Don't Write Nameless

I recently wanted to quote another writer who posted to a community site outside of my normal realm. On their profile page it had their nickname and their AdSense ID number, but no name. If it is hard to quote you then fewer people will quote you. Having a nickname for a brand is a good idea for some, but if you are a freelance writer or service seller it is a good idea to build an identity that is easy to attach to a real name. In an anonymous world people trust and gravitate toward things that seem human and real. If someone has to be a search guru or a person willing to sound like an idiot to quote you then less people are going to quote you. If nobody is quoting you then there is little point to being a writer.

Using a name (real or fake) is a way to gain easy credibility points amongst those who do not know you or your industry.

Published: February 19, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


Mike Levin of H...
April 9, 2007 - 11:43am

> There are an immense number of reasons for writing that don't end up with being quoted. The most important of these includes spreading new ideas that may not be extremely controversial and not initially well liked.

While I do post under my real identity, I agree with this statement, especially for authors who play the questionable game of posting deliberately antagonistic articles. While I'm all for a lively debate, say for example author A targets the name of author B in an inflammatory headline, and subsequently has all his points invalidated through general industry consensus.

Author A would then require quite a bit of time and jockeying to recover. Generally speaking, you should only use your real identity, if you plan on engaging in fair and even debate.

February 19, 2007 - 11:36am

Here is the description found on my personal blog:

"We live in an anonymous world where everyone masks their real identity with watered down public personalities, online pseudo-names, and random usernames. With billions of people in the world, the question becomes, why should anyone know or care about you? My name is Solomon Rothman; I’m a web designer, filmmaker and writer. This is my blog, these are my words, this is my voice."

People like to read, talk about, and do business with individuals they feel are real and genuine. By using your real name, you stand out among all the anonymous individuals vying for attention and you're claiming your words and building value. If you choose a username or made up persona, you may end up stuck with that forever, I suggest building value with your real name. There are billions of people out there, give them a reason to know / remember you.

February 19, 2007 - 12:01pm

"If nobody is quoting you then there is little point to being a writer."

Even though I'm all for promotion and recognition for your work, I greatly disagree with this statement. There are an immense number of reasons for writing that don't end up with being quoted. The most important of these includes spreading new ideas that may not be extremely controversial and not initially well liked. Claiming authorship to these ideas may risk your life / job and may cause massive amount of hate mail and other unpleasant things.

Personally, I'd probably publish it under my name anyways, but I could understand someone who wants to publish something like that anonymously and not wishing to be quoted. Their purpose for writing may be to disseminate the information unattached to any specific author. You could of course publish this example under a pseudo-name, but then you create a "search for the author" scenario and someone may connect the pseudo-name with your real name. If you don't even attach an authorship it's more likely to be changed when it's spread around and not be tracked back to you (just my opinion)

Another example you run into in the forums a lot is the want for people to help each other without an attachment of recognition, they just sincerely want to dole out some good advice and also do not wish to be quoted.

Although many people like you and me are motivated by ego and the "I want to stand out" concept, it's not required to produce great works. Your statement about having little point to being a writer assumes the writer wants to build a reputation and or contribute to their ego. A writer may not even want a large audience. I could also see someone writing something and releasing it online, but only intending for it to be enjoyed by a few and not even wanting it to be quoted.

I agree with your advice about writing under a name for search marketing purposes, but I don't think you should make such a bold statement without giving more of a context.

February 19, 2007 - 12:06pm

Fair point. But this person was already a person who was a freelance writer.

You don't have to go for fame to potentially improve your income / market leverage / quality of life. There are hidden costs to everything, but if you want to do something professionally I think it really helps to stand behind your work with your name.

February 19, 2007 - 12:53pm

I sometimes regret choosing the name evilgreenmonkey instead of using my real name. At search conferences people only know my username and those that don't, give me strange looks when people introduce me as egm. AussieWebmaster says that he has the same problem despite using his real name a lot more - and he's been around a lot longer than I have.



February 19, 2007 - 1:42pm

In almost all forums I have a nick, but for my web site I use my first name. I agree and disagree with you on what you are saying Aaron. I agree about credibility among peers, but disagree that you have to throw your name out there to receive any. I cant speak for anyone but myself on this, but I have no choice to be vague with who I am and what i do because when you are an "in-house" person you can not be as objective when you are throwing the real name out there :). But with that said, it in turn causes credibility factors that diminish the quality of anything that I may personally write, review, or for that matter make a video about. There are many times i wish I could express the kind of things i do see and relate it to my niche because i feel that it would be more meaningful because I know i am an expert in my niche and i could elaborate with authority. However, I can not do that because of the above mentioned things.

February 19, 2007 - 2:49pm

If you have an easily forgetable name, like fx. Robert Smith, it might be a good idea to market yourself under something else. Like EvilGreenMonkey.

I'm currently trying to establish myself as a Freelance eCommerce Consultant here in Denmark and there's two things that I do to help the process a bit: Writing eCommerce related articles on my own blog / website, and posting comments on other peoples blogs.

I'm blessed with a unique, easy recognizable, Danish name. And I allways make sure to use it when posting stuff. Plus write text in both articles and comments that is easily quotable.

The first time I'll see something I have written quoted in the media or on some high profile blog will be a day of celebration for me. We'll see in a couple of years if the strategy works :-)

February 19, 2007 - 4:14pm

I wonder about people who use names like seoloser, sure it may get you attention, but it seems like you're already starting out in hole as far as being a source of trustworthy authoritative information. Not saying it can't be done services like 'the motley fool' have but why make the job harder to start off.

February 19, 2007 - 4:42pm

I did notice an SEOWanker out there a few years ago - he posted stuff on a "white hat" board of some notoriety.....

February 19, 2007 - 5:50pm

This is so true, not just in the "doing it to get quoted" category. So many people use generic names. I know one guy who uses the name "smiley"

February 19, 2007 - 7:02pm

I think usernames are names also, even though they are obviously not your real name. I think the important factor is that you need to make it easy for others to reference you or your ideas.

February 19, 2007 - 7:55pm

Yes, very true!

If you are branding yourself you got to be branding your name!

Well not every body could be Aaron Wall!


February 19, 2007 - 9:34pm

I agree about credibility among peers, but disagree that you have to throw your name out there to receive any.

I wasn't saying you have to throw your name out to get ANY credibility. I was saying that, on average, for most people, they will typically get more credibility if they throw their name out there than if they do not.

February 19, 2007 - 9:54pm

Guilty as charged.

I started with a nickname on WMW like everyone else. Back in 2002 and 2003, anonymity was still an issue. It is now a real pain to have to introduce myself at SES or PubCon and reference a nick as well. With some new stuff coming out, the nick will be a thing of the past.

February 20, 2007 - 1:26am

Attaching a name is one of the most important things you can do. A name symbolizes the person that writes the blog or article. Everyone wants to know who you are so you have to come up with something original. A name is the best thing you can do when writing a blog or an article. I completely agree with your Aaron.

February 20, 2007 - 3:40am

I think you are right, in almost all industries "getting your name out" is important.

I think in the SEO community things are not so straightforward, as Kirby points out we live in less paranoid times but its not that long back when for your name to have got out could have serious repercussions.

Personally I like just a nick on community forums, its a nod towards the fact that your online persona is just that, a persona, a pastiche of the real you. That serves as a constant reminder that others in the online world are similarly misrepresented.

On balance though I think the best approach for many industries is the duel nick/name strategy. I think we only have to look our aaron wall to see that but I think the greatest proponent of the duel art has to be Greg Boser.

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