You can concentrate on the technology and marketing principles all you want, but a large part of digital marketing falls back on your unique branding that stems from basic choices you make during the development stages of your business. Your name, logo and other less controlled associations will play a part in public perception for the life of your business, so it’s important to make informed decisions from the start. The Internet is going to offer your business a huge pedestal to be seen from; the challenge is akin to managing the lighting so your brand is viewed in a positive way.
This can be very difficult indeed thanks to scrapers and spammers flooding search results, past customers who might have had a bad experience and want to make it known, and any brands that use similar keywords or names that dominate key Google results.
The truth is, your brand is not automatically protected online. If you fail to properly protect your reputation, including through social media, you run the risk of being viewed as less credible than your competitors. This could keep your company from ever succeeding, or even worse, affect your personal life.
What many people fail to understand though is that many of reputation problems can be prevented even before the brand name is even born! And here’s how!
What to Do *Before* You Pick a Brand Name
Today choosing a good brand name is even more important than ever: Your brand name is what is going to secure you stable search engine positions and it’s also what is going to stick in your visitors’ mind.
Here are a few tools to check once you think you have a few good options in mind:
1. Google Search
The first step is getting a clear picture of how original your brand name is. I always suggest doing a Google search for your brand, whether that is a company name, a product or yourself. Then take a close look at the result.
Here are two main questions to answer before you go further:
- Do you see your future name already in use in some way? Will it be too difficult to compete with? (For example, if a Wikipedia article ranks #1 for your future brand name search, bear in mind you are unlikely to beat it. Search marketers have been struggling to drop wiki to #2 for [seo] for ages and these are the best SEO pros!)
- Is your future name considered to be a misspelling by Google? (Mind that it will be very hard and time-consuming to overcome)
The answers will show you clearly whether you need to give this brand another test!
2. Urban Dictionary
Internet jargon is unpredictable: you never know which meme resulted in a new negative connotation to a semi-ordinary word or phrase. Therefore it’s a smart idea to refer to the slang glossary to make sure your future brand bears no negative association which will be hard to get rid of.
Tip: Always refer to “Related” phrases in the left-hand column as we as tags under the listing:
3. Social Media Moniker Checks
You need to have full control of your brand, which means if someone has already registered your brand name as a moniker at a major social media site, you might be in trouble:
- Facebook only allows /username to be used once and it’s almost impossible to change it;
- Twitter will only help you claim your brand name is the trademark law is involved;
- Claiming your brand name later is a long process. You better avoid it if you can.
Note: I am mentioning username check at the end on purpose: If you really love your future name choice and it has passed the first two tests, maybe you will still stick to it even if it has already been grabbed on Twitter (Besides, with hundreds of millions Twitter users across the world, each user holding a unique moniker, it’s getting harder and harder to come up with easily-branded catchy usernames).
However if your future brand name is massively in use, you probably want to stay away from it.
Tip: use a username or brand name checker that will search social media accounts and other websites to give you every available instance of your name, and direct you to those who might already be using it. I prefer Username Check and Knowem.
When it comes to choosing a brand name, there is probably no perfect choice. I am sure “Google” seemed a stupid name once as well as “Cuil” did. Yet, the first one appeared a hit (and turned out to be hilariously easily branded) while the latter never picked up. It’s hard to predict!
However if you want to future-proof your brand, you should at least pay attention to obvious red flags. It can be tricky, but with a bit of know-how and some effort you can really avoid being trapped by your own choice when it’s too late to change anything!