DIY Startup: Get a name – Part 1

written by aext on March 31, 2010 in Freelance & Business and Web Design and Web Development with 37 comments

Many of us believe we have what it takes to translate an excellent idea into a total success. Indeed, you may. However, this guide will help you gear up a better plan, and give you the insights of a proven step by step course of action.

DIY Start-up Series is exclusively featured at AEXT. Get a Name, will take you to a different perspective of why the importance of a name. From thinking through a business name to acquire an existing business name.

Becoming the Shoestring ePro

We have that killer idea about a website that will change the world, and more importantly our back pocket. We’ve all watched little internet start-ups grow from nothing to multi-million dollar Goliaths. We all want part of the action, but we’ve all got very limited funds to get things started.

DIY Startup


Exclusively available at AEXT.NET

  1. Get a name
  2. Get an image
  3. Get a platform
  4. Get a tempalte/theme
  5. Get some marketing
  6. Get some sales!

Well, I was the same… I had the time, passion and inspiration, but a very limited bankroll. I went looking for some unified information to assist me in building a professional eCommerce site on a shoestring budget. I found nothing, so had to hunt down every minute aspect…. and by “professional” I meant better than anything else in my immediate market space. I set myself a $1000 USD budget to cover the entire product launch, and the result of my first project is live now at http://www.noozealand.co.nz.

In a series of posts exclusive to AEXT.NET I’ll talk you through some of the tools and services I’ve used; we’ll discuss Branding, Software Choice, Templates, Themes, Hosting, Marketing, Social Networking, Analytics, SEO & eventually Conversions. All addressed from a business start-up perspective.

So what skills do you need? The most important skill is a propensity and willingness to learn. I have a background as a Project Manager and Old School Mainframe Programmer; I’m not web developer, but I have a basic appreciation of coding and logic, and a complete willingness to get my hands in the code and give it a crack.

You need a Brand!

Unlike conventional high-street businesses, where Location and Client Demographics are the key components to executing your concept, I have found that the MOST important step in launching an online business is to start with a logo. This may sound slightly back-to-front, but by getting your logo sorted it gives you the foundation for framing your strategy. In web-world, your brand is absolutely everything, and your logo is the immediate embodiment of that. Your logo will dictate your colour themes, your core graphical stylings, your market appeal and give you a point of reference for everything you do from here. Most importantly, your name will define your URL; the quality of your URL is pivotal to future success. So, even before we develop a logo, for this first post we will do the most important thing which is to Get A Name!

I personally own domain names in all these naming styles (not all operational): – Conventional (www.kiwitube.co.nz – well, that would be like YouTube, but for Kiwis… right?) – Wacky (www.moobaa.co.nz – means nothing, but sounds fun and funky. This site will one day be my design consultancy!!!) – Play On Words (www.noozealand.co.nz – Like New Zealand, my customers know it’s about NZ, but is just that bit “Noo”).

Get A Name

Your domain name MUST be catchy, relatively short and either immediately descriptive, or alternatively out-there and wacky. It either has to be immediately understandable, or entice the user into wanting to know more. Don’t try and convince yourself that you can turn a “jungle into a bookstore” or an “Echo Bay into an auction giant”… we don’t have that kind of marketing clout. So either stay firmly inside the box, or go completely outside of the box. Trying to redefine the generally understood meaning of a word into your brand is a thankless task. Just look how “Facebook” and “Twitter” have had relatively equal success… “Facebook” is descriptive and understandable… it’s a book-of-faces. “Twitter”, although having a meaning of idle chatting, is outside of normal speech and attracts one to know more about what might be behind the name.

Remember, when users are browsing search engines they won’t be able to see your sensational logo, they just see the name… so it has to speak volumes! It’s also worthy of note that Search Engines like website names that are real words.

As I’ll discuss at length in later posts, one of the key drivers to eCommerce success is the intangible ability to immediately gain the intrinsic trust of your visitor. Security and confidence in your website is of absolute importance to convert sales. Forget having the newest products at the lowest prices… if the consumer is not confident in the site, then they will bounce away immediately. This starts at the immediate point of choosing your name and domain. Get that wrong, and they won’t even make it past the search engine.

A few no-no’s when it comes to choosing a name. There is ALWAYS an exception to these rules, but I am writing from a perspective of a small Owner Operated Store, not a multi-national megalith, who is trying to sell to the average guy on the web.

1. Don’t waste your valuable time looking for alternative domain extensions.

This will drive you nuts, and there are 1000′s of parked domains out there not being used. Sounds obvious, but your Brand and Domain quite simply must be the same. Don’t take the .net or .org etc… you will never be taken seriously as a “store”. Leave these to “networks” and “organizations”.

