We’ve all seen lists and lists of silly startup naming trends. From “Bitly, Borkly, Barnly, Molestly, Strinkingly, Happily, Crappily, Maply, Morply, Dottly,” Silicon Valley’s stupid name problem has been visualized and discussed at length … and it’s a trend that raises concern.
Although startups try hard to come up with catchy names to emphasize their ability for innovation, in many cases they only end up being ridiculous and confusing.
More importantly, they keep coming up with names that are highly difficult to brand without a large budget. “I think sometimes people just want to have something goofy because that’s what start-up companies are supposed to do,” Laurel A. Sutton, a naming consultant at Catchword Brand Name Development, suggests. “They want to show that they’re creative and different and they’re breaking away from the pack — they are all these things that regular big businesses aren’t.”
Many brand name pitfalls are a result of the general shortage of .com domains. This, coupled with the desire to be different, forces startups to rethink their company naming choices. Companies that choose to end in “ly,” “lee,” and “li” have left .com aspirations behind.
Indeed, innovation is the primary focus for next generation startups, but there seems to be a thin line behind a great brand and ridiculous startup name.
The Great .io and .me
The startup community has also seen an increased use of .io mainly in the tech space. From a developer’s perspective it is a logical domain name choice. In a developers’ world, .io stands for input/output, a technical concept not necessarily suitable for those catering to non-techies. In this realm, another ccTLD (country code top-level domain) emerges as a great alternative – the .me domain.
ME domains are thought of as great personalization tools with personal branding potential. It also enables startups, or personal brands, to obtain a name that is shorter and catchier than a standard .com domain.
Just consider Google, WordPress and Facebook, who have registered their .me domain extensions for URL shortening purposes. This confirms that “shorter is catchier,” which is the primary motto you should follow when choosing a name and domain for your company.
Ultimately, many founders may wonder: “What is a convenient solution to choose a domain name that addresses branding and focuses on personalization?” A number of startups are coupling their brand name with a descriptor to further explains what they do (or at least the industry they operate within).
This is the case with Clara, a software company that chose claralabs.com as their top level domain (TLD) name. Pairing your brand with a short, recognizable description that speaks to your product or service is a great way to improve brand recognition, recall and minimize confusion.
Transparency is Key
Besides personalization, transparency is another important aspect to consider when selecting a company name and domain. Namely, by including a keyword or something relevant to your area of business in the URL, you’ll make it easier for prospects to understand what your company is all about.
This may also bring some SEO benefits with it, as it tells search engines more directly what your company website is focused on. Here, of course, it is important not to go overboard with keyword stuffing (i.e., loading it with keywords in an attempt to manipulate site ranking) because this can be counter-intuitive.
A brandable company name doesn’t always start with the seemingly perfect .com domain. With hundreds of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) available, especially catchy ones such as .me, startups have more options to choose from to build a smarter online brand.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Sarah Green is a tech researcher and blogger interested in startup stories. Connect with @sarahh_green on Twitter.