Now that you’ve defined the site’s purpose and identified your experts, it’s time to give it a brand. This is important from a purely practical standpoint because it’s difficult to develop a site without a name. Failing to give it one will inevitably result in a valueless placeholder like, “the new site,” that doesn’t convey the site’s purpose or inspire its vision in those creating it.
Beyond serving as a name, though, your online brand will have a profound effect on the kind of traffic your site generates. For this reason, it’s important to get your promotional experts involved at this step. A little online marketing know-how will go a long way toward picking the right brand name. While you’re brainstorming, be sure to consider the following principles of online branding.
A good online brand should summarize and identify the site’s purpose as much as possible. If a potential visitor can read the brand name and immediately understand what the site is about, it will create clear expectations and a positive user experience. If, however, the brand name is vague or misleading, the initial user experience will be less favorable. Remember, you rarely get more than one chance to turn a casual visitor into a repeat visitor, so every little bit helps.
A good online brand name should be memorable. Be it catchy, humorous, or merely original, having a brand name that users can easily remember is a great way to promote repeat visits as well as extra traffic through word of mouth.
A good online brand name must have an available domain name. While brainstorming potential brand names, it helps to have a whois utility handy for this purpose. Find an available domain name on the .com top-level domain (TLD) if at all possible, or at worst .net. Other TLDs face stronger regulatory requirements (.org and .gov) or elicit less trust from users and search engines (.tv). Country-specific TLDs (.co.uk) can be acceptable if your site’s primary audience will be from that country. As for the domain name itself, avoid the temptation to choose a very long (e.g., shesellsseashellsbytheseashore.com) or dash-separated domain name (e.g., ward-on-the-web.com), as these can lead to a poor user experience and may appear spammy.
A good online brand name should be searchable. It helps to type any brand name under consideration into Google and see what comes up. If someone is already using the brand name, they may be too entrenched in the search engines for you to compete. Likewise, if the potential brand name is too vague (e.g., “Professional Website Advice”), you’ll probably never rank. In any case, ranking easily for your desired brand name is ideal for the promotional tactics that will come later.
A good online brand name should include keywords. As with ranking well for your brand name, you’ll probably want to rank well for searches related to your site’s intended purpose. If you’re launching an e-commerce site to sell widgets, for example, it would help for the site to rank well on widget-related search queries. Don’t go overboard, of course; plenty of websites flop because their brands are little more than long, spammy strings of keywords. However, it can be useful to include the one or two key terms that relate the most to your site’s purpose (e.g., “Widget Emporium”).
My Personal Brand: Ward on the Web
After a lot of brainstorming and more than a little cursing over domain squatters, I decided to go with “Ward on the Web” as my site’s brand name. Although it may take users a visit or two to realize, it clearly identifies the author (i.e., Stephen Ward) and the subject matter (i.e., the Web). The alliteration of the “w” also helps to make it more memorable. Most importantly, there’s no competition, and the use of “ward” and “web” in the domain name should help me rank for the site’s most desirable keywords.
In my next post, I’ll detail the process for building the website.