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Should You Test Company Names or Product Names on Google?

by Marcia Yudkin, Head Stork, Named At Last

A few years back, the firm MarketingExperiments ran tests of product names and domain names using Google AdWords, with results that could very well impress company and product namers to employ this method. By changing just the name in identical ads, the research team was able to show significant differences in click-through rates from otherwise identical text ads.

You "no longer have to rely on guesswork or personal favorites to try to predict which domain name will perform the best," the research report concluded. In one test, they extrapolated from a 9 percent increase in click-throughs to a possible $1.3 million increase in revenues over the course of one year from using the name that tested better on Google.

Wow! Should we all abandon our non-empirical naming methods and select names according to such tests?

No. While suggestive, these experiments have limited applicability. Indeed, MarketingExperiments themselves noted that their projections assumed that the differential click-through rates would not affect the rate at which click-throughs led to sales. In real life, however, it's quite likely that different names attract different kinds of people who have varying propensities to buy and to become the kind of long-term customers you want.

Things to Consider Before Running Name Tests on Google

Consider these additional factors limiting the relevance of this testing method.

1)Do almost all of your customers use search engines to shop for what you sell?

Company names and product names that excel in search engine ads can tank in print ads or on billboards. They can be easily confused with competitors, sabotaging word of mouth sales. They can look terrible on signage or be tongue twisters to pronounce. They can have negative appeal to those who don't shop online.

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2)Do your customers tend to buy on their first visit to your web site?

The longer your typical customer takes to buy, the less relevant the gain in initial click-through becomes, and the more important it is to have a memorable name that makes a positive, relevant impression away from the computer screen.

3)Are repeat sales important in your business?

MarketingExperiments recommends starting your testing with highly descriptive names, such as PowerScreener Pro or StockScreener Plus, which have had a terribly hard time carving out a firm place in people's memories. People who buy once from a search engine and then go back to the search engine when it's time to reorder, because they can't recall who they bought from previously, quite likely buy from a competitor of yours the next time.

4)What about other drawbacks of names?

Nowhere does MarketingExperiments remind people to make sure names that test well are free of legal risks, including trademark infringement or over-promising in the name. There's also the risk of attracting people who buy but differ greatly from your ideal customer.

In short, I would recommend testing names with Google AdWords ads only if you sell something exclusively online that people tend to buy on their first visit from a search engine. Even then, you need to be mindful of the considerations I noted above.

For most of the clients who come to Named At Last for help, this testing method would be quite irrelevant. Broader strategic concerns are as important or more important than click-throughs from search engines.

Stuck on thinking up or choosing your new company or product name?  Get help generating an impressively original business name or product name.

Copyright 2014 Marcia Yudkin.  No reprinting or republishing without written permission.

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