Renaming eMomsatHome to SparkPlugging [Interview]

Regular readers of “That Work” – SLG will be familiar with Wendy Piersall from eMomsatHome.com. I’ve watched Wendy establish a presence with her own first blog and then in more recent times expand it into a small blog network of 7 blogs.

A few weeks ago she emailed me to talk about the rebranding and naming of her blog network. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a little of her journey of grappling with this new process and am really happy to be able to officially announce that eMomsatHome.com is now….((insert drum roll here))….

Sparkplugging

As I post this Wendy and her team are rolling it all out (still a few little touches still to go – these things take a little time to transition).

Wendy asked me if I’d like the scoop of announcing the new name and I suggested that we take it a step further and that she allow me to ask her a few questions about the process of switching names. She agreed and here’s my mini interview with Wendy.

Why did you feel the need to change your brand’s name?

Since I started eMoms at Home initially as a hobby site, I didn’t really think of the long-term consequences of naming a site that excludes half of the human race. I started noticing it as a problem very early on, about 5 months after I started. I had a lot of dads and non-parents frequenting the site. But I also had people say things like, “Oh, I didn’t pay attention to your site because I thought it was only for moms”.

I thought that I could build up the brand enough to overcome the initial limitations, but recently at the SXSW conference, it just became painfully clear that we had completely outgrown our name. People flat out told me they would never have read our site based on our name – even though they admitted that they had an active interest in our content. I could now see that ‘eMoms at Home’ was actively holding us back from further growth.

Can you talk us through how you went about making this change?

Understanding our Audience
Quite honestly it was an extraordinarily difficult process. At first I came up with several names around ‘parents’, and when I asked for input from our readers, the feedback was fascinating. Many of them weren’t parents, and even those that were parents didn’t want to come to a ‘parenting site’ for their business information. I hadn’t expected that at all. And it made the naming process 100% more difficult as I realized this wasn’t just a naming issue, but the site needed to entirely reposition itself to truly serve our readers needs.

So I took a step back from our site being a site for parents in business – which was not easy for me personally, because I’m very proud of the work we have done to help working parents. But in order to really serve our readers, I realized that we needed to position ourselves as a resource for people who use the internet and technology to create flexible work for themselves – both parents and non parents.

Domain Research Hell
I hadn’t looked to purchase a domain name of this magnitude of importance for 2 years. It was astonishing to see just how much the domain squatting industry has been built up in that time. I found hundreds of potential names, yet all were taken and had made for AdSense sites on them. I think I spent over 100 hours on domain research and brainstorming.

Another factor is that our audience, while extremely experienced in business, doesn’t really have a standard ‘label’. They don’t really consider themselves ‘home business owners’ nor do they consider themselves ‘true entrepreneurs’. They are a vastly diverse group of amazing people that kind of fall in between those two stereotypes, and call themselves things like “author, blogger, consultant, freelancer, moonlighter, marketers, or tech geeks”. I couldn’t really choose one one of those names, because any of them would be too limiting.

More below the screen caps…

Sparkplugging

Finding the Right Metaphor
So the quest for something brandable and metaphorical began, and it was excruciating. I emailed nearly every marketer I knew asking for help and advice, including you, Toby Bloomberg, Susan Payton, and Marla Tabaka, my business coach. PickyDomains offered their help, and I also found WordLab, a free naming forum. All were extremely helpful – none came up with the right name.

Finally, after probably 10,000 page views on Thesaurus.com, I came upon the word Sparkplug used as an adjective, “A person who makes things happen”. Immediately I knew I had found my metaphor. At that point, I just had to find a good domain with some version of that word in it. That took another week, and I had to stalk a few domain owners to try and get them to sell their domains. In the end, I was able to purchase our domain from the owner who was going to let it expire in about 60 days. And we are now Sparkplugging – Thinking Big in the New Work at Home Generation.

Now that you’ve made the decision to make the change, can you tell us about your plans to transition from the old brand and name to the new one?

I already had plans in place to add new blogs to my blog network in March. The naming process delayed that project, and all of us were happy to get that name picked so that we could get back to doing what we do best – blogging.

I pestered Aaron Wall and my Twitter followers quite a bit for information on how to manage creating accurate 301 server redirects, because even my very experienced developer had never moved a site of our size to a new domain. I’m pretty confident we’ll be fine, but I do anticipate taking a hit in traffic from Google for a while.

An unexpected casualty of this process was that I didn’t know what to do with my own blog on the network with this new name. I never liked that my blog was the same name as the site – I thought it was confusing. But in order to continue to be the ‘flagship’ blog of my own network, I realized I couldn’t be focused so much on Moms anymore, which again was difficult for me personally. I really was only able to be OK with that decision by adding a blog to the network specific to work at home moms, because helping moms start a business is just so near and dear to my heart. I found the perfect person to do that, Kelly McCausey. She’s a very well known WAHM and I was thrilled to get her involved. And my own blog will be named Sparkplug CEO and shift focus a bit to be more entrepreneurial, especially because I’m thinking of doing some much bigger things with the site under our new name.

So right when we change, we’ll be launching the first two of ten new blogs we’re adding to the network, The Home Office Organizer & Believer in Balance. Then to keep up our momentum (and keep people coming back!), we’ll be launching 2 more blogs a week for the following 4 weeks. Of course, we’ll do things like contests, press releases, and hit our word of mouth efforts heavily as well. Plus we’ll put a huge focus on rebuilding links to the new domain. Giving up our Technorati rank is admittedly a blow, but obviously what’s best for the company comes before anything like that.

Honestly, I feel like I am in very uncharted territory. I know that The Mining Company changed their name once upon a time to About.com, but I haven’t seen any large blogs do anything like this. So as much as I can prepare for it, I know full well that I’m going to be totally learning-as-we-go. Many people in the blogging community have offered to help spread the word and I really don’t think that we could pull something like this off without the support of our readers and peers. Overall this has been both a rewarding and humbling experience – and I couldn’t be more grateful for my authors, my friends, and my colleagues who have helped us grow to this point, and who will be there for us as we change.

Ultimately it’s really an honor to be a resource for our community, as I’m sure you well know, Darren. 🙂

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