How to pick a name for your business

There are lots and lots of blogs and articles out there giving advice about how to pick a great name for your new business or start-up venture.

So which advice did I use when setting up Optimisey and which advice actually worked?

Well, as a digital marketer I knew that there were certain things that were really important – both to me and tactically to maximise the impact of the new brand I wanted to create.

Useful blog posts & articles

* Neil Patel
* StartUp Bros
* Search Engine Journal

I wanted something memorable and unique. I was thinking of brands like Twitter, Netflix or Nike – names which, as soon as you hear, you have a picture in your head about what it is.

Now, obviously those companies have a few years head-start on me, not to mention significantly larger budgets and staffing resources, even when they started out.

Domain: to .com or not .com?

A good, easy to remember domain name is crucial too. Again, lots of advice online – something easy to type; no numbers (“Number One SEO dot com” – could be numberoneseo.com or 1seo.com or number1seo.com etc.)

A .com domain is good too. Yes, if you pick a smart name you could get all clever with it and tie it in to a suitable TLD (top level domain). I’d done this at work recently, securing cambrid.ge for my employer.

Whilst that had the clever appeal the fact is people find .com addresses easier. With other TLDs – where does the dot go? “Is it cam.bridge or cambri.dge? Oh forget it…” So I settled on a .com.

Start-up naming mash-up

adidas logo
Adidas logo (Creative Commons – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_portmanteaus)

Portmanteau words are often a good thing, like QuickSprout, Groupon or HubSpot.

Doing my research I fell down a portmanteau rabbit hole finding organisations that had chosen their name this way and I hadn’t even realised: Accenture (‘accent’ and ‘future’); Digitas (‘digital’ and ‘veritas’); and adidas (founded by Adolf (Adi) Dasler).

This appears to be de rigueur for the past… decade.

There are a lot of Crimson Pelican's or Turquoize Gecko's. I wanted to go beyond 'colour+animal'.

As an SEO’er I also know that social media is an important component of getting your brand set-up.

To pick a good brand name I needed:

    1. A memorable name
    2. A name that’s easy to type
    3. No numbers
    4. No dashes, squiggles or underscores either (ugly)
    5. A .com domain
    6. Consistently available – across all social platforms

I also had additional preferences of my own:

    1. Linked to or suggestive of SEO and all things optimisation
    2. Ideally linked to Cambridge (or the region)

That was already becoming quite a shopping list. Add in the fact that I had to pay for it out of my own pocket (anyone interested in sponsoring Optimisey do please get in touch!).

Obvious answers like cambridgeseo.com – a suitable homage to BrightonSEO – were already taken (though frustratingly not being used).

SEOcambridge.com? Nope. Also gone. Well, I say gone. It’s “For sale”. A snip at $2,895 – just shy of £2,300. Nope.

I did settle on the idea of ‘Optimise’ or a derivative. As I wanted Optimisey (or ‘it’ as it was then) to star SEO but go beyond it too, to CRO (conversion rate optimisation) and all things about optimising websites.

From one of the many blogs I read, I’d found Wordroid a terrific tool for finding domain name ideas and – crucially – keeping them short. It’s like a domain name portmanteau maker. If you check out one of the tools I suggest, make it that one.

The first ‘great’ idea

Then I had it – my first brainwave: Optimise Cambridge!

This epiphany lasted about 10 minutes before I realised it would easily be mistaken for a group of town planners, out to ‘Optimise Cambridge’.

Another serious drawback was Twitter. A Twitter handle cannot be more than 15 characters. Even if you moosh out to the space, OptimiseCambridge was, at 17 characters, two characters too long.

Yes, you could abbreviate it for Twitter (@OptCambridge or @OptimiseCam etc.) but then that weakens your brand. Which name ‘are’ you?

An early idea for a name for Optimisey
What could have been. Optimisey was nearly Optimise Bridge

After recovering from brainwave one – brainwave two came shortly afterwards. ‘Optimise Bridge’. It’s about optimising, it suggests a link to Cambridge and the visual connotations conjured by bridge could lend itself nicely to a logo.

Cue rabbit hole number two: free online logo creators. Wow, there are some bad ones out there – many which fail the ‘Ronseal test’ of doing what it says on the tin – a.k.a. they’re not “free”, more on those in another post.

You can see on the right the logo idea I came up with for Optimise Bridge. The logo shamelessly played on the Google colours – big clue to SEO. Yes, this could work.

Next step, show your idea to someone else – which is pretty scary. Cue my wife.

She tried to let me down gently but… she hated it. Much like the town planners woes of ‘Optimise Cambridge’ she pointed out that ‘Optimise Bridge’ wasn’t much better in that it could be hints for the card game Bridge, or for construction firms that build bridges.

Like most people I clung to the idea I loved desperately. I had to get a second opinion. Cue my eldest son. I showed him the logo and asked him what it made him think of. His answer?

“Well… it’s a bridge. Is it DNA?”

Smart kid my son. My ingenious logo did look like half a helix. OK, that was two votes to one. Optimise Bridge hit the cutting room floor. Back to the shortlist.

Thanks to Wordroid I’d found a few optimise-related made up words that could become the brand – and had .com domains available. Among them: optimisened, optimisely, optimisement…

With my (literally) in-house team we ruled out optimisement (“Just sounds weird.”) and optimisened (just what is it we planned to do to websites?!). Optimisely was a possibility.

Slight problem: optimizely.com – the American software firm so big they have their own Wikipedia page and over $140m in capital funding. Taking them on? SEO suicide.

Getting there

Also on that shortlist was optimisey. My wife liked it. I thought it was a bit ‘cutesy’ but pondered it. Optimizely were still a concern. Type “optimisey” into Google and it says:

“Showing you results for Optimizely”
Search instead for Optimisey

That could be a big problem. However, it did show that there was a gap around “optimisey”. A gap so large Google was pointing people towards other words.

I thought, if I was going to position myself as an authority on SEO I had to set myself some sort of challenge. What better than taking on the way Google works and a massive US company at the same time? Gulp.

Screenshot from namecheckr.com - a handy tool when picking a name for your business
Namecheckr.com scans all major social media channels to check if a name is available

Also was I looking a gift horse in the mouth? A .com domain with fewer than ten letters that I could secure for a few pounds? I used namecheckr.com to see if the social handles were available.

Green ticks all the way – optimisey was rapidly moving into first place.

I secured them all just in case – whilst I thought about it. @optimisey on Twitter, optimisey.com and Instagram too.

After a few hours of reflection (and the realisation that my wife has great instincts) I went for it.

Now all I have to do is get people to actually engage with the brand, follow aforementioned social channels and attend the SEO Meet Ups.

Maybe picking the name was the easiest part. It was certainly fun.

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