This is one of the
most under-estimated steps in creating an online business. While a good domain name is not
a guarantee for success, it raises the odds and makes online branding easier and more
productive. Although our focus here is domain names, the same criteria apply to your
business name. In fact, the domain name is the online projection of your business.
What is a good domain name? There are many
criteria used to judge domain names and often times one will conflict with another.
It is best to seek "a happy medium" and to find a compromise that will give you
the maximum benefit without going through an academic exercise of futility in your quest
for the perfect name. The perfect name is the one that gives you the most benefits
for your particular business.
One thing that you
must have BEFORE you start your search is a positive attitude. There is a very popular
myth that all of the "good ones" are gone... but this is simply not true, and
some of our best names were registered over the past few months. It takes time,
perseverance, ingenuity, and most importantly a positive attitude. Many domain names
expire daily as people who registered the name discover that they are not committed to
starting a business and let it expire.
The following is a set of criteria that we use when
selecting domain names.
The Test: Can you make your name stand out?
While this strongly depends on your marketing efforts, you
should make sure your name is not too similar to someone else's since this will cause a
lot of confusion in the mind of the customer. Have you noticed the ads by Visa for
their new card with the built in smart chip? AMEX Blue came out with ads that had a
similar feel to them a few months before Visa. Visa may have aspired to capitalize
on an awareness that AMEX Blue has created in an attempt to piggy-back on their
efforts, but many people will associate the new Visa ads with AMEX and in my opinion Visa
did themselves a disservice.
The brand reflects the whole experience and it all starts
with the name. A hip name will be very hard to properly brand if your product is aimed at
W.W.II veterans...unless it involves Viagra and Bob Dole ;-)
The test: Can your name accommodate expanding your product
While you want to focus on your market niche, make sure
that your business name provides you with growth potential. A case in point is
"Burlington COAT factory". They always say in their ads
that they are more than just coats! While they do sell a multitude of things it is
hard to think of a business with "coat" in its name as anything other than a
place that sells coats. Focus on coats or change the name...period. I
have always advised clients not to create their own barriers and kill future growth
potential by choosing a name that is more restricted than it should be.
The business name "Books Online" for example not
only limits the product offering but the distribution channel as well. Now, if you
know that you will only sell books and only sell them online it is a great
name. It is important that you make a conscious decision regarding exactly what you
want to do. "Painted Pottery" is too limited unless this is all you plan
to have. We recently registered a name for an artist in Egypt and kept it broad
enough to cover art in general (Nile Colors) rather than restricting it to the media she
is currently working in.
Memorable- in a positive way ;-)
The test: How many times does it take for people to
remember your message? (This is subjective but you can test on friends and family.)
How often do you want to market your site? How much money
do you have? The easier the message is retained the more likely people are to remember
you. If you use banners or print ads there are always going to be potential customers who
will defer checking your site until the unspecified "future". If your
domain name has 'appeal' (which is very subjective) it will be remembered even if it
doesn't have a meaning (e.g. Yahoo hardly means anything but tends to stick in ones mind,
and so does Miva!). If the name communicates what you offer, it may be
remembered at the right time (e.g. RealtorListings.com).
The test: Can a foreigner understand and remember it?
Yet another dimension for your growth potential.
Undoubtedly we all start local, then national, then global. But as you
are branding your name why waste valuable marketing dollars on branding something that you
What is too local? Intouch USA is an example.
When we added the brand InTouch Global, not only did it make more sense for their business
(worldwide cell phone rentals), but unsolicited reviews in the NY Times and the
Investor's Business Daily mentioned the business name (InTouch USA) yet linked to the
InTouchGlobal.com site. This is interesting since the InTouchUSA.com site is online and
has been online since 1995. The word 'global' obviously held great appeal in their
line of business and most definitely to the authors of the reviews.
Some words do not lend themselves to other cultures (e.g.
"Goodnight Stories" or "Car Talk"). In such situations, you can
either look for other names or be prepared to have other names ready for foreign markets.
Registering names with similar meanings in other languages is the route we chose
for "Goodnight Stories". If you intend to expand globally beware of
words that have negative connotations to foreigners due to translation. For example,
Coca Cola's "Fresca" did not do well in Mexico because although Coke thought
that it would communicate 'fresh' the locals associated it with the derogatory slang for a
homosexual. Also be aware that some words have negative connotations on
transliteration (e.g. biz is a word for a woman's breast in the middle east- a .biz domain
in the middle east may not have the image that most businesses want to project).
Another example is the word "rubber" which means eraser
in most English (British) speaking countries; not so in the USA.
The Test: Do you have to spell it?
If you have to spell your domain name most of the time then it has failed. Beware of
silent letters (night - nite), numbers instead of letters (4 ever), or letters instead of
words (B nice). If you do choose to have a name like this make sure that you are able to
get both methods of spelling it (e.g. Bnice.com & BeNice.com) Another thing to think
about is the plural of your name. If you have a name where the plural is easily confused
with the singular of it, try to find another alternative or register both forms of the
name. For instance, "JohnsonConsulting" is better than
"JohnsonConsultants" since it is easy to miss the 's' in the end, especially if
you are giving it to someone over the phone.
The superior level of success: you don't need to spell it... even to a foreigner ;-)
Note: some words in
US English differ in the spelling from the British English (which is more prevalent
worldwide). This is why we picked up "Nile Colours" along with "Nile
Colors" when we registered the domain name.
The Test: Does it mean something to your customers?
Is it a common term in your industry?
We registered "sphygmus" for a medically related
project. It means nothing for the average person but is extremely meaningful to the
client's customers. Keep in mind that what is meaningful in a positive sense to some
may be totally meaningless or even quite negative to others. This can be especially
important if the name has a negative ring to it on transliteration (not translation).
Make sure that your name appeals to your current AND
to see the criteria we suggest on selecting a registrar.