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Monday, 16 January 2017 7:35

Brand Names and SEO: Clearing Up a Common Misconception

By - Michael Rader

Few letters generate more confusion than “SEO.” Appearing on the front page of Google is the stuff of online marketers’ dreams, but how to get there is a process shrouded in lore and mystery.

A lot of people think that, in order to optimize their SEO, they should make their business name as “searchable” as possible. Therefore, if you offer business coaching in Toronto, call your business “Toronto Business Coaches.” If you offer Chinese language classes, name your business “Chinese Language Trainers.”

In fact, this couldn’t be farther from the truth -- and giving your business a “searchable” name will hurt you more than it will help. Consider this: there are currently over 1 billion active websites (a number that only continues to grow), so unless you have an ultra-specific niche, it’s unlikely that you’ll reach the front page of Google just by including keywords in your business name. 

Try searching “Chinese language trainers” on Google -- you’ll be overwhelmed by hundreds of identically named websites, all offering Chinese language classes. There’s simply no way to compete.


Further, as I’ve mentioned before, these kind of generic brand names are a disaster for marketing. (In fact, that’s why we don’t offer them on Brandroot.) Given that generic names consist of words that already exist -- words for which we’ve already formed associations in our brain -- it’s very hard to form a culture around your brand. That’s one of the reasons that websites like never stick around.

Let’s continue with our Chinese Language Trainers example. Now, think of some other language learning programs like Duolingo, Memrise, and italki. Notice a trend here? None of them use keywords like “language” or “classes”. Yes, their names evoke language -- the “ling” in Duolingo is reminiscent of linguistics; Memrise makes you think of memorizing vocabulary; italki conjures up images of “talking” in a different language.

These make effective brand names -- but more importantly, they’re even better for SEO, because they’re unique. Once Duolingo was established -- even before they had a such an enormous following -- a Google search for “Duolingo” would go right to their homepage, because it’s the only website out there with that name.

Sure, it required some marketing muscle to create awareness and positive associations with the brand -- but once you accomplish that, you’re set for life. You won’t get buried in pages upon pages of search results like poor Chinese Language Trainers did.

So, then, in terms of SEO, using generic names like “Chinese Language Trainers” actually hurts more than it helps. It’s a much more fortuitous strategy to pick an original, unique name -- like Duolingo, Memrise, or italki -- so you can carve out your corner of the internet. Then, all that’s left is building up a culture around your brand with the right marketing and PR strategies, and you’ll be miles ahead of where you would be with a generic name.

Last modified on Monday, 30 November -0001 12:00

Michael Rader

With over ten years in web development and design, Michael Rader has expertise and technical know-how. But more than a skilled technician, he is an entrepreneur and innovator who helps startup’s and new businesses identify and define their future with a unique, brandable business name. Michael Rader is the founder and CEO of Brandroot®, a leading .com domain name marketplace. He currently lives in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii where he operates the business and authors a blog dedicated to naming and brand name establishment.