The Name Game: ‘AAAA Taxi’ Won’t Cut it Anymore

By: Guest | October 11, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is by Ken Mueller.

What do you think when you hear Spike’s Salon & Spa?

Joe’s Garage says one thing, but what about Fifi’s Garage?

The name of your business is important.

It says a lot about you, and it can convey all sorts of information: From what you do to who you are, and what your mindset is as well.

The name of your business is often one of the first components in an overall branding strategy, but there’s a lot more to your name than meets the eye.

You can’t always just go with the obvious or what may have worked for others in the past.

There was a time when your business name was purely utilitarian.

Back on the prairie we had Oleson’s Mercantile and Walnut Grove Feed and Seed. Those names told you just about everything you needed to know: What they did, who owned it, and/or where it was located.

The Game of the Name

Then along came the Yellow Pages, an alphabetical directory of businesses by category. In an effort to “get found” first, businesses changed their names to get better placement. If Bentley Plumbing was first on the list, you could be American Plumbing: First alphabetically, with bonus points for being ‘Merican, doggoneitall! But then along came AAA Plumbing, quickly followed by AAAA Plumbing, and things just got silly from there.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Now we have the Internet and this thing called Google. You need to take this into consideration when naming your business, because this is where people are going to find you.

As you consider your online presence and search engine optimization, the name you choose for your business can be crucial in determining whether or not you get found. Your name can’t just be the first thing you come up with, or even the most obvious name. You need to think it out a bit.

I have a musician friend who used to be in a band with a rather generic one-word name. A common, everyday word. If you wanted to find her music and Googled just the name of the band, they wouldn’t come up in the first 100 listings, let alone the first 100 pages.

For example, bands such as Kansas, Boston, and Chicago are named after places. We know them and their music. And because they each had a large body of pre-Internet work, you can Google them and find them. But suppose they were brand new bands. Do you think Googling any of those names would help you find them and their music? Probably not.

Another musician friend had to change his own last name by one letter as he became more famous, because Googling his real last name ended up delivering all sorts of…er…let’s just say unsavory content. Go ahead, Google away. See if you can figure that one out!

Let Me Google that For You

As you choose a name for your business, try Googling prospective names to see what happens. There was a time when SEO folks would tell you to go back to the prairie and be explicit in termsof what you do: Joe’s Plumbing.

But just try searching for that on either Google and Facebook and see what happens. Same with location. Name your business Chicago Plumbing and you’ll collide head on with the SEO work of every other plumber in the city.

A few tips on naming your business:

  1. Be creative – don’t rely on common, everyday words.
  2. Be unique – It’s not necessarily enough that there is no one else in your area or region with the same or similar name. On Google, you might be competing with same-named businesses anywhere in the world.
  3. Don’t be TOO obscure – You don’t want to confuse people.
  4. Worry less about what you do and where you’re located – Yes, it’s important to let people know you are a plumber or that you’re in Chicago, but a lot of that can be handled with the content on your site and other SEO work.

Take your business name seriously. Don’t pick a name without first considering how it will play online.

Ken Mueller is the owner of Inkling Media, a social media marketing and communications consultancy in Lancaster, Pa. He can often be found working from his porch with his dog Shadow. And he rocks. (Editor’s note: Don’t tell him we said so, but we think he rocks, too.)

  • OOo I just learned this lesson the hard way! I have decided to keep the name, though, even though it may turn up some “questionable” results in google…at the end of the day, I just had to laugh at myself. If you want to see my ‘coming to terms’ post, it is here: All I can do is shake my head….

    • @Ali Mac That’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The one situation to which I refer is even worse. At least you have a good sense of humor about it!

      • @KenMueller If you can’t laugh, you got nothin!!!! 😉

  • magriebler

    Love this, Ken! Case in point: I started reading this very blog because the name caught my eye on Twitter. I’ve been ranting about spin for years; and I love the word sucks because it says … well, that @ginidietrich is not above using Language of the People. (I may hate jargon and academic-speak more than spin. Maybe.)  Imagine the joy when my user experience was seamless, from first click through to every clear, blunt, insightful word. Would I have stopped to read AAA Integrated Marketing Communication Agency’s blog? Oh. My. Goodness. I think not.
    And @KenMueller, Inkling is intriguing because it delightfully evokes inky fingers and thinking and a clever person writing all about it.

    • @magriebler  @ginidietrich Well, The name Inkling comes from elsewhere, but I’ll take that!

      • magriebler

        @KenMueller  Sounds like there’s a story there.

        • @magriebler yes there is!

        • magriebler

          @KenMueller I know coy when I see it. But someday I’d like to hear it.

      • belllindsay

        @KenMueller  @magriebler  @ginidietrich I have an inkling that I know that story.

        • @belllindsay  @magriebler  @ginidietrich It’s no secret, but go for it Lindsay. I always like to see if people know where the name came from.

