Naming your blog: eponymous or not?

In the life of a blog, the name is both one of the first things that must be decided and one of the things that will be around the longest. Increasingly, people are writing and curating on self-titled blogs, often in the place of a static landing page on a personal domain. Online, your name is your brand, so this makes sense. But a blog named after its author doesn’t say anything about subject matter, which can be both negative and positive — a thoughtful name can define the topics to cover, but it can also restrict them. While a name won’t ultimately affect the quality of your blog, it’s the rubric of your content, under which it will be discussed, linked and shared.

As it’s something I’ve been considering recently, I decided to ask some of the bloggers I follow: eponymous or not?

Shawn Blanc, who recently turned his eponymous blog into a full-time job, highlights the double-edged nature of a personal brand:

I don’t think there is anything wrong with having an eponymous brand. There are many personal blogs that have strong, personal brands which I highly respect (such as Jeffery Zeldman, Jason Kottke, Seth Godin, Dave Ramsey).

But having a personal brand comes with goods and bads. The goods are that as technology and social networking are creating this shift towards transparency and relationship, if your “brand” is you — a person — then you have a big advantage in people’s desire for feeling connected to you.

I think the primary bad dynamics to a personal brand are that it can be more difficult to grow and build a personal brand, and it can make marketing that brand a bit tricky, if not awkward.

If I could do it over again I’m not sure if I would still choose shawnblanc.net or if I would have spent time to come up with a name for the site.

From an outsider looking in, some of the sites and brands that I enjoy the most are the aforementioned eponymous weblogs. However, as an insider with a personal brand of my own, there are elements of it that make me uncomfortable at times. If I had known that shawnblanc.net was going to grow into my full-time job and that my “name” was going to become my “brand” it’s possible I would have chosen another brand name.

John Gruber of Daring Fireball says that the name of his site was random, based more on intuition than anything else:

I honestly can’t explain why I chose to name the site Daring Fireball, rather than “John Gruber” or “Gruber” or really anything else for that matter. It felt right. That’s the best explanation I have.

Chris Martucci of What Blag? also says that it’s about what feels right:

Ultimately, eponymous or non-eponymous, it’s not going to make or break your blog. From ShawnBlanc.net to Daring Fireball, both Shawn and John have attained some great success. Why? Because they’re great writers. I think you just need to pick a name that feels right.

Patrick Rhone, who splits his writing across multiple sites, says that it depends on the focus:

I think it really depends. If your writing focus is going to be about a variety of themes (as Jason Kottke terms it “Liberal Arts 2.0”) then I say keep it under your name. In the same way that my personal blog covers a variety of themes.

If you are going to focus on a specific topic, then I would find a name that fits said topic (a la Minimal Mac).

Aaron Mahnke, fantasy writer and blogger at AaronMahnke.com, offers some advice on focusing on the right topics:

I find that the best blogs in the world are incredibly focused. They touch on two or three general topics at the most, and rarely stray from them. It provides depth of content for readers to return to time and again, and it gives the writer something to focus their inspiration around. Whether you name the blog after yourself, or with some random name, really doesn’t matter nearly as much as the quality of your content, how relevant it is, and the uniqueness of your “voice”.

Ben Brooks of The Brooks Review also champions content above all:

Content is paramount, the title — unless horrid — is inconsequential.

So: There are nuances between an eponymous and topical title. An eponymous blog allows for more variety, although when it comes to growth and marketing a personal brand can be more difficult (but also more relatable). However, the title of your blog is peripheral compared to other aspects. What matters in the long run is great writing — quality, relevance, and focus. Ultimately, that will define you more than anything else.

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