Is Your Name Letting You Down?

August 8, 2009

Is your lousy business name putting customers off? And could you become more popular just by changing your name to something better?

While it might not seem fair, your business name can make the difference between “just getting by” and “getting ahead”. And there’s a few ways a name mistakes that can harm you.

An Ambigious Business Name

You might think that the therapist who managed to buy the domain name would be laughing all the way to the bank. But if you read the name carefully, you’ll notice that it also has a two word meaning which potential clients just wouldn’t find attractive at all.

And I’m sure the erection specialists in Mammoth truly believed that Mammoth Erection sounded good, when they first came up with a name for their business. I guess there are times when it pays to bounce your ideas off other people.

The XYZ Business Name Problem

If your business name doesn’t come up in the right section of the alphabet, you could be losing customers. For example, if your blog name begins with VWXY or Z and your customers use a reader, chances are they may get round to reading you less often, or worse still, not at all.

Also, if you’re an author whose name comes in at the end of the alphabet, you may wind up with a crappy shelf position in the bookstore. So it may be worth visiting a few stores before you publish that bestseller, to see what names appear at eye level and choose an appropriate pseudonym.

Names That Don’t Convey The Right Image:

Does your name paint the picture you want people to see? Some folks change their name because the original just didn’t sound glamorous enough. Tom Cruise used to be Thomas Mapother IV; Marion Morrison switched to John Wayne and Demetria Guynes became Demi Moore.

A Name People Can’t Say or Spell:

Word of mouth is important, no matter what business you’re in. But if your name is impossible to say or spell, how can people talk about you?

If you have a real tongue twister of a name, it may be time to simplify it. You could simply lob a bit off the end, like Jennifer Anastassakis who switched to Jennifer Aniston. Or you could cut out the beginning like Goldie Studlendegehawn, who became Goldie Hawn.

Does your name, or your business name cause you problems? Would you change it?

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46 Responses to “Is Your Name Letting You Down?”

  1. RIta on August 8th, 2009 5:54 pm

    Ah, what’s in a name? Your character or chance of future success. You wear your name to tell people the most about you…or your business. Seems perfectly clear that a “good name:” is one’s own prized possession,

    Still awaiting the email, Cath…


  2. Annie Anderson on August 8th, 2009 6:36 pm

    Hey Cath -

    You know, I think names do make a difference. Not always, of course, but often enough that it should be no light matter. It’s certainly important.

    For example, Annie is my nickname. My full first name LeAnne. Family has always called me Annie and so when I when decided to make my name in the blogosphere and internet worlds as a writer and designer, I wanted something that was easy for people to remember and spell. So, I started using Annie with everybody and not just family and close friends. Nowadays most people know me as Annie and few know my full name. It’s fine with me. ;-)

    Not only does it give me an identity in my chosen niche, it gives me a little bit of anonymity as well.

    And now you know. ;-) LOL


    Annie Anderson’s last blog post..Thoughts on tweetdeck

  3. Akemi - Yes to Me on August 8th, 2009 7:13 pm

    Ah, I’ve been thinking about this!
    I noticed the XYZ problem only after I names my blog “Yes to Me”…
    On the other hand, Akemi is a pretty good name. I know it’s a new name to many English speaking people, but still, it’s not too difficult. And I think too common name can be an issue, like Seth Godin says. If you have a common name, you might want to think of ways to differentiate yourself. (Like, “Catherine? Which Catherine? Oh, that BOLD Cath Lawson!!!)

    Akemi – Yes to Me’s last blog post..Are You The Only Spiritual Person You Know?

  4. Brad Shorr on August 8th, 2009 8:43 pm

    Hi Cath, This is a good post to read before you open a business! Sometimes I work with clients who have a poor company name, but they’ve got too much invested in it to change. In cases like that, a really strong tag line can help immensely.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..10 Great Twitter Follows

  5. Kelvin Kao on August 8th, 2009 8:56 pm

    I am from Taiwan so I had a Chinese translation name. Had I not know my own Chinese name, I wouldn’t have figured out how to say it from the spelling alone. Kelvin is a lot easier.

    Kelvin Kao’s last blog post..Friendster Messages from Quintuplets!

  6. Betsy Wuebker on August 8th, 2009 9:42 pm

    Hi Cath – Difficult names are sort of my specialty – I was born into one and now I’ve married another. I’d drop the “u” in Wuebker like a prom dress in the back of a pickup truck if it were up to me. But it’s not. Until then, I’ll just have to put up with mis-pronounciations that are hilarious.

    Mammoth Erections and The Rapist (therapist) are pretty funny, too.

    Betsy Wuebker’s last blog post..LAKE MINNETONKA – THE LURE AND THE LORE

  7. Davina on August 8th, 2009 10:16 pm

    Hi Cath. I did change my name. Davina is my middle name. My first name is actually April. About eight years ago I made the switch after deciding that April was just too nice and flowery and Davina was stronger and more exotic. I’m glad I made the change. Of course the spelling is always an issue as most people hear Devina when I pronounce it.

    As for my two businesses, Writer Sense Communications and Crimson Compass Life Coaching… I’m happy with the names I chose.

