The golden rules for naming your business

Finding the right name can be challenging. Here you find the golden rules to follow when naming your business, product or project.
Apr 9, 2020 • 6 minute read
Peter Thaleikis @peterthaleikis
Technical Co-pilot
Cover photo for The golden rules for naming your business

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Studies have shown many people start their buying decisions online. Who hasn’t googled whatever they wanted to buy before? Your website or online store is often the first point of contact. When coming via a search engine such as Google, one of the first things potential customers usually notice are your business and domain names. Here you’ve got the chance to stand out and signal the core brand values of your business. Your name leads the way.

But what makes your business stand out from the crowd? The tips below give you a head-start in understanding what it takes. It might be work intensive, but it is worth it and the results will speak for themselves. The following “gold standard” will give you the right direction to finding a great name for your new adventure.

Pick a brandable name over a keyword-focused one

Your domain name is basically a URL version of your company’s brand. Therefore, do ensure that it also sounds like it. How can you achieve that? By keeping it simple, unique, and memorable. Stay away from hyphens, numbers, or anything else that sounds fishy, makes it harder to pronounce or more simply more complicated.

Seeding trendy keywords in your name is not the way to go either. Google has learned over time and de-ranks spammy domains. For example, “Yahoo.com” is a simple, yet memorable domain- and business name. This type of name will trump names like “search.com” or “bestsearchengine.com” any day.

This being said, using a keyword or key-phrase sensibly is recommended. Ubersuggest and KWFinder can lead you towards the most suitable keyword to include in your name. Again: Avoid sounding generic and spammy though. Finding the right balance is key here.

Focus on pronunciation and sound

Building on the above suggestion, ease of pronunciation is another crucial point. Even though users aren’t as likely to be saying your domain name out loud as before, pronounce-ability is still important. Processing fluency is a big plus as it allows the brain to interpret the information with ease. Names that don’t require additional effort to remember are more likely to inspire positive associations.

To put it simple using the words of entrepreneur and angel investor Jason Calacanis: “If you have to spell it over the phone, you’ve lost”:

When people regularly misspell your domain name, all of that potential traffic is lost and with it their business. It’s a frustrating experience that can lead to people giving up on searching for your company. Making it as smooth as possible is the priority here.

In some cases, the domain name might click at first but if it sounds weird when you shout it out, continue to hunt. For example, “DianasHair.net” sounds good at first. When spoken with the domain extension it turns into “Diana’s Hairnet”. Suddenly, it is less what you after. Make sure to verify if your domain name might have a second, unintended meaning. If you are ready for a break and need a laugh while reading this article, check out this list of unintentionally awful domain names.

Make it easy to remember

Ideally you want people to remember your name for as long as possible. Remember that your competition might also include established businesses, so aim for becoming the center of attention. Keep it witty and memorable as these are essential elements of a good name. Get some feedback and suggestions from close friends and family.

Go for an intuitive name

A glance at the domain name should reflect the business’s objective. A website name like “allrecipes.com” clearly portrays what it's about. Any potential website visitors should be able to make a quick guess about the type of business from just looking at the name of its domain.

An instinct-friendly name will also be easy to remember. If a quick look at the domain name briefs the visitor about the business, then memorability definitely won’t be an issue.

Keep it concise

A short and simple name is more likely remembered by the reader, but going too short can have a negative effect and lead to misunderstanding. Conversely, something like “funnypoke.com” is not the easiest to pronounce and memorize when compared to “funnypokemon.com”. Ironically, the abbreviation roughens the pronunciation despite shortening the word.

Getting the perfect balance in selecting the length of the name is a critical requirement. Going short is recommended, but don’t mess up your name by cutting off significant parts of words. An acronym can be a perfect fit for a good brand name too.

Prioritize ".com" for your domain

Trying too much to stand out can lead to a regressed result. Modern extensions like “.app” or “.club” may seem attractive initially, but they have a long way to go to reach the familiarity of a “.com” extension. A “.com” domain’s effect is evidenced by the fact that almost half of all websites use a “.com” extension. It’s the typical domain ending people assume by default. Avoid questions such as “Is it your.app or yourapp.com?” from the beginning, if you can.

A step-down from a “.com” domain will leave you with extensions such as “.co”, “.net” or “.org”. And if you make it big with one of these extensions, then you might be able to afford the “.com” option in the future. Many well-known businesses started with other extensions and purchased their “.com” later on. It’s always worth a try. You can easily obtain the owner’s contact details and see if it is available for sale.

For a domestic brand, a country-based extension would be the most suitable. Extensions like “.ie” or “.uk” indicate that the brand is based and operated in their respective countries. With a growing business your needs will change. International expansion might become your goal later. Then you can always build a new website on a “.com” and redirect your previous website to it. If done correctly, your brand shouldn’t suffer too much from it.

Lookout for trademark infringement

A unique domain name gives a head start on the competition. Any confusion with an existing brand or domain should be avoided. If you don’t look out for potential conflict you could end up with a trademark infringement. Losing the lawsuit can result in you being stripped of that domain name and being forced to re-brand. So, to avoid such a scenario, you should check beforehand on this (for the US) website if there is a violation taking place here. For other countries than the US please check this list of trademark offices.

Additionally, a confusing name can damage your potential traffic due to the search engines getting confused as well. The search engine results for your customers might fill up with unwanted entries and place you in an undesirable “neighborhood”.

Stay clear of naming trends

The longevity of your name is a crucial factor as today’s buzz might end and the name you loved turns to be a cringy one. Not every trendy wave is worth riding on, so make sure you hop on the right one - or avoid them completely.

If you're aiming for a name with intentionally incorrect spelling you might want to consider the correct spelling as well - as a backup. “Twitter” started out as “Twttr”. This avoids any potential issues down the road. You can simply redirect one domain to the other one. To check many domain names at once you can use a name check tool. It allows you to check unlimited domain names and usernames for social networks in parallel - this way you cover both ends at once.

Don’t be afraid to have a second go

Despite the above suggestions, if you came up with an already registered domain, try to tweak it a little to make it unique for registration. A suffix or a prefix can might be worth trying. If “trips.com” is not on the market, then “comfytrips.com” or “familytrips.com” won’t be the worst alternatives. As mentioned, many businesses opt for an available domain and change later on once they acquire the first choice.

Final words

A great name has typical characteristics. It’s usually simple and short. Long names don’t score. It is also easy to remember and pronounce on the phone. People still say names aloud if they are talking about your business. It’s intuitive and sets the expectations right. And, last but not least, it’s of course available for you to register and use.

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