as well o redirect to those. Something like jbbny.com would make the cut. There is even a similar domain name out on Web for many years: jfbny.com
No matter what name you decide to choose make sure to focus on promoting one address in future and not changing it unless you have really compelling reasons to rebrand or rename your site.
When all else fails you can just use something completely unrelated! Do you think that’s crazy? The biggest tech and online brands use names that have no connection to their business whatsoever. They are not even metaphors!
- Amazon doesn’t sell trips to the Brazilian rainforest.
- Apple isn’t into agriculture at all or fruits in particular.
- Google hasn’t been associated with goo despite its name.
When coming up with a website name or brand for a startup you may want to be less descriptive and rather memorable like those corporations.
No matter what website and domain name you choose one thing is clear. You still need one despite Facebook and all the other tools that try to replace personal and business websites. Here’s why:
This is an infographic by Mike Blumenthal that has been published years ago but which is truer than ever. Your name and your website are the core of your online presence. Facebook and other tools are marginal and can’t replace it.
Once you have come up with a name for your site or blog you can decide how the rest of your address will look like. Make sure to think about that first! Here is some help: an article of mine explaining ways to structure WordPress permalinks.
The post What’s Your Name and How to Use it for a Site or Blog? appeared first on SEO 2.0.