Does Anonymous Blogging Make Sense?


Last week on Twitter, one of the awesome bloggers I follow, Annabel Candy, asked an interesting question:

@GetintheHotSpot: Why do some bloggers want to be anonymous?

I felt strongly enough about the subject to answer, but as usual, I find it hard to say everything I have to say in just 140 characters, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it!

The Ugly Side of Anonymous

I did want to mention, before I start, that I think there is an ugly side to anonymous blogging. I’ve seen people use a persona or remain anonymous in order to trick the reader or attack someone with no consequences, and that is never a good thing. In fact, I’m working on a follow-up post about the ethics behind using a persona online, but that’s a debate for another day. In this post, I just want to talk about being anonymous from a pure business standpoint, as well as from a personal needs standpoint.

What Would Possess Someone to Blog Anonymously?

I’m sure Annabel received a number of answers to the initial question she posed, because I can think of a number of reasons why someone might want to stay anonymous or use a persona of some sort. There include:

  • If the topic is risque or controversial in some way, it could cause you to lose a job or lose followers at a different blog.
  • Journaling can be good for the soul, but you don’t always want people you know in real life to know your innermost thoughts.
  • An anonymous online diary can help you get feedback when you have a problem while protecting the identities of others involved who may not want their personal drama spewed all over the web.
  • Blogging anonymously can help you separate a new blog from another unrelated blog you write or used to write, so readers don’t get confused.
  • If you’ve made mistakes in the past in some way, blogging anonymously helps you have a fresh start among your peers.
  • It can be a confidence boost to not have to put your name to something you write, which is perfect for shy bloggers.
  • Blogging anonymously can provide a sense of mystery, something that could work for some niches.
  • If you blog anonymously, you have more control over identity protection, which is important for some people.
  • Bloggers who are well known celebrities (both Hollywood style and e-celebrities in their field) can avoid Internet trolls who are only there to be a pain, not to read the content.
  • If you have a number of blogs set up for affiliate sales purposes alone, it could be better to write posts anonymously rather than confuse people who search your name and see that you have tons of sites promoting everything from video games to diapers.

I’m sure you might be able to come up with some more reasons. Suffice to say, there are some really good reasons to consider blogging anonymously. But does it make sense?

True Anonymous Blogger versus A Persona

When I say “anonymous,” there are actually two different kinds of bloggers that I believe fall into this category. First, you have the truly anonymous folks, people who upload posts as “admin” or under a generic name like “Bob” with no author profile whatsoever. But there’s also another type of anonymous – the blogger who uses a persona. Writing under a pen name, this kind of blogger is anonymous in the respect that they don’t make their true identity public, but they do have a personality on their site, and that personality can be branded just like your real name/image can be branded.

The problem is “admin” is that you can’t really connect with readers. When you don’t have a personality, it’s hard to build your traffic. Sure, you can rely on search engine traffic, but for most bloggers, that’s not going to work (the exception is a blog set up purely for affiliate purposes, where you don’t really care about repeat traffic). As soon as you start injecting some personality into your blog, you begin creating a persona. So in my mind, it makes sense to at least give yourself a name and bio. Essentially, run your blog as though you were using your own name,

But Does It Work?

The proof is always in the puddin’. If you want to run an anonymous blog just for the sake of having somewhere to write, go for it. But can you actually make money this way?

Yes. Yes, you can.

A little-known fact about me is that I actually have a blog where I write anonymously. I use a pen name (rather than blogging under “admin”), and have been writing there since 2007. And it does fairly well. I started the blog without any plans to monetize (I’ve actually turned down ads), but even with little to no effort, the blog makes about $200 per month, plus I get about $1000 in review products for the blog every year. Is that going to pay my rent? Nope. But that’s with no effort. Recently, I decided that it was time to really consider making money for this blog, so I put a plan into motion to turn this anonymous blog into a business. Will it be able to pay my rent then? Time will tell, but I think so.

And here’s the kicker – this past month, a publishing house approached me, asking me to submit something for them to consider. Fully knowing that my name isn’t actually what I say it is on the site (I’m very upfront about the fact that it’s a persona), they’re interested in publishing a book written by me. (/proud bragging)

Will my true identity be revealed someday? Maybe. A few people do know my site and pen name, and someone who really knew what they were doing might be able to figure it out, since I’m not the most technologically-savvy person. I think that’s something you have to be at peace with if you want to have an anonymous blog. If you’re afraid that you’ll be “found out,” you probably shouldn’t be blogging anonymously. Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

The point is, I honestly believe that an anonymous blog can make just as much money as any other blog out there if you have a good idea. Anonymous blogging isn’t for everyone, but this isn’t something you should discount on the basis that some people don’t think it will work. If you think it might be a good idea for your niche, try it. Only you can determine whether or not it is the right thing for your blog.

