What’s in a name? Identity. Brand. Personality. Presence. All these hold true when it comes to building an online presence. And whether you’re starting a blog, newsletter or digital side project – one of the first decisions you’ll have to make is picking a name.
And damn it’s hard. Not only are good (and short) names taken, but there are constantly new long domains (.wtf or .money), not to mention replicating them across the ever-growing number of social media handles. After spending three years creating a blog, email newsletter, and podcast here’s some advice on how to begin.
1. First principles
I always try to strip these questions to their barest elements. So what are the things to consider in a name:
- Discovery: How will people find you?
- Purpose/Mission: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
- Branding: Who are you, what’s your vibe?
In the early days, discovery is important. So let’s recap how people will find you (using RadReads as an example):
- Direct: the email newsletter
- Social Media: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
- Search: Googling “RadReads” or “Khe Hy”
- Referrals: other sites linking to RadReads
- Directly: typing your domain
2. Domains matter less than you think
I don’t think the discovery table above changes meaningfully for aspiring bloggers. It takes time to build up search and referral equity. And if people are trying to find your blog, there’s a high likelihood that they’ll begin by Googling your name.
3. But what about my vibe and my brand?
You should be thinking of this early and here’s the tension you’ll have to manage. On one end, a name that captures what you’re all about is the start of a (hopefully iconic) brand. But on the other hand, it can be extremely constraining. And it becomes very hard to switch.
I always loved the word RAD. It captures the skate and surf ethos that I try to embody each day. It’s a fun word and not used too often. I started with RadReads.co, since my first product was an email newsletter (hence, the reads part). It is a punchy and memorable name (and alliterations are powerful).
But then I added a podcast, and bought RadAwakenings.com. This was a mistake, creating other domains is extremely confusing for people looking to discovery you.
Here’s where the confusion came from: not only was the podcast unrelated to “reading,” but I was looking to add other things: jobs, coaching, maybe a digital course – and hopefully a book one day.
4. My next mistake – the shiny toy
So I made my next mistake, buying Rad.family. At the time, my thinking was that it would be a holding company of sorts – think Berkshire Hathaway for self-improvement! But it was totally misguided. Not only did it sound stupid when you said it, it made my site look like a parenting site! I know need to spend a bunch of time and money going back to RadReads.co. And there are
5. So what should you do
I strongly think you should start with your name. That’s how people are going to find you anyways. And your ideas may (ahem, will) – but your name never will. And chances are it’s available (if not as a .com, either as .co, .io or .me). It’s not sexy and there’s no great story behind it, but trust me, it will give you the runway to experiment for as long as possible without the strenuous exercise of switching domains. And most importantly, it’ll enable you to just start.