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10 tips for naming a business or blog


by Bryan Caplan


Naming a business is like naming a baby.


I’ll never forget when my wife, Linda, was six months pregnant with our firstborn. We spent countless hours poring over baby-naming books and websites. We wanted something that would set her up for success, a name that rolled off the tongue, and ultimately something that had meaning and a special significance. Family members and friends would throw countless names at us, but nothing seemed to stand out.


Finally, after much contemplation, we landed on the name Olivia, or Livi for short. It flowed, people brightened up when they heard the name, and we felt like it had the right balance of strength and femininity. All those hours spent for six letters — seems silly, doesn’t it?

Well, I’m sure in naming your business you’ve probably made a similar effort.


After all, your business is your baby. You’re going to put sweat, tears and time into it, and hopefully mold it into a success.

For many entrepreneurs, naming a business is the point at which it becomes real.

You learn how to name a business to distinguish your business from another.

If named right, a prospective customer will connect with and establish a relationship with your business almost instantaneously.


The name of your business allows you to create an image in the mind of consumers and truly establish your identity in the marketplace.


10 tips for naming a business or blog

Since choosing a business name is so important, I’ve put together 10 tips for naming a business or blog.

  1. Think about what you want your name to convey.

  2. Brainstorm to identify possible names.

  3. Keep the easy to write and remember.

  4. Choose a name that can grow with your business.

  5. Describe your business without being generic.

  6. Be careful with geographic names.

  7. Don’t use obscure words.

  8. Tread lightly on trends.

  9. Avoid decisions by committee, but test your name with others.

  10. Check for domain availability.

And, just to make sure all the naming bases are covered, you’ll find additional sections about naming a blog, including:

Plus, bonus tips for naming a startup at the end of this article.


Let’s go!


1. Think about what you want your name to convey

Trustworthiness? Creativity? Customer service? Innovation?


Think about your business’s core values as you work on choosing a business name.

For example, a quirky name will work better for a creative company than a financial business. Would you feel comfortable getting investment advice from a business called Fun with Funds? Probably not.


Naming your business is one of the most important steps you’ll take to launch your brand. And it’s not a cakewalk. It’s hard to come up with a word or phrase that defines who you are and what you do — a name that will stick in customers’ minds and stand out from the competition.


My good friend and personal real estate agent is Dakota Riley. When I first met Dakota, she marketed herself as Dakota Riley. With more than 2 million real estate agents in the United States, a brand name is important for a real estate agent to stand out from the crowd. People actually remembered Dakota as the “girl with a state for her name.”

How many houses do you think she sold with that shtick?

Dakota and I worked together to figure out how she could differentiate herself from the competition. We thought of words that described her approach to real estate and overall work ethic. We decided that what Dakota needed most was to build trust with her clients. Her audience had to believe they could rely on her with their investments.


They needed to understand that she was on the straight-and-narrow and would only show them the best homes in the area.


One word that stuck in both of our minds was “dependable.” As we went through a rebranding exercise, we landed on “Depend on Dakota.”


Since the launch of that brand, Dakota has become a top agent in her region and now employs six people on the Depend on Dakota team — truly the power of a name.


What about naming a blog?

Like movie or book titles, blog names are priceless pieces of marketing that, at their best, capture a reader’s imagination, drawing them in. At worst, blog names don’t make any impression at all, fail to represent the nature of your blog, or get lost in a digital sea of similar monikers.


As you ponder naming a blog and noodle through how to find a domain name for a blog, keep in mind the basic guidelines for choosing an effective domain name. You want it to be memorable, of course, and to represent your unique brand at a glance.


Naming a blog falls into a couple categories:


Literal

The name that encompasses the purpose/focus/feeling of your blog. Blog names like TechCrunch, Business Insider, Barstool Sports and Lifehacker quickly let the reader know exactly what they’re getting into.


Provocative

The provocative name that captures your imagination before you start reading. Blogs like The Daily Beast, The Oatmeal and DeadSpin brand themselves online with catchy monikers that don’t quite let you know what you will find when you visit but are compelling enough to make you click.


Despite their difference in nature, these blog names have something in common: They are short, memorable and catchy.

Whether it is a direct description of what you do or a provocative nudge, your blog’s name is its calling card.

Consider the “watercooler.” Co-workers will gather around the “watercooler” (or coffeemaker or kitchen) and share stories to help pass the time. You want your blog name to be easy to remember, so someone can say, “I just read this hilarious article on The Onion. You’ve got to check it out!” Does your blog’s name pass the watercooler test?


It is the first impression a reader will get of your work and will always be associated with your blog. The reason all of the above names work is that they set the tone of the writing, the content, and exactly what file drawer your brain should deposit them in.


2. Brainstorm to identify possible names


Great names — like Amazon, Apple, Sprint and Infinity — often carry strong visual associations. Usually that’s by design … but gut instinct and luck do come into play.


