Eastman Kodak, or simply Kodak to you and me has an interesting tale of how its name came be. George Eastman the founder was very fond of the letter K, so much so that he is quoted as saying ‘it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter’. Bizarre but there we go.
He asked his mother to come up with a name for his company with the requirements that the name should be short, impossible to mispronounce and bear no resemblance to anything else so its products would only ever be associated with its name. She sat down with an anagram set and the Kodak name was born and established in 1889.
For George Eastman, the name was very important for his vision of business. He wanted to be totally unique and have no possibility of people confusing his products with a competitor, much like name such as Google and Yahoo have done today.
There are other brand names which do not care too much about being impossible unique and yet have had fabulous success. Brands such as Virgin, Subway and Apple are such examples of generic words that have worked as names.
Yet every entrepreneurs you ever meet, will respect the first real business decision you possibly make, choosing a name. It sounds so simple, yet can take so much of your time.
How to choose a name for your website
In reality the name only ever has to be good enough. If you content is good enough, then people will learn to love you regardless. The key is to not over think it.
Read this post and decide on the type of name you would like. Then start brainstorming and pick your three favourites to research further. Once you have chosen the name and made sure it fits all my rules below, then stick with it and learn to love it.
However there are some simple rules you should abide by in order to choose a good name for your website.
Online people often choose names that help you to rank higher in search engines or to help people understand what your website offers. Yet we also have examples of names like Yahoo who are on the opposite side of the spectrum.
There are three core rules that apply to every name, then there are rules depending on which type of name you choose. I will naturally discuss both, so that by the end of the article you will be in a position to narrow down names quickly.
How to choose a name for your website – Core rules:
The name should be legal:
I have to put this first as it is such a common mistake made online. Using trademarked names, or company names in your URL is a big no-no. It is using someone else’s name to help build your site, which is only a recipe for disaster.
If you are writing a blog about Mercedes cars because you are an enthusiast, then you may wish to really put the word ‘mercedes’ in your website name. However, although Mercedes may possibly turn a blind eye as you are helping them promote their brand, but the moment you put a foot wrong they will take immediate action to seize your domain. If you try to monetize your site, then again they will come down on you, hard.
When you use someone else’s trade name in your website name, then you are effectively giving them control of your blog or site. They can take your hard work away from your instantly because you knowingly violated their copyright and make personal gains. For this reason always make sure the name you choose is legal and not infringing on anyones copyrights. Companies have teams of people specifically looking for trademark infringements online, so if in doubt always ask them first.
The name should be say to remember
Although a website can technically be up to 67 characters in length, you should really try to find names that are easy to remember. You will be wanting people to type the url into a browser or to perhaps remember you site by heart so that they can recommend it to others, none of which will happen if you choose a ridiculously difficult domain name.
If you are not buying your own domain and instead using a third-party site (for example setting up a blog on Blogger), then the same rules still apply. We strongly recommend always buying your own domain name (I will describe how in a later lesson).
Think about what your content will be:
This one is so simply, yet I have seen it missed so often. Start by defining what you content will be and then brainstorm ideas for names. It is also worth thinking about who your audience will be as names appropriate for a student audience may not work with more profession audiences. What you want to achieve with your site, should affect your choice of name.
Unique names verses Keyword based
These three are core rules for naming of a site. There are two ways you can now progress from here. You can choose a keyword based name that has a chance of helping you gain organic search traffic (gain traffic simply because of the name of your blog relates to your topic) or choose a name that helps you stand out completely.
Both have advantages and disadvantages.
How to choose a name for your website – Keyword based names
Keyword based names can help people to understand quickly what you website or blog is about. It can help your content get ranked faster and thus give you a slight advantage in search engines.
The disadvantage is that the words will often be generic, meaning that others could easily create names that sound similar and thus reducing any advantages you may have had. Another point worth noting is that a keyword based website does not allow you to change your blogging topics too easily in the future.
Do not use mis-spelled words
What I mean here is do not use popular words with a slight mis-spelling in the hope that people will accidentally find your site. This was a ver popular practice at one point online. Modern computer software now all tend to have auto correct which eliminates this once thought lucrative scheme.
There is also a bother big reason not to do this, especially with trademarked name. Let me take you back to the late 90′s the time when as a teenager I ventured upon the whole ‘Online Marketing’ concept.
In these days there was no Google Adsense, in fact that concept was run by another company (Goto) which was renamed to ‘Overture’ before being amalgamated within Google. Interesting right, google did not invent adwords..
Anyway, being young and slightly foolish, I sensed a quick buck in buying some misspelling of the word ‘overture; to see if I could ‘divert’ some free traffic to my project.
It went well for all of three weeks she all of a sudden I received a very formal and fully legal letter demanding $100,000 in damages should I not turn over the domain. I don’t give up that easily so I told them to try and get it. Foolish – doesn’t even come close!
A matter of days later the letter came again but this time worded more strongly and giving me a firm deadline. They also list all the information they had about me and the action they would take. Dread, does not even come close to what I felt, had my father found out he might have killed me (saving Overture the problem) so I gave in quickly and ended the matter.
Fact is I was making money by misusing their trade name. It was true and i got caught. Thankfully in those early days the practice was not so widespread so they were lenient. Try it now and you face the real risk of being sued for knowingly attempting to profit from their name.
Lean from my lesson, don’t do it. Think of a name that is great and will stand on its own feet, not on crutches borrowed from someone else.
Make sure the words belong together
Make sure the names you shortlist can bind together. Just because I want to target: entrepreneurs, online markets and business minded persons, I probably should not call my domain ‘entrepreneurs onlinemarketsbusinessminds.com’ – I hope you get the picture. The words you use should belong together.
My site: Venture To The Top, is a way of including all my target markets. It defines everyone who wants to climb the ladder of success, and thus quickly became my favourite choice. Of course Venture To the Top, does not only define business minds (you an venture to the top of a hill), but one look at my site should quickly tell you what I am all about.
The name is was to remember, it slips off your tongue and the words belong together.
How to choose a name for your website – Unique names:
Unique sounding names have the advantage of standing out. They are not associated with any particular keywords so can be used for any number of things. They are versatile, often easy to remember and of course unique.
A disadvantage is that people will have to visit the site to really know what it is about. Another concern is words that mean nothing in English, can mean something very different in another language. Not too much of a concern if your audience is English only, but in a global world, any bad publicity could cause issues.
Think about mis-pronunciations
We mentioned in the Kodak example the importance of the name not being mispronounced. This is even more important online as mispronounced names will lead to mis-spellings, which in turn will people will not be able to find your site. Spend some time asking around to ensure you name is pronounced the same way by people who see it for the first time.
Keep it short
A unique name has to be short or it will be very difficult to remember. It’s unusual so people will take longer to remember it unless it is short and catchy. When we thing Google, Yahoo or Kodak they all have two syllables. You may not be able to find something that works with just two syllables but keep it down to three if possible.
Even thought you think it is unique, check that it actually is
The first Online Business I built from scratch was based on a unique name: ‘Fontoon’. It has two syllables and was unique. People talked about it and within 18 months I had 10,000 members. A year later I found that Fontoon was also the name of a font! My unique name was not actually unique at all.
Thankfully the font was open source and there was no trademark sues to deal with, however it confused people in search engines and would have caused me problem has I tried to trademark the name myself in the future. Always search online to double-check your chosen name before buying it.
Choosing a name can become a big consideration if you let it get our of control. In reality your name only ever has to be good enough. As long as you stick by some of the rules I mentioned above and you provide quality content, then with a bit of common sense and good brainstorming, you will find a suitable name quickly.