Back in 2004, I was on the phone with my publisher and he told me I should start a blog. “It’s what authors are doing,” he said.
So, I tried to figure it out.
I started learning about blogs and paid particular attention to the sub-category of mom-bloggers because my first book was for moms and it felt like the right world to run around in.
Rather than using the mom’s name in association with the website, these mom-blogs would often be named things like, “Patience and Pacifiers,” or “Somewhere Under the Laundry Heap”—creative names that said something about what the website would contain and communicate.
They were focused. I liked the idea, so I thought for a long time about what to name my blog.
For a brief time I used the name of my book, The Contemplative Mom, but before long I realized the adjective “contemplative” felt too limiting or confusing, because while I was contemplative, I was also downright goofy sometimes. I dropped that name and generated a long list of alternative ideas, debated with myself which one fit best, and finally gave up and just went with my name.
I don’t think I even had a tagline or subtitle. In a world of clever, creative, specific, branded blog names—even though we didn’t think of as branding at the time—I was just…me. Ann Kroeker.
What was the name Ann Kroeker associated with back then? What was the focus of her website? What would a visitor expect? What would AnnKroeker.com contain and communicate?
I don’t think anyone could tell you. I don’t think I could tell you. My blog needed focus. And for my blog to have focus, I needed focus.
I had none.
I decided to find out what I would write, by writing. That was my strategy. And I learned, in time, it was not the savviest strategy, nor the most efficient.
For years, I wrote about whatever came into my mind, and being a curious lifelong learner, just about anything could pop into my mind, including fascinating facts about katydids and the Byzantine Empire. If we looked back in my archives, I would not be surprised to see a reference to Constantinople. I was all over the map. I was a Russian roulette of content with no niche, no clear brand, no focus.
I’d have been better off with a narrow tagline, like Ann Kroeker: Somewhere Under the Laundry Heap. But as I said, I wasn’t savvy. I just wrote about whatever.
The Oatmeal Connection
One day, I wrote about steel cut oats.
I wanted to make them and eat them, but I didn’t want to cook them for 20-30 minutes on the stove, which is what’s required, so I dug around the internet and found, deep in a discussion thread somewhere, a method for cooking them overnight in a crock pot using a water bath. And it worked. The oats were delicious—ready and waiting for me in the morning.
I was so excited to share this with readers, I snapped photos to show the bowl of oats sitting in the crock, surrounded by water. I included a blurry image of the steel cut oats container—in other words, this was not the staged, high-end, natural-light presentation you’d find in a foodie blogger’s post. It was just unfocused Ann, sharing another random tidbit.
Well, I must have hit the right moment in the wave of interest in steel cut oats. Because before long, this post became the most visited post on my website. I’d peek at the stats and see that hundreds clicked through from referral sites. Then thousands. Then ten thousand. A hundred thousand. I switched my website to another host at some point and lost my stats, but based on current information, I would not be surprised if that post has hit a million views.
Ann Kroeker was finally associated with something: Oatmeal.
This is not what my publisher had in mind when he told me to start a blog.
I needed focus. Something intentional.
So do you.
Name It and Claim It
Now, I did accidentally do one thing right, and that is snag my name as my domain name: annkroeker.com. Over the years, a lot of those mom-bloggers have actually dropped their original blog names and started using their given names. But, as you know, I had been using mine all along, so suddenly I looked brilliant instead of awkward and unfocused, out of sync with the online world.
If you’ve never looked, I suggest you search for yourname.com and if it’s available, purchase it. Immediately.
Because when it comes to building your platform, you want people to:
- know your name and recognize it later, and
- associate your name with something—something you intentionally build (so you don’t accidentally end up the queen of oatmeal, like I was for a few years).
Focus and Intention
When you focus in on blog content that fits, an audience will start to realize what you’re about. They’ll see your name and know who you are, and what you do. In time, they’ll grow to like you and trust you, and know that if they visit yourname.com or yournamewriter.com, they’ll read something they’re interested in.
I hope today, when you hear the name Ann Kroeker or go to annkroeker.com, you don’t immediately think of oatmeal. Well, I suppose now that I’ve told you the steel cut oats story, you probably will. But I hope you think, instead: Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach. It took years to get there, but that’s now my focus. That’s my intentional effort. That’s what I want my name associated with, and that’s what I want my blog to contain and communicate: information that helps writers.
It takes time to figure it out and start creating that content. But you can start building your writing platform by snagging your name, if possible, and finding a focus that fits. Then you can create content that connects you to people—to readers—and establishes you as a writer associated with those topics, themes, ideas, and stories.
It’s your name. Your focus. And content that represents what you bring to the world—the problems you’ll solve for people, the stories you’ll tell, the ways you’ll connect with, support, and encourage readers.
You decide, though. Don’t let oatmeal take the wheel.
Experiment with a possible focus, write, watch for where your interests intersect with the needs and interests of readers. In time, you’ll find your focus and give your name meaning.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- Fistbump Media (domains)
- GoDaddy (domains – a lot of people are not fond of GoDaddy, but I use it)
- Hostgator (domains)
- The Basic Components of an Author Website (Jane Friedman)
- The Contemplative Mom: Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood
- Overnight Crock Pot Steel Cut Oats
- Your Writing Platform episode collection
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