2. Ensure that the domain name you choose is Location Specific.

Don’t convince yourself that .com is the best domain. If you can get the .com and the .co.** then great; but host your site at the local domain, and redirect the .com to it. People like to buy local, and knowing that the site is based in the same country as them gives immediate confidence. The .com used to be the almighty extension, but has been universally abused, and now we are finding that this is more of a hindrance to grabbing people’s attention. Keep it local. Keep it specific to your customers. When you break into the gazillions of turnover and expand worldwide, then bridge over to your .com. As a point of note, my www.noozealand.com site gets near zero traffic/clicks, whereas my .co.nz is getting a regular 50 visitors per day who are people who I can sell to (i.e. my client demographic). If you are in North America, then you have to use the .com.

3. Concatenated extensions from other countries don’t work.

The Italian (.it) became very popular as you could have website names that sounded cool like www.sell.it and rolled off the tongue. In general execution, they just don’t work. Search engines get confused, customers are not really sure of your actual location, it’s hard to be taken seriously by the average consumer on the net. They want to see from the extension that you are local.

4. Years in Domains.

Just because “mystore.com” is taken, does not mean that “my2010store.com” is a good name. Pretty obvious, because in 2011 you are out of business. I recently saw someone trying to sell a website with “2004″ in the domain… they’re still looking for a buyer! The only time this really works is if you are selling a product for a specific event like “WorldCup2011.com” and the business is not designed to go much further past that event.

5. Numbers in Domains.

Tread very carefully here. Your average consumer gets tetchy when they see numbers. They start thinking “oh… maybe MyShop99.com went bankrupt, so that’s why they are selling at MyShop88.com now”; sounds bizarre, but is true. We have all seen news stories of people going bankrupt, and the following week launching another Ltd. company with a different number in the name. Average Joe also finds numbers “technical”, and as a good developer, you should be taking any and every opportunity to eliminate technophobia from your site. You and your pals may be very tech-savvy, but the average consumer is not. If you site is aimed at a technical audience, then numbers could work (i.e. 68classifieds.com).

6. Really Long Domains.

Just because you couldn’t think of “that” name, don’t go for the extra long version. If your site is for information purposes only (i.e. where your website is an add on to your already existing retail shop, where you already have an audience), then you can get away with this; however, as a Store/Service that relies wholly on internet traffic, you need to remain memorable and succinct (and avoid typos too). Domain names should be under 10 letters, ideally 5-8 being the most memorable.

7. TXT Language.

A growing trend, but one I think will be short lived. Just be 100% sure that the name is in mainstream usage and not overly cheesy like “mygr8shop.com”.

8. Acronym’s.

Very similar to TXT language in how they are perceived. You are not an “HP”, and don’t try convince yourself that you are. Your brand is NOT bigger than your domain name; your brand IS your domain name. If you call your business My Super Sweet Sixteen Store, you can not expect people to derive any information from the name “msss.com”. This means nothing. The only time these names ever work is if you are a huge existing brand, or you have a real technical angle to your business and are playing on the words of known tech-speak (i.e. AEXT.NET).

9. Overly Descriptive Names.

I’m not personally a fan of words like “shop” or “store” being in the actual Domain Name. I feel that this stunts your long term ability to really grow the business as a brand; with time, when your brand explodes into greatness, you need to present yourself as “the brand” and having overly descriptive words in your domain will hold you back and make you always look like the little guy.

10. e’s and i’s.

We all wish we owned eBay or invented the iPod; but give it up, don’t try to be them. These terms are completely over used, and are now viewed as idiosyncratic of the 1990′s when the internet was just starting to boom. The Internet is now mainstream, it’s not “e” any more, it’s everyday part of life. Again, this “over-techs” the feel of your name, when you will generally want something more mainstream.

11. Be Unique. Don’t try to pick-up mis-spelt names of successful stores. Be unique, become a brand, be new.

So….. now you’re probably saying “oh my god”, so what name CAN I use?? It is incredibly difficult to find a good solid domain name that is available, and one that suits your business. However, this is the first pivotal decision in your new business. Get it wrong, and all the future work you will do is for nothing. This decision wholly defines the direction of your project. Do not start running around looking at tech platforms, hosting, social networking etc… until you have defined this name.

You will run into a lot of dead ends, but be persistent. You will also find that as you come across the odd killer name that this can completely change the angle of attack that you had originally planned… it will invoke new ideas and really begin to excite you about your venture.

Some Tools….

Expiring Domains: There are hundreds every day that expire, and you can grab them for a song! Many of these were registered by techies on a whim when you could sell your base name for thousands. For your country, Google up “Expiring Domains” and sign-up to daily emails to be kept in the know. This will give you ideas you never thought of and also some names you never thought you would be able to get.

Buy a brand. There are some great tools out there like http://brandstack.com/domain-names/ where designers have grabbed a URL and designed a logo. This can give you inspiration for your own name, but equally for a few hundred bucks you could pick-up the perfect name. A lot of these guys are really creative and there are some killer ideas on there; I always go there for inspiration.

OK, in next part, I’ll talk about taking your name and developing a logo. Step-by-step. If you would like to interact with these posts then add your comments and details about your chosen domains. Would be great to track some new business progress…