Think Search Before You Name Your Next Product

When naming products, it’s always prudent to investigate potential online marketing challenges and pitfalls before launch. Failure to do so may preemptively damage your marketing team’s ability to cast an appropriate branding net.

Traditionally due diligence surrounding the naming process involved trademark search, category and creative considerations. Now that’s no longer enough. Crucial naming decisions must also include rigorous SEO, social, reputation and paid search analysis. Here’s a checklist of factors to take into consideration to assure your product name is search-friendly from the outset.

SEO matters: What words do customers use?

Mining fairly absolute demographic research, regarding how customers ask for things via search, is a timeless foundation. For more than a decade advertisers have had excellent perspective regarding users’ search vocabulary. That said it’s astounding how many well-meaning folks waltz into our office with new product names without nary a regard for easily available data!

Say your product is a business or package about fixing automobiles. A quick look using any number of free keyword tools, reveals that “auto repair shop” is a much more popular concept amongst searchers than “car repair shop.” In fact, pretty much any comparison between “auto” and “car” including clarifiers like “manuals” and “estimates” skew decidedly towards the word “auto.” While it’s obviously important to also target potential customers who prefer the word “car,” it makes sense to name the product itself using the word “auto.”


Include category names & partials when possible

Since any product’s name itself is often cited as anchor text in reviews, rants and blog posts it is often beneficial to include a category in the actual product name. First instance, consider calling your new pole vault product a “Mambo Track & Field Stick” or “Mambo Track Stick” instead of just a “Mambo Stick.” This helps solidify the product’s place in-category as associated links roll in. Partials are beneficial too, as Google likes an assortment of relevant anchor text pointing at your site.

Identify social media profiles that are already taken

There can be significant SEO and social ramifications if a malevolent soul squats on your product’s name in social media properties. In fact one of the first places we look to solve reputation management issues are social media profiles in Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Knowing about profiles in more obscure sites that focus on a niche can be useful as well. It’s essential to evaluate the social profile landscape as one chooses a product name.

The word “Triton” has been used by many product names over the years. It will probably be used for others, where the category of products and services is unique under trademark law. We use a service called KnowEm to check user names to see if any have been taken for our proposed product name. Note that while many communities don’t have a “Triton” user, Twitter does. For us, that’s enough to invalidate a proposed product name.


Determine whether there’s existing reputation baggage

A new product should start off with a clean slate. A decision to create another “Triton” product in a new category (or any name similar to or including pieces of others) starts off with the baggage of all Tritons’ that have gone before. Even though the bad sentiment surrounds other products that only contain our new name, count on some users dismissing a product out-of-hand at first gape, without taking the time to differentiate.

Check searches for your product’s new name on “[name] sucks,” “[name] horrible” and other words people search with when they’re mad. Choose product names that leave baggage at the door.


How competitive are the organic SERPs?

Say someone’s considering naming a new restaurant “Blue Fondue” and everyone loves the name. Though there are no apparent eateries by that name on the first page of Google search results, there is some of out-of-category competition to complicate things.


In this case the web design company-competition is only slight, with some but not much authority, so good SEO will bear fruit and place our new restaurant on page. Don’t forget to check Bing and (yes, at least for now) Yahoo.


Try to avoid ambiguity, even if clever

Should a sleek new wine-category refrigeration device be a wine “cooler” or “refrigerator?” Well, the research is a bit fuzzy. There is a popular bottled drink category called “wine cooler,” the keyword also means refrigeration device and the research is therefore not conclusive.

In the old world we’d be tempted to call this thing a “wine cooler” for the double meaning cute factor. In the new world we might not want to take on “wine cooler” SEO, not because it could not be accomplished, but because the stress is optional.


Don’t neglect YouTube!

Depending on which stats you believe, YouTube is the second or third most used search engine in the world. To not check YouTube SERPs for competition is reckless. Here’s the “Triton” search. Let’s not call the thing a Triton, OK?


Can you secure the literal keyword domain?

Lots of evidence suggests that exact match keyword domains are the fast track to ranking even in competitive SERPs. As a standing rule, we don’t encourage clients to create new product names where unless the literal domain is available.

At very best, failure to consider search when naming products can make the marketing process unnecessarily difficult. Worst-case scenarios include difficulty ranking for the product’s name and other lost opportunities.

Obviously, using well-trodden names as a component of a new product’s moniker is a more risky proposition than making up new names. One solution that works well is to make up names like “The Mighty Rankinstanker” or “My Fuzzy Mistbinger.” :)

In addition to traditional category, creative and legal people, engage your search team early in the naming process of a new product to maximize chances for overall marketing and promotional success.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Brand Aid | Channel: Strategy


About The Author: is president of aimClear; an internet focused Advertising Agency with offices in Minnesota. aimClear provides natural search optimization (SEO), traditional & social pay-per-click (PPC) management, and social media/feed marketing (SMO) services to national clients.

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  • Helen

    Cool post Marty! This approach is also relevant at the stage of writing a business plan when determining how successful your business model could potentially be ….. e.g. IF people are searching for a towing company in your area or not, how high the competition is already, etc.



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