How Dynadot Customer Sarah Moon Set Her Blog Apart with a Unique & Memorable Domain Name
I am always looking for interesting and distinctive customer websites to feature on our blog. So, when I came across Dynadot customer Sarah Moon's blog, one of the first things I noticed was its unique domain name: ClearEyesFullShelves.com. After spending some time checking out her blog posts and listening to some of her podcasts, I decided to get in touch with Sarah to learn more about why she started her blog and how she came up with such a unique domain name.
What made you decide to start your blog?
Prior to my current blog, Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, I’d been involved in blogging - both with my own now-shuttered blog and as a professional blogger for work. When I was blogging daily for work, I found it difficult to motivate myself to keep up with blogging for fun, but once I left that job (I’m now a full-time freelancer working in integrated communications), I found I missed having my own little corner of the web in the form of a blog.
I kicked around a lot of ideas about what to talk about online, since I have a ton of interests, both professional and hobby-wise. I didn’t want to blog to directly promote myself or my work, because that seemed like a real bore. At the time I was fairly active on Goodreads, the social media site where readers can document their reading and write reviews. So I started thinking that maybe I could write about books and reading-related things on my own blog, rather than on Goodreads.
I toyed with the idea for nearly a year after initially considering it because there are a lot of book-focused blogs out there. I didn’t want to strictly be a review site or focus on a singular genre and I didn’t even necessary want to only talk about books - I hate being limited. Finally, I developed the idea of a "blog for readers," with the notion that readers also like other things like television, interesting movies, technology (digital is a huge issue in the publishing world), and the like. I recruited a couple of contributors (namely, my friend Laura, a local piano technician who also co-hosts our podcast, and my mom, a retired high school English teacher who brings a unique perspective to the site), laid out a plan for the sort of content I wanted, and launched Clear Eyes, Full Shelves about two years ago.
You have a great domain name. How did you come up with it?
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves is a riff on "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose," from the greatest television show of all time, Friday Night Lights. I have a fairly large obsession with that show, having watched it from the beginning and gone through the emotional roller roster of both the storyline and that at the end of each season the show was always almost canceled and then would be saved at the last minute.
If I’m going to be honest, coming up with the name Clear Eyes, Full Shelves was a huge motivator for me in terms of starting the site. It was a name that had to be used.
What did you do to help create a following for your blog?
I’ve taken a bit of a different tactic than a lot of bloggers, particularly in my niche. As a matter of policy, I don’t do promo-type posts with contests and giveaways that can help rapidly grow your following, nor do I participate in memes and the like. Instead, I focused on what I believe to be quality writing and a unique point-of-view as well as engaging an audience that wasn’t only other bloggers in my niche. (This is an easy trap to fall into and it’s not very sustainable.)
I see a lot of bloggers suffering from burnout because of the never-ending cycle of promotion in order to keep their traffic stats at a certain level - and this is particularly a problem in book blogging where access to early review copies of books is largely contingent on pageviews and arbitrary faux-metrics such as followers on the now-defunct Google Friend Connect.
I approached my blog with the ethos that quantity in terms of traffic would come with quality on the site, and it’s proven to be true. Publishers and authors seem to appreciate that we’re a bit different and even when we were smaller (I’d classify CEFS as a mid-sized blog in its niche), we didn’t have an issue with access.
I also think that there’s something to be said for Clear Eyes, Full Shelves not having a singular focus, whether that be genre or media. It seems that our readers appreciate that one day we’ll write about 66 things we’ve learned from binge-watching 66 episodes of The Vampire Diaries and later in the week we may examine whether or not a book is truly feminist or not. The blog is unified by point-of-view, not subject matter, and I suspect that helped build a loyal readership.
In addition to that content-focused approach, there are some specific steps I’ve taken to grow our readership:
I worked very hard at ensuring my blog has good search engine optimization, without degrading the context or content (one of my pet peeves are post titles that don’t give humans much context, that are written only to appeal to search engines). My very favorite search term that brings us a ton of hits each day is "Best Justin Timberlake Lyrics," which brings up a post of mine from last year as the first result in Google. Google also really likes our "Reading Lists" section, which brings a lot of traffic from people looking for reading recommendations and generates some revenue thanks to affiliate programs.
Clear Eyes, Full Shelves receives a lot of random traffic from Pinterest, of all places. I don’t post anything on the blog without an image, and as a result the content is very "Pin-able." One of my tricks with Pinterest is to include in the image alt-tag a reference to my site, and when someone Pins an image from the site, that data is pulled into Pinterest’s caption. Most Pinners don’t change the text, so it’s a nice little reference back to Clear Eyes, Full Shelves, which piques people’s interest.
While we do have a Facebook page, I don’t use it much as it’s been a stinker for us in terms of the effort to traffic ratio. Unless you have a budget for paid posts, it’s hard to ensure that your fans see and share your content on that platform. However, I love Twitter and am very active on that platform and it’s a consistent traffic generator for us; I suspect that’s because my Twitter presence predates the blog and I don’t just tweet about blog-related topics.
I’m not going to lie, though, our memorable domain name has done a lot of good in attracting visitors to the site.
Your blog also features a podcast. What made you decide to start doing podcasts?
I started the podcast because I love listening to podcasts! A few years ago, a friend of mine in Australia started a podcast about basketball and we had a blast doing it. That podcast ran its course, but I had always hoped to podcast again, so about a year ago, my co-host Laura and I launched the first season of the Clear Eyes, Full Shelves podcast.
Podcasting is a great way to enhance your website’s content and expand your audience. I’ve found that while we do have crossover between the blog and podcast audience, a lot of people have discovered the blog because of the podcast.
A podcast is a great way to dig into a topic that may be a bit sticky or complex and really hash it out. It’s also a great vehicle for bringing other voices. We’ve been fortunate that people inside the publishing industry, particularly authors, have been loyal listeners from the beginning, so we have had some awesome guests who’re really made me think about books, media, and culture - and that’s resonated with our listeners. We just launched our second season and are really excited about what we have planned.
Podcasting is surprisingly easy to do. If folks are interested in podcasting, they should know that you don’t need a bunch of equipment, just a decent quality USB microphone, some headphones, and recording software (I used Garage Band). To add a guest, all you need is Skype. My content management system, Squarespace, makes it really easy to publish a podcast to iTunes and also stream it on my site.
Final Thoughts from Clear Eyes, Full Shelves Owner Sarah Moon
I know I’ve been verbose here, but I wanted to say to anyone who’s made it through this entire Q&A, if you’re thinking of launching a website or blog, focus on being original.
I teach website design and related subjects at a local college and I see a lot of people diving into the Web for the first time and they’re looking to replicate what’s already being done. Instead, figure out what you want to say in a way that’s authentic and distinctive and go from there - if you’re passionate about your project, that will resonate with your site visitors and they’ll support you.
Posted by Robyn Norgan