Should you blog under your real name or a theme (pseudonym)?

I’ve owned the domain name elementaldreams.com for over a decade, and have used it in the past to write personal blogs and projects, using the name Elemental, since ElementalDreams was too long. Within the past year, my real name was available as a domain name and I purchased it. Eventually, I had to decide whether to move everything over and blog under my real name or keep things the same. There were several points in my analysis:

Focus vs Connection
By using a pseudonym or theme, it forces you to stick to a particular topic. Case in point, there are various travel websites featuring themes like World-Traveller or Super-Digital-Nomad or Wandering-Gypsy or Young-Backpacker-Partying-It-Up-In-South-America, etc. After being locked in to a particular pseudonym and theme, you’re not suddenly going to talk about knitting.

By using your real name, you create a connection with your readers. People will actually recognize you at conferences and strike up conversations. This leads to greater social opportunities, interviews, and fun times. It’s also easier to handle one set of social networking sites instead of two.

Own your words; The legal aspects are overblown
Unless you’re writing an article on a hosted WordPress account generated by a disposable email address via a proxy server, chances are you’re not *really* anonymous. But then again, does it matter? In this day and age we have bloggers blogging about their sexual exploits, drug use, infidelity, past criminal activity, and other frowned-upon-by-society topics. Face it, unless you start using your blog to write death threats, nobody really cares. Everybody’s seen it before. You’re not that special.

In fact, you’re better off owning your issues publicly instead of avoiding them (but that’s for another post).

Why not try both?
You don’t have to choose one or the other, you can do both. You can have a theme, but also prominently display your real name.

You can also have the exact same website available via multiple URL’s. This works well for branding purposes, if your audience is influenced by such trivialities  I tell people whom I meet whatever URL they’re most likely to remember.

In order to do this for your own website, perform the following steps:

  1. Using cPanel, click on the “Addon Domains” button and add your secondary URL as a addon domain. The Document Root should be exactly the same as your primary URL (the one you originally installed WordPress on). If it’s not already listed below, use /public_html
  2. Install and configure the following WordPress plugin: Multidomain

This plugin will allow WordPress to recognize your secondary domain and rewrite internal links to make them work properly. The following might sound confusing (but future plugins might make this easier): Within your WordPress admin panel, click “Edit” on the plugin and use the config.php as a basis for modification for your real site. If you edit this incorrectly, you’ll need to delete the plugin via FTP and try again.

Step #2 is totally optional. There is an upside and several downsides to using Step #2:

  • Upside: You’ll notice that the internal links keep the same domain name; that is if I am on www.websiteone.com/about the internal links to other pages don’t suddenly become www.websitetwo.com/about.
  • Downside: The plugin can be confusing to configure; I mean who directly edits .php files these days 🙂 If you didn’t understand the paragraph above, I don’t recommend doing it.
  • Downside: Search engine rankings: If you have two different URL’s for accessing a website, people will link to you using one or the other. That means that your backlink traffic will be split, and may negatively affect your search engine results. Also, unless you set one of your domains as “canonical”, Google will choose one of your URL’s to index for you. You’ll need to modify the header.php of your theme to set that.

Consider testing this on a temporary basis, and if search engine rankings affect you, have one of the URL’s permanently redirect to the other one (by deactivating the WordPress plugin I previously mentioned, and keeping the addon domain active in cPanel). That means that all your visitors will be forwarded to your primary URL, without any loss of traffic or search engine results.

I personally am using Step #1 only, so I have the benefit of 2 different domain names without any search engine hassles.

Want another opinion? Steve Pavlina’s article mentions that he started his blog using his real name instead of a personal development URL, and ultimately concludes branding doesn’t matter.