Think Google. Think Twitter. Think Microsoft. Think WordPress. These are either established brands in their respective industries, or hip, new startups that have made the grade. These are already mainstream, with instantly recognizable brands and names. If you’re just starting out with a web app or service of your own, don’t you want to achieve this status someday?
How important is the role that a brand name plays in the success of an online venture?
And if brand is so important, is it also very important to consider the domain name early on in the planning stages? All of the brands I’ve cited above have their own .com names. But what if you have an excellent brand idea, but realize later on that the domain name is no longer available–at least on the popular .com and .net TLDs?
I’m in the process of planning and launching several new online ventures. And among the first considerations I’m working on are the brands and domain names. For this reason, I’ve already purchased several domains that I’ll possibly use. I’m also thinking of using existing domains I own, which I could just turn into a brand, like what I did with WorkSmartr.com, which I turned from a productivity blog into a site for outsourcing online work.
Here are a few things I think are important when choosing a brand.
A name that sticks. As I see it, brand is an essential aspect of business building. People are better able to remember something that they recognize easily. People are more likely to use a product with a cool sounding name. If your brand has made it into pop culture, then even better. See how you can “google” a word or “tweet” an update.
A name that’s descriptive. Another consideration is whether your brand is descriptive. This makes it easier for people to search for you. If you want a blogging platform, maybe the first thing you see on searches is “blogger.” Or how about Twitter Buttons? The domain name is usually one of the things that can help search optimization, so why not get one which already has the keywords you need?
A play on words. Web 2.0-ish names have been popular and everyone had been jumping on the bandwagon. Flickr started it, and a host of others followed (I must admit I do have my own domains that use a similar variation).
A name that’s flexible. Sometimes, getting the exact domain name may not necessarily be an absolute requirement. Think Dropbox. It’s a popular application, but they’ve had to be content with getdropbox.com. How about Backpack, which uses backpackit.com? It’s not the end of the world if you don’t get the domain name you want. For instance, I realize a business called “Racoma” owns the domain racoma.com, which incidentally stands for my surname. So I have had to use racoma.net and racoma.com.ph instead. What’s great is that because I’m more active online, my sites running on the .net and other domain extensions are more searchable than those that don’t belong to me.
Remember that a brand should stick in your target audience’s mind. If it doesn’t, and if your venture doesn’t succeed as planned, then it’s probably time to move on to the next one. I’ve seen it happen before. It’s not so difficult to rebrand, relaunch and redesign in today’s online environment.
No matter what, just make sure your name doesn’t fall under that “stupidly thought of” brand or domain, just like these “unintentionally worst” company URLs. That would be a laugh.