Naming products and services is hard. You want something creative, catchy and memorable, but you also want people to know what they're looking at. Online stores have an added challenge, because these names often appear in links, posts and titles that people use to find and share your products. In this post, we'll look at some ways to balance the two.

What's in a name?
That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

Any lit nerds like me will recognize these famous lines from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Translation: "Who cares what we call it, isn't it still the same thing?"

The simple answer is "Yes." Of course, the simple answer never applies to our work, does it?

When we talk about naming things for the web, we're not just talking about labeling; we're talking about finding, navigating, attracting and selling. And in this case, a rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but it won't matter if nobody clicks on it.

So what makes a great name for your product or service? Ideally, it's something creative, and descriptive, and search engine friendly, and relevant, and and and.... Obviously, coming up with something that accomplishes all of these goals is impossible. But with a little work, you can develop unique names that help people find your products and encourage them to read more.

Let's look at some strategies for effectively naming items in your online store.


1. Use brand names

If you sell a lot of brand name products, make sure you include those in the names and page titles. People searching for that brand will be much more likely to find your product or click on your link if it includes the brand in the title. Even if it's a new or lesser known brand, it's a good idea to include it. If you're one of the few stores selling a specific brand, you'll be one of the only ones to show up when people are searching for them.

Let's imagine your store sells golf equipment and clothing, and you're adding a new jacket from Nike. Which title do you think would be more effective? "Golf Jacket" or "Nike Golf Jacket"?


2. Include colors, sizes and unique characteristics

Depending on your products, specific details like color, size or material can be very important to a customer's purchasing decision. With a virtually endless selection of products online, these details also help to provide specific differentiators for your products. Differentiating characteristics can be even more important for products like electronics, software or car parts, where customers will be shopping based on compatibility and usage.

Using our golf jacket example, now you can expand your name to include a few of the most important characteristics. So something like "Nike Golf Jacket - Men's Large - Blue"


3. Include SEO keywords

As with almost any content we create for the web, we need to consider how it will affect our SEO. Since product names often double as title tags, link text and various content throughout your site, they are some of the best places to include SEO keywords. I'd recommend focusing on keywords that are specifically relevant to that product. Consider the words or phrases your customers would most likely use to find that product, and try to include them in the name. Depending on your SEO strategy, you may also include some of the primary keywords or phrases for your store, but start with the product.

In our golf jacket example, we've already got the most important ones included ("Nike" "golf jacket" and "men's"), so that's taken care of. But maybe there's a specific model or style that people are looking for, so we can add that as well. Now, our name would look like this: "Nike Golf Jacket - SuperFIT - Men's Large - Blue"


4. Avoid jargon and internal terminology

There's a fine line between brand terminology and jargon. When we talk about products and services within our company, we often create names or terms that help us better understand them. But those terms are typically meaningless to outsiders like our customers. For the worst examples, look at the insurance or legal industries, where the jargon is so bad we have to hire specialists just to explain what we're paying for. If you have proprietary names for your products or services, consider how meaningful they are to your potential customers. You may still include them for branding reasons, but make sure you include any generic names or terms that also apply.

Let's imagine that Nike decided to start calling all of their jackets "Personal Shelters" instead. Of course, Nike is a big enough brand that the term may eventually catch on, but you can bet they'll include "jacket" in all of their titles until it does.

In this case, our product name may look like this: "Nike Personal Shelter Golf Jacket - SuperFIT - Men's Large - Blue"


5. Use the available space

So how do you combine multiple strategies into one awesome name for your product? Make the most of the space you have. In your Volusion store, the Product Name field accepts 255 characters of text. Now I'm not recommending you fill that completely, but you have some room to play with.

That number actually matches the character count that Google accepts in their <Title Tag> field. But remember, while they index all 255 characters, Google will only display the first 70 characters in the search results pages, so that's the part that really matters for your customers. It's also important to note that there are no set standards for how much text will be displayed on different platforms, websites or devices, so try to include the most important information first.

Our golf jacket name currently stands at 65 characters, so it would all show in the Google search results. From here, we can start adding any other information that may be helpful to our customers. Let's include some other helpful but less important details: "Nike Personal Shelter Golf Jacket - SuperFIT - Men's Large - Blue -- Revolutionary new waterproof, windproof neoprene windbreaker and rain jacket."

There you go, a findable, meaningful, descriptive (if not that pretty) product name.


You don't have to be Shakespeare to write great product names

You don't have to use all of these strategies when you're naming your products (in fact, it may be impossible to do them all), but it's important to think about each one and determine what will work best for your products and your customers.

You can be funny, creative or serious. You can be super detailed or you can be simple and to the point. But the most important thing you can do is strive to create names that help your customers find your products, understand what they are and get excited about buying them.


This post is part of our Method & Message series by Clay Delk. Check back every other Wednesday for the latest discussions on content, context and commerce on the web.