        • magriebler

          @KenMueller  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Let me take a guess: does it involve English writers and a pub at a university I visited last fall? It’s all I’ve got.

        • @magriebler  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Ding ding ding ding ding! We have a winner!

        • magriebler

          @KenMueller  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich The English major’s mecca. The Big Guy won major brownie points for walking around with me as I got all mooney eyed … and not mocking once.

        • @magriebler  @KenMueller  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Ah, the Inklings.  The Bodleian Library is one of the most magnificent places on the planet.

        • @jasonkonopinski  @magriebler  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Some of my graduate work was done in relation to several of the Inklings and I still write about them and speak at colleges on a semi-regular basis. Their work was a big influence on me in quite a few ways.

        • magriebler

          @KenMueller  @jasonkonopinski  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich No better group to emulate.

        • belllindsay

          @magriebler  @KenMueller  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Oh, I had no clue. Just wanted to use the word “inkling” in a sentence.

        • @belllindsay  @magriebler  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Hey, whatever floats your boat. Maybe you need to get out more.

        • belllindsay

          @KenMueller  @magriebler  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Clearly.

        • magriebler

          @belllindsay  @KenMueller  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich It IS a good word, isn’t it? I’ve been wanting to use “specificity” in a sentence all day myself … and now I have.

        • @magriebler  @belllindsay  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich That’s a much harder word to say, though. I feel like throwing a few extra sibilant syllables in there.

        • magriebler

          @KenMueller  @belllindsay  @jasonkonopinski  @ginidietrich Oh, but when you can say it right — the joy! I’m saying it correctly right now.

        • @KenMueller  @magriebler  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich Oh? Tell me more.

        • @jasonkonopinski  @magriebler  @belllindsay  @ginidietrich They were my literary heroes growing up and I got involved in research through the Mythopoeic Society, as well as the Wade Center at Wheaton College, and wrote graduate papers related to their rhetoric, both in print and the spoken word. Lewis and Sayers (who was peripheral to the group) were both quite active on the BBC, and some of their written works began as radio talks/performances.

  • Thank you for this Kenteresting post.

    • @RebeccaTodd Did you pin it??

    • @RebeccaTodd @jasonkonopinski I was going to say it’s Konopintersting, but that was for Jason’s comment.

  • In the advertising world, you have two extremes when it comes to naming conventions (especially with the agency name itself): the principals of the agency (i.e. Crispin Bogusky & Porter, Sterling Cooper Draper Price, JWT, The Martin Agency) or something quirky and creative (Taxi, Razorfish, David & Goliath).  
    To my mind, simple and direct wins the game.

    • @jasonkonopinski In some cases it can be, depending on your name or what you do. But it can often get you lost in Google searches.

    • Either it’s really hard to name a marketing agency or really easy. Not sure which.

  • belllindsay

    This reminds me of some of the funny that Danny Brown deals with, having the same name as a rather potty mouthed American rapper (and not potty mouthed in a talented way – cause I love me some Eminem)! He gets some hilarious tweets, etc.. I like this post Ken, have been reading a lot lately about the power of the name.

    • @belllindsay  Danny Brown as opposed to the potty mouthed Scottish/Canadian marketing dude?

      • belllindsay

        @KenMueller  Danny Brown Er, yes.

  • Luhneah Upshaw is a fine southern genteel name; we can’t be changing it at this stage of the game. 
    Fortunately when I Google Bill Dorman most have a decent online presence; of course, all the other ones want to be like me…….:).
    These times have a’changed; choose your business name wisely.
    In a non-creepy way I had a dream last night I met you IRL at a social event. Your FB post about Raul Ibanez must have triggered it. No, I don’t have a man crush on you…..yet……doh….

    • @bdorman264 oh man. Do I have to get a restraining order??

  • Hmmm, let’s see how stacks up…
    1) Be Creative…Yes
    2) Be Unique…by definition, no.
    3) Don’t be TOO obscure…no
    4) NA
    So, by a score of 2 to 1, I’ve chosen poorly. It’s too late now, I like my name. 🙂 I liked the post, too.

    • @ExtremelyAvg Haha. Not necessarily. It all depends on how people find you online, and how they are looking for you. You might be doing quite fine.

      • @KenMueller I’m happy and that is the one metric I focus on.

        • @ExtremelyAvg  @KenMueller Great comment Brian.

  • Lol at LMGTFY.

  • attarehman18

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  • Great post Ken. Its definitely getting tougher to name your business. I talked to an owner of a company named Crystal Solutions – could not find the website even when you knew what you were looking for. There is a need for creativity and originality – better off with something completely new rather than sticking a hyphen in,  using an odd spelling, or moving away from .com. David Meerman Scott started using his middle name because he couldn’t rank with the other David Scotts out there. I also agree that SEO can make up for the lack of job description or location in your name.

    • Thanks, Brent. Those are great examples. Those who have rather “generic” sounding or common names are definitely at a disadvantage.

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