Naming an Internet based business or start-up can be a daunting task. Do you follow the zany likes of Google and Yahoo, or do you go the more general route of Hotels.com and Cars.com? Do you need to have the exact matching domain name as your brick-and-mortar business? And just how important is the.com vs. The.net? With so many choices to make and directions to go, let's start with the basics.
1. Decide if you are building a business or a brand.
I mention this since many online entrepreneurs are focused on short-term goals. They want to get their site up fast, get ranked high and start making money. This all sounds good but it leaves a business vulnerable in a number of ways. Short term thinking usually leads to literal names that will (presumably) rank well with the search engines. In addition, literal / functional names are thought to better inform visitors about what products and services are provided.
While descriptive names do convey a sense of what you do, they fall short in creating an identity, a sense of how you do what you do. So you end up in a sea of sound-like companies. LendingTree.com (a metaphor) is much more memorable than e-loan.com, loansfast.com or loan-place.com. Amazon.com (another metaphor) brings richer imagination to mind than BooksAMillion.com.
Unless you own a primary domain name with a lot of natural type-in traffic, descriptive names typically fall flat in the long run. You may make a decent living, but it would be difficult to grow a long repeating company called MensDressShoes.com. It would always sound generic and descriptive and would probably heavily on the ever-changing algorithms of the search engines. Most descriptive names rely on web surfers typing the search term into the web address box as a.com, hoping to find a relevant company. But what if this changes and consumers turn more and more to using search engines? What if the search engines change their valuation of having keywords in the domain name? You have then built a company that relationships on the unpredictable nature of Internet search engines to make you profitable.
Having said all that, even if you wanted a generic short word, it's probably now beyond most businesses' price range. Diamonds.com recently sold for 7.5 million dollars. Best advice – build a brand name and then point generic / descriptive names to the main website address.
2. Come up with a naming strategy.
Go to a directory such as Yahoo.com or dmoz.org and look up competitors in your field. Examine the most common naming methods they use (ie proper names, key attributes, metaphors, etc.). If you discover your industry heavily utilizes one form of naming, avoid it and use another. If half of the companies are using the evocative theme of discovery (ie Internet Explorer, Netscape, Safari, etc.), then try something different like an analogy (ie Firefox). Map out a list of your competitors' names and see how your names compare against them. Consider such naming …Continue reading »