A website by any other name …

What’s in a name?

Specifically, what’s in a domain name?

As a website developer and marketer, this is a question that I deal with often. People starting a brand new business need domain names, and all the good ones are long gone.

What’s interesting is this is also true of band names. That’s how we ended up with band names like Blink 182.  “Blink” was taken, so they added a number after it, just to make it different!

Ironically, a lot of the best names in music are really terrible.

Case in point, Led Zeppelin. The band was named after a joke that Jimmy Page’s new band would go over like the world’s biggest lead balloon. Yet, when you hear the name, you only think of “Stairway to Heaven” and all the other great  Led Zeppelin songs.

The Beatles has to be the worst band name ever! It’s the name of an insect, misspelled to have the word “beat” in it! Yet when we hear the name, all we think about is “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”, and all that other great Beatles music.

In the end, a name takes on its own meaning. The literal meaning of the words mean less and less as the significance of the brand takes over.

The same thing is true on the Internet.

Imagine someone invented a time machine and found you before the web was created.

I’m assuming you were around back then …

The time traveler taps you on the shoulder and says, “There is a this new digital world coming. In the future, virtually every computer in the world is connected. Anyone, anywhere has instant access to practically all knowledge.”

Wouldn’t you be excited? And you would believe he was truly from the future … everything he is saying makes perfect sense … and to know it is really coming … !

“In the future,” the time traveler continues, “there is something called a ‘domain name’ that is like real estate on this computer network. Some of this real estate is very valuable”

Wow, you would think – I had no idea there would be something like a land rush in the digital future. This virtual real estate market sounds incredible! What if I knew about the most valuable “domain names” before anybody else?

You beg the time traveler, “Tell me, o hipster of the future … what are the most valuable ‘domain names’ in your time?”

The time traveler smiles upon you. “I’ll tell you, but I can’t keep this portal open much longer … the most valuable domain names in the future are … eBay … Google … and Yahoo … !”

At this point you realize this guy is an idiot with no credibility at all. You turn your back on him just before the portal closes and he goes back to the future.

How could the most valuable real estate on the Internet be nonsense words?

It is because a rose, by any other name, will still sell as sweet. (the word “sell” in that last sentence was a bona fide typo, but I think it’s better that way!)

The important thing to notice about all these sites is that they were truly unique at the time they came out. Having a descriptive name is less important if what you’re selling is something the world has never seen before.

For example Xango and Zynga and Joomla and Gogi. Two are tech related names, and two are expensive juices. All are trying to be very unique.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. The “For Dummies” book series was a happy accident. It started with a book with a great name, “DOS For Dummies”. From this one book, a whole library of works on every imaginable topic was spawned.

My personal favorite is “Casino Gambling For Dummies”. I’m not a big gambler, so for me, the title says it all!

That being said, the “Chicken Soup for the fill in the blank Soul” is another book series based on an almost random phrase.

Of course, in both cases, the content of the books is what made the brand famous. Just in case you didn’t know … content is still king.

Mind you, nearly everything you create needs to have a name at some point, and in many cases, a domain name.

If you have something truly unique, you can probably find (or create) a nonsense word domain name that you can build your brand on. It helps if the word is something you can pronounce.

But what is your product is not completely unique? What is it is your personal twist on something that’s been done before, like sales training or coaching?

You could consider building the brand on your own name (like PerryMarshall.com) or a twist on the space you’re trying to enter (like TheNumbersCoach.com).

Here is one trick that I use for domain names: Every website tells a story. Every story has a hero. Who is the hero of this website’s story?

Sometimes the answer will be you. In that case, I hope your name as a dot com is still available!

Sometimes the hero is what you can do for a customer. That might spark some new ideas which may be available as a dot com, too.

At the end of the day, the name doesn’t matter at all until there is a quality product or service behind it.

That’s really the hard part.

Name it well, and you’ll do fine.

Name it badly and …  well … The Beatles and eBay still made it – you can, too!

Carpe Numero (seize the numbers)

Dec 10, 2014