5 Things to Consider When Naming Your Business or Website

In: branding| entrepreneur| ideas

14 Jul 2009

Naming your business or website is usually the first marketing decision you will have to make when starting a new venture. A name is important, as it is responsible for the first impression people will have of you. Whether or not your name helps explain what you do, or evokes emotion, or even if people remember it, all depends on making the right choice.

In today’s environment, you can’t have a conversation about business naming without considering domain names and their availability. There is always the option of adding an LLC or INC to a name in order to obtain the domain, but they tend to be less memorable and confusing to customers. So we’ll take those options off the table, and consider naming practices that involve finding a corresponding domain.

There are various things to consider when starting out, but to help you along, here are a few core concerns to take into account when choosing a name and domain for your business. Follow these guidelines, and you will be on your way to creating a memorable and dynamic brand.

Here are 5 Things to Consider When Naming Your Business or Website:

1. Uniqueness
Picking a unique name or making up a new word (like Twitter) can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it creates an opportunity to own that word, and any related terms (like tweet). In a online world run by search engines, creating your own word helps to ensure that people will be able to find you, and you will own the “Google-juice” that goes along with that term.

On the other hand, inventing a word or phrase can be an uphill battle in building awareness. Upon first hearing such a name, customers won’t understand what product or service is being offered. You will have to explain not only what your business does, but also what the name means. Since many times they have no rational meaning, unique names are often laced with emotion and can taint how a customer perceives your business. Twitter faces a challenge being taken seriously as a communications medium because their name and brand is unserious and whimsical.

The common practice of combining two words together won’t have some of the same benefits as a truly unique name, but can help explain to customers what they can expect. Names like TaxPro.com (for an accountant) or ClosetMaid.com (for closet organizers) immediately convey something about the product or service. It will also earn your site a higher ranking in search results for terms like “tax professionals” or “closets.”

Domainsbot.com is a great site for finding a domain name. You can enter a specific term and it will show lists of available names using that word. Play around with it if you’re looking for a name.

2. Easy to pronounce
Having a name that is easy to pronounce is important for two reasons. First, it makes it easier for people to spread the word and tell others about your business. But it also helps them to spell it correctly, whether they are searching for it or typing it into their web browser.

The cookware and kitchen supplies company Sur La Table takes a risk with their name, with some consumers being unsure how to pronounce it and having a name that sounds as if it could be spelled multiple ways (sur, ser, sir). Having a name that is straightforward and easy to pronounce can take away a lot of the guesswork consumers might have.

3. Easy to spell
A good name may be easy to pronounce, but it should also be easy to spell. A lot of great names can include words that are commonly misspelled and can make poor domain names. Sun Surveillance sounds like a good name for a line of solar-powered security cameras, but the word surveillance isn’t an easy word to spell, and makes for an easy-to-mistype domain name.

Using numbers in place of words can also be a losing strategy when choosing domain names, as can using dashes. 24-7 Yellow Cab spells out what they offer, but good luck getting anyone to remember the website is 24-7yellowcab.com.

4. Open to Future Growth
When you are first starting out, it can be hard to look into the future and predict the way your business may change and grow. Having a very specific name can limit you down the road, as can tying it to a specific technology or naming trend. A lot of businesses and domains that use “e” in their name seem dated now that people have stop using e-business, e-consulting and other related terms to the extent they used to.

A name like MySpaceTemplates.com may provide great SEO results initially, but as MySpace continues to falter, the site will be limited by their name (it’s also never a good idea to include someone else’s trademark in your name). A name like ProfileTemplates.com would provide a longer shelf-life (though that also limits the site to templates for social networking profiles). There will always be some level of tradeoff between finding a useful name and leaving it open to future growth, but it’s important to be aware of the possibilities your name will provide down the road.

5. Can it be Misinterpreted?
This is perhaps the most hilarious of considerations to be aware of when choosing a name. It’s funny to look at businesses that have made mistakes like this, but it’s hard not to feel sorry for those who have names that can be interperted in…less than appropriate ways.

Kids Exchange seems like a respectable name for a childrens’ clothing consignment shop, but you would be hard-pressed to find a domain worse for such a business than kidsexchange.net. In the same vein, Therapist Finder assists Californians with finding a therapist or counselor, but I’m not sure therapistfinder.com offers a service many people are looking for. Take a few extra moments to write out each name to try and catch these types of errors. Even better, show it written down to a few other people before you move forward. It can save you from embarrassment later on.

Finding an effective and catchy name for your business is the first step in creating a lasting brand. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect name. There are pros and cons to every option. Just take these suggestions into consideration when making your selection and you will be on your way to building a successful business.

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.