5 Tips for Naming Your Small Business

Starting a small business website is stressful enough – you have to worry about a business plan, funding, suppliers, your market, marketing and all the rest. But unless you have a great name that fits what you are doing, it won’t matter how large your margins are.

Your business name is the core of your brand. Is it memorable? Does it have personality? Does it explain the service/product you are providing?

Entrepreneurs not only have to worry about having a catchy name, but its search engine optimizability, potential misspellings, and embarrassing alternate meanings. (You probably don’t want to make our list of the 50 Worst and Most Embarrassing Domain Names Ever Purchased!)

Here are five basic guiding principles as you start to figure out how to make this all-important decision:

1) Do a search for the name you have in mind – is it available or already being used? Can you legally use this name in your state/province?

2) Is it unique, short and/or easy to remember? Does it describe or indicate what your business does?

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The Top 50 Worst and Most Embarrassing Domain Names Ever Purchased

2010-03-17-girlthinkingIn celebration of the 25th birthday of the first domain name ever purchased (symbolics.com), we decided to go back and look at all the funny (and horrible) web domains we’ve seen over the years.

Just a gentle reminder to make sure your domain name conveys what you want it to!

Here’s the 43 most notorious we found (we actually had 50 – but our mothers read this blog):

  • penisland.net – Pen Island
  • sydneytherapist.com – Sydney Therapist
  • mammotherection.com – Construction Company
  • kidsexchange.net – Kids Exchange
  • bigalsonline.com – Big Als Online
  • webone.com.au – Web One
  • choosespain.com – Choose Spain
  • bendover.com – Ben Dover
  • bitefartcafe.rs – Bitef Art Cafe
  • partnerstalking.com.au – Partners Talking
  • whorepresents.com – Who Represents
  • expertsexchange.com – Experts Exchange
  • nobraces.com.au – No Braces
  • wintersexpress.com – Winters Express
  • gotahoe.com – Go Tahoe
  • therapistfinder.com – Therapist Finder
  • powergenitalia.com – Power Gen Italia
  • molestationnursery.com – Mole Station Nursery
  • ipanywhere.com – Internet Protocol Anywhere
  • speedofart.com – Speed of Art
  • dicksonweb.com – Dickson Web
  • viagrafix.com – Via Grafix (renamed to Learn2)
  • nycanal.com – New York Canal Region
  • mofo.com – Morrison & Foerster, LLC
  • michaeljacksonsthisisitmoviemerchandise.com – really?
  • dicksonweb.com – Dickson’s Temperature Instruments
  • teacherstalk.com – Teachers Talk
  • auctionshit.com – Auctions Hit
  • butthatsnotall.co.nz – But That’s Not All
  • childrenswear.co.uk – Childrens Wear
  • ihavegas.com – IHA Vegas Holiday Rentals
  • machome.com – Mac Home
  • oddsextractor.com – Odds Extractor
  • alterscrap.com – Alter Scrap
  • ladrape.co.uk – La Drape
  • llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.com – an actual Welsh town
  • gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooogle.com – a spinoff of the famous search engine
  • 1hourscrap.com – Rapid scrapbook making
  • swissbit.ch – Germany-based Swissbit
  • 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com – Pi
  • pedo.org – An actual dentist organization

Have you seen a URL that should be on this list? Let us know on Twitter!

10 Website Mistakes to Avoid

2009-12-16-mistakesYour website is the heart of your business presence online – especially if you sell a product or service! Here are a few common pitfalls to keep in mind before you begin / as your develop your site. From beginners to experts, anyone that has built a website has been guilty of at least one of these.

1. Lame Domain Name
Pick a domain name that is easy to remember and related to your business. People are likely to forget or misspell long names, so shorter domain names are usually better. Beware using dashes: Jeffs-Hardware-and-Electronics.com will not help your customers get to your site. www.DomainTools.com is fantastic for finding an available domain name and also provides great suggestions.

2. Poor Design
Flashing text? Autoplaying music or videos? A custom header that takes up half the screen? There’s no better way to drive away your traffic. Good design is largely based on consistency: same color, same typeface, visible logo. Menus should appear in the same place on every page, links should all be the same color/typeface, and a logo of some sort should be clearly visible at all times.

3. Call to Action
What is the objective of your site? You may have a lot of nice pictures and a shopping cart, but you want to create a sense of urgency in your customers, and encourage them towards the goal. Whether it is it purchases, subscriptions, or downloads – expedite the process by adding online coupons, downloadable items or links to your check-out page.

4. Making it Hard for Customers to Buy
The fewer steps to purchase from the initial visit to your site, the more sales you will make. Even people who want to buy from you will take their business elsewhere if there are too many pages to click through and forms to fill out along the way.

5. Too Fancy or Too Slow
Simplicity is often the best way to go. You may think flash intros are amazing, but often they take a long time to load and can frustrate impatient visitors. Keep your audience and functionality in mind at all times.

6. Stagnant Site
Fresh content helps your search engine rankings and lets people know that your site is active. Format and design can quickly be changed with the abundance of new tools: update regularly and take advantage of new opportunities to keep your site current and your visitors engaged (i.e. “Follow us on Twitter” button or RSS feed of relevant content).

7. Broken Links
Nothing loses visitors like a broken link. Check to make sure that every page on your site works – it’s easy to misspell or mislabel a link! Your brand will take a hit if users constantly see “404 file not found” error messages or find broken links. If you have a large site, adding a form on your site so that visitors can submit broken links is a solution.

8. Ignoring Statistics
Many successful and established businesses fall prey to this folly. You should be tracking not just sales, overhead, and subscriptions, but your traffic, where it comes from, and what works (and DOESN’T WORK) on your site. HitsLink or Google Analytics are good ways to get started for all your web statistics needs. Monitor your statistics to help build your marketing and design around your customer, or figure out what isn’t converting to determine what you need to improve.

9. Neglecting the Search Engines
Search engines find your page using automated “spiders”. Design your pages with keywords, headers, meta tags and relevant content in mind to alert the spiders and boost your search engine rankings. You will want to have a site map, which will show Google that your site is easy to navigate. Whenever you add a page or make changes to an existing page, submit the link to Google for indexing: http://www.google.com/addurl/.

10. Contact Info with a PHONE NUMBER
You give potential customers peace of mind and add credibility by displaying your phone number on your site. Again, consistency is key: develop a footer for every page with your contact information. Many online businesses see a good chunk of sales come in over the phone.

By avoiding these mistakes, you help make sure that your visitors have a pleasant experience on your site and you increase your chances of success and profit.