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Here's Everything That Can Go Wrong Naming Your Startup and How to Avoid It All The innocent pleasure of naming your company can turn very unpleasant if you find out the hard way that name has a bad online reputation or a very different meaning in another language.

By Yoav Vilner Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Let's be honest, branding your startup is one of the fun parts of launching a new startup. You get to name your baby exactly how you want. For once, you don't have to take anyone else's opinion into account.

This world consists of nearly 6,500 spoken languages. Thousands of new, weird words are coming to life every year. No matter how smart you may be, there is no way of knowing all of the words in the world or who, in the online arena, has used them before you.

Not to mention, it's important to know if the words you choose have already earned a bad reputation prior to your company launch.

Hopefully, your new startup will grow, but it could potentially fail solely for being branded with a name that has a negative online presence. Here's the lowdown on how to stay clear.

Related: 7 Stupid Branding Mistakes Your Small Business is Making

What are the dangers?

What if the name you choose was already taken, or you named your brand after something with a negative connotation, like a toolbar that people weren't able to remove from their computers or even a virus? Even worse, maybe your new and nifty brand name is at all a curse word in another language's slang.

We are all counting on future users to Google our company name and reach our desired pages – but choosing the wrong name will result in a life of horror, pain and blood (okay, maybe the results will be a little less dramatic, but you get the idea).

One last thing to mention is that if your domain suffers from previous black-hat SEO work, you are pretty much done for and can count on having to spend your first six months trying to remove Google's penalty.

Related: 8 Mistakes To Avoid When Naming Your Business

First stage: research

Google your desired brand name. What results are in the first page? Anything suspicious there? Are people complaining? Answer these questions by following these steps.

  • Should your new brand name sound like a generic word, evaluate the strengths of the first 10 results and make sure you will be able at all to rank for it. Use the Mozbar to check the Domain and Page authority of each result.
  • Check your new brand name in Google's Keyword planner. Are there search volumes shown for your new brand name in exact match? Then it must exist somewhere, so you need to Google for it better.
  • Analyze the domain on Link profile analysis tools. I use Ahrefs and OpenSiteExplorer and then cross the data between them. You need to look for suspicious links from spammy websites or heavy anchor text usage. If so, you need to consider another domain name.
  • Enter the domain in the Wayback machine, to make sure it wasn't a questionable website in the past.

Related: 7 Tips for Naming (or Re-Naming) Your Company

Second stage: build and monitor

If the steps from the first stage resulted in anything less than perfect, then your options are either to start fixing the situation or choose a whole new name. By fixing I mean, for example, addressing admins in the forums that talk badly of your desired brand name and ask them to remove that keyword from the thread's title as it's hurting your business.

However, if you're in the clear, it's time to prevent future negative results by dominating the first search engine results page in advance. Follow these steps.

  • Open your brand profiles at free portfolio sites such as Crunchbase, and brandyourself.
  • As soon as you can, capture your brand name in the big social networks: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. (Tip: use to find new profiles you haven't used).
  • Sign up to websites that allow free creation of content, such as Medium, and create a blog post carrying your brand name. Set up a small PPC campaign on your new brand name. It could cost you close to nothing and ensure you one extra spot in the search results page… the first one!
  • Set up Google Alerts on your new brand name and monitor your mentions.

By following the steps in this post, you can easily make sure that your new startup is not going to be affected by someone else's bad reputation. I've seen startups go through the long and painful process of re-branding – and trust me, you want to avoid wasting your time if you can help it.

Related: 7 Terrible Naming Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

Yoav Vilner

Entrepreneur, thought leader and startup mentor

Yoav Vilner has founded several companies, and is currently CEO at Walnut. He is also a startup mentor in accelerators associated with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the U.N.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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