That’s a lesson to be learned from one of the most recognizable names in the business world, Virgin. As Virgin Group founder Richard Branson explained:

“There was no great plan or strategy. The name itself was thought up on the hoof. One night some friends and I were chatting over a few drinks and decided to call our group Virgin, as we were all new to business. The name stuck and had a certain ring to it.”

Does that mean your business name will be thought up “on the hoof?” Absolutely not!

Brainstorming is going to take hours — if not days. That is, unless you want some help from a business name generator.


If you want to be more involved in naming your business, though, you should set aside some time to brainstorm. Consider words that:

  • Pertain to your industry, products or services.

  • Describe your competitors in your field.

  • Highlight the benefits of your products or services.

Pro tip: Look up Greek and Latin translations of your words, as well as foreign words (Swahili is often a great choice) — you might unearth a few good ideas.


Here’s what I suggest. Get out a blank sheet of paper and your favorite pen. If you have one of those old-school kitchen timers shaped like an egg or a tomato, grab that, too. If not, use a timer on your phone or find a song that’s about five minutes long. Set the timer, press play, and write down every naming idea you have for the next five minutes.


Your goal? Fill up that sheet of paper.

Doesn’t matter how goofy or how bizarre the names get. Correct spelling is optional. Write the names anywhere on the page — almost like a doodle you would make in middle school. Your first few ideas will be ones you’ve already thought of. Some of them will be names that are already out there. Keep going. If you get stuck, look around you. Write down ideas based on what you can see and hear during those five minutes.


Let the ideas flow when you are brainstorming. No idea is a bad idea!


GoDaddy’s domain search tool can be very useful when brainstorming.


When you do a search using that tool, you’ll get different extensions, such as .com, .net, etc., at the end of the web address. Plus, you’ll see names that are already taken but available for sale or auction.


Brainstorming blog names

Somewhat different from a business name, when launching your blog, you’ll want to come up with a recognizable blog name that fits your style and personal brand.


First, decide if you want a name that is literal or provocative. Whichever path you take, remember the blog names that also make the best domain names are striking and concise.


Next, brainstorm a list of words that describe:

  • Your blog’s topic area (e.g. parenting).

  • Your blog’s primary purpose (e.g. give parenting tips).

  • Your target reader (e.g. parents).

  • Your location (e.g. New York City).

  • Your blog’s tone (e.g. witty).

Note: If you plan to launch a blog for your personal brand, brainstorm a list of words that describe you and what you do.


Now head over to thesaurus.com and search for related words to add to your list.


Obviously, when you go to a blog like LifeHacker.org you know you’re going to find life hacks. On the other hand, a blog domain name like tabatatimes.com doesn’t exactly scream Crossfit.


If you opt for a blog name that represents what the site is about, you’ll need to get clear on your niche before coming up with the name.


3. Keep the name easy to write and remember

When I started my first marketing agency, I could not, for the life of me, come up with a business name. I spent countless hours brainstorming and still had a list of over 20 business names. I called my brother one night and ran the list by him. Every single one was vetoed from the list because it was “too long” or “locked me in geographically.”


My brother said, “Why don’t you just name the business after you? After all, you’re the one running it.”


It was like lightning had struck. I scribbled on my sheet of paper and held it up in the light: “BJC Branding!!!” What the hell was I thinking?


In hindsight, using an acronym was asking for trouble. Even close friends and family couldn’t remember it, calling me BCJ or JCB Branding instead. Even when I was being presented as a guest speaker at events, the MC would totally botch my name.


The companies you admire typically have names that are short, simple, easy to write and easy to remember — Apple, Tesla, Virgin.

Obscure business names (like BJC Branding) are often difficult to write and even more difficult to remember.


This is a problem for most small businesses because word-of-mouth advertising is an advantageous form of marketing. If your customers can’t remember your name, can’t spell it or can’t properly pronounce it for others, it will make it difficult for them to promote your business.

I can only imagine how much business I potentially lost because they couldn’t find my website.


As you get started with naming your project, here are a few things to consider:

  • Is it trademark-able? Do you need it to be? Protecting your name is important, as it making sure someone else hasn’t already protected it. Being forced to rebrand a name is a nightmare.

  • Is the domain available?

  • Do you need/want a .com domain or is there another domain extension that is a better fit? Keep an eye on the new options for domain name endings.

  • Is it memorable? This is the secret sauce … does it have enough oomph to stick?

  • Is it descriptive? Think Sprint.

  • Is it easy to spell? People really don’t like to feel stupid. If there is any question, buy the misspelled domains and set them to redirect to your primary domain.

Will your name be your logo? If the answer is yes, be careful to consider the shapes of the letters — think Coca-Cola or Facebook.


4. Choose a name that can grow with your business


Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is a genius when it comes to naming conventions. When Amazon first hit the market, its purpose was to sell books online. So, why use the name “Amazon?” When you think of the Amazon, what comes to mind? The largest river in the world? What on earth does that have to do with books? Actually, the answer is quite simple.