New bloggers have significant privacy concerns about blogging with their real names. Conversely, they worry that using a pen name will hurt their Google ranking. Can you start a successful blog using a pen name?
The answer is yes, you absolutely can!
Authors have successfully used pen names for generations, and blogging is no different. In fact, Google has publicly stated that they’re OK with you blogging under a pseudonym.
Totally up to you — I doubt Google’s algorithms would judge the “real-ness” of author names that you use. Users might though.— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) July 18, 2019
Case closed then? Let’s get into some other reasons you might want to use a pen name on your blog.
Pros of Blogging Under a Pen Name
I have fears about a crazy person reading something I wrote online and tracking me down. It has never happened before, but the thought of it is scary. And I fear this despite being a 300 lbs bearded man.
Remember to register a new email address for your new identity, also hide your name from whois lookups, etc.
More people Google my name than I ever would have thought. I know this because I rank #1 for “Shaun Poore,” and Google Search Console shares the actual traffic numbers with me.
Who’s Googling me? Colleagues? Love Interests? My Mom? Yes. And my Blog and YouTube channel are the first things all these people find. Luckily I’m proud of all this content I’m producing, but if I weren’t…
Blogging About Risque Content
I blog about business related stuff. So I have no real concerns that I may be sharing a little bit too much online.
If I wanted to blog about dating or something more risque, then a pseudonym is a good idea. I don’t want my Mom, my work, or a new love interest to see that with a quick Google search.
And as a creator, you can’t be holding back the good stuff if you want to connect with your audience. If you’re always holding back for fear of being judged online, a pen name might be a good idea.
You Can Be Someone Else
We may not like it, but the writer’s name 100% impacts how we absorb the material. Imagine if I were writing about #metoo or the Mexican border wall as Shaun Poore vs. Liliana Rodriguez. You would respond to those articles very differently.
Cons of Blogging Under a Pen Name
Most bloggers have a poor mindset about their content being found online. They see it as a reason to get fired rather than a reason to get hired.
Big organizations pay top dollar to rank #1 for their name. You’re only looking at the negatives when you think about being found in Google. More often than not, you’ll get rewarded for the fantastic content attached your name.
When employers Google my name, they don’t see hundreds of reasons to fire me. They see me being an expert at 100 different topics that I’ve blogged about.
It’s easier for your audience to connect with somebody who’s being themselves. And honestly, it feels really good to be you vs. being something else. This is the main reason I chose to blog as myself. I don’t want to be anyone else.
Sometimes Accountability is a Good Thing
I think people are prone to write crazy things online when they know it’ll never get back to them. That’s not what I want my blog to be. So whenever I do hit subjects I’m not 100% sure about, I do more research on the topic than I otherwise would have. That additional research makes me a more well-rounded person over the long term.
How To Choose a Pen Name
You want to choose something unique. I’d do a Google search of any name you’re thinking about adopting. See if somebody has a significant online presence under that name. You don’t want to have a ton of competition. You also may want to do a quick trademark search on the name.
Past that, there are no rules. If you can’t think of a pen name, pen name generators are available online to help get your creative juices flowing.
How To Use a Pen Name For SEO
Google doesn’t care what name you write with. But, Google definitely tracks that author’s articles and their performance in search. Google’s likely tracking author mentions on other websites as well. I’d expect them to expand this as YMYL becomes more critical to their algorithm.
The key here is consistency. Once you pick a name, that’s the only name you’ll use online forever. It’s your brand. As long as you don’t bounce from name to name, you should be fine.
Is Using a Pen Name Legal?
I’m not a lawyer, and none of this is legal advice. But, these are the only legal things I’d be concerned with when choosing a pen name.
- Make sure the name isn’t trademarked.
- Don’t impersonate a real person.
- Don’t pretend you have credentials that you don’t (don’t claim to be a doctor, police officer, etc.).
I don’t believe there’s much else to worry about as people have been using pen names and ghostwriting for centuries. But again, I’m a blogger, not your lawyer. Consult an attorney if you require actual advice.
Famous People Using Pseudonyms
In case you need some motivation to use a pen name. Here are some people who have changed their names for public consumption.
- Bruno Mars: Pete Gene Hernandez
- Mark Twain: Samuel Clemens
- Shania Twain: Eilleen Regina Edwards
- George Orwell: Eric Arthur Blair
- George R.R. Martin: George R Martin
- J.K. Rowling: Joanne Rowling
- Dr. Seuss: Theodore Seuss Geisel
- Mrs. Silence Dogood: Benjamin Franklin
Ultimately there are no significant legal or SEO concerns when blogging under a pen name. It’s more a question of privacy vs. personal branding. So do whichever you are most comfortable with.