Welcome to the world of blogging. Whether you're a hobbyist looking for a place to share your passions, or a pro looking to build a business, it pays to consider the future on your blog early on in your career.
Here are six easy ways to start protecting your blogging brand.
What’s in a Name?
You’ve deciding to become a blogger and share your taste, pictures, and musings with the world. The next step is to pick a title.
Keep a notepad handy in the early days and jot down your ideas. For me, I knew that I was passionate about fashion and that I wanted to market myself to moms. I started dreaming up names that got this message across loud and clear. Since I didn’t want to limit my blog to just fashion, I thought “trends” was a better term. I could safely talk about baby gear, décor, and other things that interest parents. After I had picked my theme, I got busy doing research. I started Googling potential names to make sure I wasn’t infringing on any domains (for the most part, there is a blogger code of ethics that bloggers don’t poach titles). Don’t get lazy! The Google search should extend beyond the first page! Dig a little deeper to make sure your clever title will be yours alone.
Kristin one of the bloggers from Bon Bon Rose has a catchy name for her fashion blog. She says, “We wanted something that really represented us and the things that we love. And seeing as we're supremely girly … we decided on BonBon Rose Girls, bonbon meaning candy, and rose meaning pink in French. What's more girly than pink candy?”
Once you’ve got a name, you are on your way towards building a brand.
Be the Master of Your Domain.
As luck would have it, Momtrends didn’t show up anywhere in my search. One mistake I made was to not buy the “.com” when I started. When I looked to buy Momtrends.com in 2007 (after I had been blogging on as www.Momtrends.blogspot.com) I found out that Momtrends.com had been purchased (who owns the name is still a mystery to me). At one point, I hired GoDaddy.com to try to buy the domain name for me. After spending more than $100 on futile negotiations (they suggested I bid in the $5,000 range), I never got the name of the domain owner or any closer to buying Momtrends.com. On the plus side, I do own, Momtrends.net and Momtrends.biz.
If at all possible, pick a name where you can own it like Kathleen of Katydidandkid.com (she bought her name last year). Kathleen said, “As a former English major, I know the power of alliteration and rhyme, so I wanted a title that was fun and snappy to say, as well as easy to remember. ‘Katydid and Kid’ just came to me one day when I was thinking about things I associate with myself, like hobbies, nicknames.” I couldn’t agree more. The name is evocative and works perfectly with Kathleen’s blog that focuses on crafts and creations.
Note: Make sure you are on a renewal program to maintain ownership of your name.
Let’s go to Logos.
With the business of finding a name behind you, time to decide on the look of your blog. Many new bloggers opt for a generic template available on WordPress or Blogger for free, and these are wonderful ways to get started. Even with using a generic template, I suggest personalizing your blog with a logo.
Design-savvy moms can make their own graphics, for the rest of us, hiring a designer is a fun way to network with other folks in the online community.
Be sure to set a budget early. Depending on whom you hire, you could spend anywhere from $0 by bartering and offering a banner ad or acknowledgment of your site to a new graphic artist looking to build a resume to $10,000 by hiring a slick, professional designer. I hired Kim Braconier a New York designer. She drew up a series of options for me in 2007. I spent $250—a bargain for her talents—in part because she was launching a new business and was eager to get a few clients on her roster.
Nicole Bateman is the successful designer behind the Pixel Boutique. When I asked her about logos and branding, she was anxious to share her views.
“Your blog is competing with an enormous amount of other sites. The first impression is made within 10 seconds of visiting a site. So you want something that is simple, catchy and tells a visitor about your blog and that they want to stay a while. Plus, you can use a logo or branding image to carry throughout other means to promote your blog … like on a button, signature or Twitter pages,” says Nicole.
Getting a simple avatar image (you doing something fabulous like cooking a soufflé or installing sheet rock) is an easy way to start. It can be personalized and is relatively inexpensive.
Note: Make sure you own the rights to the image of your logo. When you hit it big and get a book deal or land a guest spot on Oprah, you’ll want to be sure you own your images free and clear.
Marking Your Blog's Territory.
After you’ve been working and writing for a few months and start to grow your audience, it’s time to trademark. You don’t want someone swooping in and capitalizing on your hard work.
The first step is easy. Simply add a small “TM” to your logo and tagline. This clearly marks your territory and is absolutely free. If in time your blog grows and becomes a financial resource and a literary phenomenon, it’s time to consider registering your trademark. This gets a bit more time consuming and costly. The federal registration process can take several months and cost me about $800. In the long run, this is money well spent — the registration effort is essential when defending your brand.
Incorporating can cost as little as a few hundred dollars (each state has different regulations and rules). In my case, I incorporated in New York, and the process required a bit of paperwork and about $400 (most of the cost came from filing three ads in local newspapers announcing the company).
Why the effort?
Being a corporation shelters your family and personal assets in lawsuits and shows that you are a business that takes itself seriously. My attorney, Nicole Knox says, “Incorporation provides mom bloggers with legal and financial protection from their blogging activities. Mom bloggers are able to protect their most valuable assets – their blog names and other identifying property (such as a logo) – by obtaining trademark protection.
Covering Your Blogging Assets.
I recommend all bloggers Google themselves and their titles on a regular basis. This will give you a handle on a few things:
1) If people are stealing your content without proper attribution or payment.
2) If your name or image is being used without your consent.
3) If you name has been hijacked.
Sadly, I have had all three happen to me during my five-year blogging career. Putting blinders on doesn’t help. You need to be prepared to take action.
If you find out someone else is using your name or logo, you’ve got protection if you have trademarked your logo and name and incorporated. Staking this claim allows you to essentially say, “I was here first” and help in getting the offender to stop riding on your coattails.
Defending Your Blog Property.
I like to think of the blogosphere as a big harmonious place, but on occasion, dust-ups do occur. Dealing with other bloggers can be tricky. I suggest going in with a clear, non-hostile tone. If you run across a blog that appears to be infringing on your property, do not wait for them to go away magically. Find their contact information and take action. In a letter and email clearly, state the facts:
- When your blog was started.
- How you have established the brand (trademarking, incorporation, etc.).
- That you expect them to cease using your trademark name or logo.
Be sure to provide current contact information and keep a record of all your communications. In the best-case scenario, the situation can be resolved without lawyers. But if you do have to call in hired guns (and I did), you’ll be glad to have a detailed list of all your communications.
Resist the urge to blog, tweet, and generally rant about the issue giving specific names. Not only could this get you into legal hot water, but it can also generate a ton of bad blood amongst your peers. Keep it professional and save your rants for a close friend (feel free to call or email me to commiserate!).
In my case, I successfully defended my brand outside of court. The other blog changed its name, and we continue to coexist peacefully. Having this victory behind me is not only an emotional plus, but it also goes a long way towards making sure this doesn’t happen again. Once you have successfully fended off a competitor, you’ve got better standing.
After all, this, don’t be scared off! Blogging is a fabulous experience and has turned into a fantastic career choice for me. The wise blogger goes in with level expectations and has a master plan.
Remember: She who fails to plan — plans to fail.
Are you interested in starting your own blog? Setting up a blog is easy and affordable, and it's a great way to work from home! If you're ready to get started — check out this easy step-by-step tutorial.
Nicole Feliciano is the Editor and Founder of Momtrends where moms go for the latest news on things trendy and cool. In addition to her blog, she offers consulting services to brands like Totsy.com that market to moms.