January 22 2014

How to Choose an SEO-Friendly Company Name

Investments in advertising and efforts to generate word of mouth are futile if prospects are unable to locate your business.

Difficulties finding your site or store will deter potential customers, or at least have a negative impact on their brand experience. You need to simply the customer journey from the start.

Increasing awareness of your website and making it easily accessible should be prioritised. You can reach a larger audience online and, in a digital world, the internet is the go-to source for information. Modern consumers want to learn your contact details online, not from printed directories.

However, leading people to your domain is not as simple as including your URL in advertisements, and not only because people are prone to mishear, misremember or altogether forget this type of information: it’s safe to say that web users rarely type URLs directly into the address bar — especially since browsers started to double it up as a search box.

Using Google as an intermediary

Because Google is so quick and easy to use, many people use the site as an intermediary for all non-interlinking web navigation.

For example, according to Google Keyword Planner, 4.6 billion people type ‘Facebook’ into Google each month. Many of these will be frequent users who could bookmark the site or type the intuitive facebook.com URL into their address bar — but they choose to visit via a search engine.

Risk aversion is a major factor behind this practice. Google usually corrects typos and brings up the results you were hoping for regardless, whereas a spelling mistake in the address bar can result in you being taken to the wrong site — sometimes a dodgy one, as unscrupulous parties look to take advantage of the high volumes of traffic accidentally heading to these domains.

What impact do these user habits have on your business? They mean that people who have heard about your organisation, perhaps via word of mouth or through advertisements, are likely to Google your company name when they want to find out more or take action.

How company names impact SERP rankings

A high SERP (search engine results page) ranking for your company name is therefore crucial to securing visits from interested prospects, and improving conversion from ads and word of mouth. People aren’t interested in investigatory work: if they don’t find what they’re looking for in an instant, they’ll give up or go elsewhere. The ease with which you can achieve this is impacted significantly by the name you choose.

Give your start-up a generic name, and you will be up against plenty of competition when it comes to ranking for that word or phrase. Want to name your alarm clock business The Early Bird? For that term, you face ranking rivalry from some 260 million better-established Google results.

It’s for this reason that stuffing keywords into your company name is an ineffective tactic. Search engines won’t automatically believe that your company Best Printer Ink is most relevant to that search term; it will simply be lost among the white noise of 22.5 million results. Of course, Google may even blacklist your site because frequent use of your company name across the site causes an overabundance of keywords.

Craig Hall, Mediaworks Online Marketing Consultant, said: “Including a highly searched phrase in your URL isn’t as beneficial as it used to be a few years ago. Google last released an exact-match domain (EMD) update in September 2012, which devalued their importance.”

Ranking with a high-competition name is of course possible if you build a good reputation and engage excellent SEO practices — the likes of Apple, Boots and Three are proof of that — but, as a start-up, it’s probably best to make your journey up the rankings as easy as possible.

Be unique

There’s no doubt about it: unique names are the way to go. Without much competition, you’re in much better stead to come out on top when someone searches for your company.

Coining new words, adopting unusual spellings or developing a unique phrase are great ways to come up with names that should rank fairly well by default. We can find plenty of instances whereby companies, products and even bands have benefitted from their unusual names.

BuzzFeed could well have been named with SEO in mind. Founded in 2006 and created for the internet, its founders surely picked this standout name not only to describe its content, but also to improve its SERP position. The same goes for Reddit — would ReadIt.com have enjoyed as much success and become ‘the front page of the internet’?

Nintendo cleverly named the Wii so that its global audience would have no problem finding information about the console online. Humour surrounding the homophone also got English-speakers talking, generating a lot of free press.

The official announcement said: “Wii sounds like ‘we’, which emphasises this console is for everyone. Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.”

You do have to bear in mind, though, the ease with which people will be able to remember or even become aware of your unusual spelling or name. People who heard about ‘Dead Mouse’ on the radio probably failed to familiarise themselves with the deadmau5 spelling until the artist became more prominent.

Domain names and social media

As well as checking for potential competition on search engines, you should take a look at the availability of the most relevant domain names. Visit a registration company to check if your desired URL is available.

Find out whether your desired company name is available as a username on social media sites, too. The likes of Facebook and Twitter now form an integral part of many customer experiences, with consumers heading to branded pages to leave reviews and make queries, so it’s important that your profiles are easily found.

One company that has fallen victim to not securing the most relevant social media username is John Lewis. Its Twitter handle is @johnlewisretail as opposed to @johnlewis, which was taken by a man from Virginia, and many customer comments are therefore misdirected.

Luckily for the retailer, the man John Lewis is good-humoured about the problem, and often notifies people about their mistake. However, the department-store giant almost certainly misses many tweets intended for them, potentially at a detriment to their reputation.

Of course, John Lewis could not have foreseen these issues when it was founded in 1864. However, start-ups today can, and so should take advantage of tools like that at Namechk.com, which shows the availability of any given username on 157 social media sites, including LinkedIn, tumblr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

So what have we learned?

  • You stand a better chance of ranking highly for your company name if you choose something unique

  • Keyword stuffing your company  name is not an effective SEO tactic, and could lead to your site being blacklisted

  • Research SERP competition, domain name availability and social media username availability to give your new company the best chance of success on the web

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