What is in the name? Everything. People know you by your Name, people reach you by your Name, and people spread word about your Name. Your Name is your brand identity, your business identity and lot of times, part of your identity. You would want people to notice it, to like it, to talk about it. It has to be interesting for somebody to notice it in the first place. It has to be engaging for someone to like associating with it. It has to be simple and non-embarrassing for someone to recommend it.
So important, yet do not start with the name, get the vision and mission of your business first, and let the brand name flow from it. We are talking specifically about domain names here. Ideally you should get YOURBRAND.com (or YOURBRAND.in); second option, buy it from the current owner; third option, change your brandname. Whatever the options, please don’t make avlblname12.com your BRAND.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for naming your website, and your business (and maybe your dog)
Interesting - The name can be interesting if you know the brand already (bigbazaar.com), if there is a fun element to it (Mr.Dumbo.com), if it is informative about the product (bhopalkirana.com) or service (rechargeitnow.com), or just plain witty (makkhichoose.com).
Unique - SHAADI.COM - awesome catch, but merishaadi.com, terishaadi.com, gimme a break -even sabkishaadi.com is registered. Think smart, think deep, be distinct, there is shehnai, bandhan, sanjog.
Clever - Naaptol.com, baarbaargain.com, kaisediya.com. Sometimes being clever is the only way to get a non-superpremium domain, and stand out smarter. Coined names can also work wonderfully, direct yet distinct - quikr.com
Communicates your proposition - premiumgrocer is luxury, exotica implies organic & international, sabsesasta implies value - don’t mix.
Future ready - Andherifruits.com is perfect message delivered. What if later you want to sell veggies, or eggs? What if you want to expand to Bandra? A name that communicates your vision, like aaramshop.com could never go wrong (unless your vision was wrong).
Easy to spell - gharzaroorat.com, even if 10% users spell it incorrectly and therefore leave you, it is not a good idea. Bounce the name with your friends first, ask them to spell it; if 2-3 variants turn up, time to think of something else. Good example of easy spell - easyration.com.
Memorable - Hamarabazar seems a good name. But, ask its customers where they buy from and they’ll say aapkabazaar, merabazaar, sabkabazaar. Same solution, bounce the name with 5 friends, if everyone remembers it correctly the next day, stamp it.
Multilingual - India has 28 states, 125 languages etc etc. Just check the name is not ridiculous or offensive in any major tongue. Maybe even internationally suitable (Swissbit.ch)
Clear Communication - If your brand name is made up of two or more words, always use camel caps, maybe different color and but avoidably different fonts. Don’t use www or http, the guy is a regular net user and knows it.
Use Tools - Many tools are available that assist in smart thinking and bulk domain searching. Example - Dotomator, bustaname, dombuddy, domainbark. If still in doubt, hire an expert like Albert Dali; one who knows why K is better than C and why L should not follow I.
Long name- Agarwalandsonsmedicalstore.com, I know short names aren’t easily available, but I’ll reach my chemist faster than I’ll type your name. Keep it short, bro.
ProductName.com- Do you name your shop car? Then why name your site car.com? carwale.com - much better.
Plurals, apostrophe - India’sMart.com looks a nice name, but many would end up on Indiamart.com. And many more would read it as IndiaSmart, remember mensexchange.com (Men’s Exchange), childslaughter.com (Child’s Laughter).
Abbreviations, Numbers - For Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited, IRCTC makes sense, but don’t use an abbreviation unless that is your brand. Same for numbers, if you plan to use them, make it really clear in your communications and marketing.
Non-standard Spellings - Be ready for a strong marketing budget to drive in your version (keerana.com); otherwise, stay away.
Hyphens, Slashes- Be aware that lot of your customers would be spending at your ‘without the hyphen’ competitor. Also, be ready with lot of marketing budget to remind people of the hyphen.
Typo prone - includes above categories and some more (colourstore.com or colorstore.com). Also includes tongue twisters.
Misinterpretation - I’ll just list some to get the point home - (who represents - whorepresents.com, Mole station nursery - molestationnursery.com, IT Scrap-itscrap.com)
Few more culprits - Racial, vulgar, unpleasant - use your own sensibilities, I have an idea that people don’t like to be offended.
Some more Conundrums
• Abstract vs Direct: Abstract names (jabong.com, yahoo.com, google.com) make much better brand names in the long term than direct names (fashion.com, mail.com, search.com). Though they not only need marketing budgets, sometimes they may totally fail to make a connect, without you ever getting to know why
• Coined vs Real: Really clever coined words (hotmail, kartease, ezee-shop) can successfully communicate your proposition, and give advantage of being unique as well. Though there is always risk of getting influenced with fad trends and giving yourself a forgettable name
• .com or .in: Very common topic of debate on forums. I would just say one thing, the top sites in India are not ‘.in’ but ‘.com ‘. Even those who started as ‘.in’ had to buy ‘.com’ domain as well, most likely at a premium. At the same time, all the ‘.com’ sites have acquired their ’.in’ domains. Conclusion, either buy both or I don’t know
• Keywords: Long back Google reduced weight of keywords in domain name. So now when I, sitting in Delhi, look for ‘grocery’ in Google, grocery.com doesn’t figure in top 100. As Google says, make your site for the customer, not for the search engine.
If you do well, which I hope you do; your name will be on your site, visiting cards, letterheads, mails, mailers, pamphlets, advertisements, delivery van, employee uniform, carry bags and everywhere else. You can’t change it then. So invest your time in choosing the right one. And the story doesn’t end with naming it; you have to talk about it all the time. Just remember one thing in every communication - respect the brand, only then will others respect it.
About Ankur Gupta
Ankur Gupta is an alumni of IIM, Bangalore and has over 10 year experience in retail. He is founder of Bracket India, a merchandise consulting firm for e-commerce space. Bracket also does content management for product sites. Bracket Ad division provides marketing avenues for product brands in collaboration with e-commerce sites.