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About Allison Boyer

Allison Boyer freelance writer and content marketing consultant. She also runs the food blog The PinterTest Kitchen with her mom and sister. You can follow her shenanigans on Twitter (@allison_boyer) or contact her at allisonmboyer@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Hi Alli, you beat me too it. Such an interesting topic and especially hearing your story of anon blogging. So exciting about the book. I’m dying to know – can you at least share what the topic is?!

    I’m particularly interested in why we can’t share ourselves wholly in our blogs for whatever reason. It would be great if we could say anything without fear of repercussions without having to hide our identity. I suppose I see it as a form of censorship.

    Thanks so much for sharing all this and starting the discussion. Off to tweet, stumble etc now:)

    • You should definitely still write a post about the topic too, if that’s what you were planning! Didn’t mean to steal your idea – just really got me thinking when you posed that question on Twitter! :)

      The topic is very risque, haha. Let’s just say, I would never want my mother to stumble upon it! Part of the reason I blog anonymously is that I don’t want that to be the first thing that pops up on Google if a potential client researches me, especially since it’s a very journal-y type of blog and certain events are fictionalized (which someone might not immediately realize). Because of the topic, I also want to stay anonymous because I talk about others in my life and I feel like they deserve privacy. I’m super excited about the book deal, though! Even though it will be under a pen name, if the publishers like it, it could lead to writing stuff on other topics!

      I think it is definitely interesting in why we protect ourselves when it comes to certain topics. People will always judge, though. If blogging had been around in the 60s, for example, some black authors might have decided not to post pictures, and I bet today that there are some bloggers out there who don’t make it public that they are gay, even though it might be relevant to their topic in some way. People will always find a reason to hate one another, and when that could affect your livelihood, I definitely understand the decision to hide certain aspects, even if it stinks and the world shouldn’t be that way.

      • Hi Alli, I often ask a little question on Twitter if something interests me and am very happy you followed up on it:) I seem to have many more ideas than time to write about them – you did a great job.

        Woo hoo, that’s such a great story, I love it and can completely see the need for anonymity. It’s definitely tempting and I find the more I get known the less I can say. Not so much about really personal things as I am sharing more of those and finding readers appreciate that. Just little things like I’d love to tweet “Been dealing with some real nut cases this week” but I can’t because I know some of them might be reading!

        Am still thinking about blogging anonymously sometimes;) I had a fun idea for some tongue-in-cheek anon blogging but not sure If I’ll follow through – as I say, more creative urges than time in the day!

  2. Alli,
    Sometimes, and today is one of those times, I just have to say you are my hero! There, I said it.

    Judy

  3. This is a good post and it gave me some things to think about. I’m struggling with what to with my blog and twitter. I want to start getting some of my writing out there while building relationships with other writers. The problem is, I still need to work a real job, and an employer doesn’t need to know what I do in my spare time. So what to do?

    • There’s definitely a lot to consider when you have an employer. I think it really depends on your job and what exactly you want to write. If you work for a church and want to write smut online, that will probably be a problem! There’s also your contract to consider (if you have one). Even if you do so anonymously, you still are bound to confidentiality, non-competition clauses, etc.

  4. buckinspire says:

    Great post!  So is Allison Boyer your real name? :)  I always thought being anon was all or nothing.  Didn’t think you could be yourself in one area and anon in another.  Makes sense though as there are so many aspects in our complex lives.  Thanks for sharing and congrats on the book deal!

    •  @buckinspire Haha, yes, Allison Boyer is my real name! It’s just not the name I use on all of my sites :).
       
      Unfortunately, the book deal didn’t work out. The publisher and I just didn’t have the same vision. BUT on the plus side, I have since took the initiative to monetize and I’m now making a lot more than $200 per month with that site.
       
      If you want to read more about anonymous blogging check out this guest post I wrote for Wright Creativity: http://wrightcreativity.com/2011/09/whats-my-name-again/ where I talk a little more about my specific experiences.
       
      Thanks for reading!

  5. Interesting. I blog pseudo-anonymously (ie. I have a persona like you describe). I post pictures of myself and of my daughter, but I don’t reveal my last name. I have been toying with the idea of a pen name, because there are instances where you need to provide a last name. For example, I am planning to sign up for Google Plus, but it seems you need to provide your last name. Do you use a pen name for Google Plus, or your real name? Thanks!

    • I’m not on Google+ with my anonymous name (though I am on there with my real name, Allison Boyer, just not promoting my anon site).

  6. I am blogging about dealing with disabilities in general and mental illnesses in particular. I am worried about being stigmatized, so I have adopted a pseudonym. Am I doing a smart thing? Or is it an exercise in futility?