    Davina’s last blog post..Morning Muse: Writer’s Block, Pass the Windex

  8. Avani Mehta on August 8th, 2009 10:45 pm

    I don’t like my domain name for this reason. Although ‘Avani’ and ‘Mehta’ are both highly common words/names in India especially the part from where I come, it’s not memorable and neither familiar for non-indians. Usually people get neither name nor spelling right.

    Both these factors make it difficult for people to share and remember my domain name verbally.

    What’s good about my domain name is that it can help in creating my own brand and I can change it’s niche if ever there is a need for this.

    Avani Mehta’s last blog post..Isn’t The Joy Of Doing Enough?

  9. Vered - Blogger for Hire on August 9th, 2009 3:12 am

    Ha. My name would never fly in Hollywood. But it’s MY name and part of my identity.

    Would “Rose DeLeon” be better than “Vered DeLeeuw”? Who knows. Anyway, since I seem to be doing just fine with my own name, I think I’m gonna keep it for now. :)

    Vered – Blogger for Hire’s last blog post..Value of Social Networking

  10. Stephen Miracle on August 9th, 2009 4:30 am

    I was reading this post in my feedreader and just had to leave a comment as it resonated with me so much. My last name is Miracle and has been a huge blessing and curse. Needless to say, it was a huge source for namecalling as I was going through elementary school. But in the positive note, I have been able to get out of most speeding tickets just because the cop found my name interesting.. can’t beat that.

    Stephen Miracle’s last blog post..Antique Engagement Ring Styles

  11. cathlawson on August 9th, 2009 10:52 am

    Hi Rita – I haven’t forgotten you – will hopefully get an email to you today.

    Hi Annie – You have a really nice name and it’s definitely easier to spell than Leanne.

    LOL Akemi – I feel bad because I often feel too sleepy before I get to Yes To Me in my reader. It’s a shame you can’t get your blog title to come up something like Akemi Gaines at Yes To Me then you’d come up in the top of people’s readers. I bet there is a way.

    Hi Brad – That’s a difficult situation to be in. I like the idea of a
    strong tagline instead. I’ve been needing to change my own for a while – I’ve seen some awesome ones recently.

    Hi Kelvin – I can imagine that would be difficult. Chinese writing looks so complicated.

    LOL Betsy – you definitely don’t have an easy name to spell or say. Looking back, I have to wonder if it isn’t easier just to choose yourself a name you like instead of changing it every time you get married.

    Hi Davina – Those are both good names. Is it kind of weird at first when you change your name? You must have got used to people calling you April – did you ever forget to answer to Davina?

    Hi Avani – I find Avani easy to remember but I forget how to spell Mehta. Using your own name is smart for branding purposes and you can always have a tagline which says what you’re about.

    Hi Vered – I think you have a good name – I don’t know any other Vered’s. I do always have to check the spelling of your last name if I’m linking to you though.

    Hi Stephen – I know another blogger with the last name Miracle and I used to think he’d made it up. I wonder where it originated?

  12. Natural on August 9th, 2009 11:47 am

    true and funny – but not. i’ve also seen the same thing with certain company logos. they look like something other than what was probably intended.

    simple is best. if you can throw memorable in there w.o giving the wrong impression, even better, but if not, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

    Natural’s last blog post..Why I Miss The Rotary Phone

  13. Jason Cohen on August 9th, 2009 3:11 pm

    Terrific points, thanks!

    And timely — I’ve been considering changing the name of my blog.

    Question back at you (and the other commenters!): What about the penalty of CHANGING your name? Sure you can forward your DNS etc etc, but what about the branding impact? Should you care? Is it worth it if your name is that much better?

    Jason Cohen’s last blog post..Darwinian explanation and advice for “Going Viral”

  14. Davina on August 9th, 2009 8:24 pm

    It was odd at first, only because I had to keep reminding people. But I never forgot to answer to Davina. It felt very right to wear that name.

    Davina’s last blog post..Group Writing Project: The Yogi Blogger

  15. Marelisa on August 9th, 2009 10:25 pm

    Hi Cath: The url to my blog is really difficult, I need to do something about that. As for the name of my blog, I think “Marelisa” might be a difficult name to remember at first, but hey, people just need to remember “abundance blog” and I’m the first entry that comes up in google for that. :-)

    Marelisa’s last blog post..114 Ways to Celebrate Life: Free Ebook

  16. Barbara Swafford on August 10th, 2009 8:19 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Great question. When I started my blog, I didn’t think it would go anywhere as I was just sharing my thoughts to what I thought was my “invisible” audience. Although I’ve had some ask me “why”, it’s proven to be memorable and a good ice breaker.

    As for my own name, I hope to keep it for many more years. :)

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Looking Into The Future

  17. cathlawson on August 10th, 2009 11:06 am

    Hi Valerie – I totally agree on keeping it simple. It definitely is safer.

    Hi Jason – I think it’s worth it if the new name and logo is more memorable and better describes what you’re doing. I think your blog has some great content but I don’t find the title easy to remember, so it may be well worth it.

    Hi Davina – I had a friend change her name a long time ago and it was difficult to remember to call her the new name.

    Hi Marelisa – your url is definitely a bit of mouthful. But you rank very well everywhere for your own name. If I’m not using my Google reader and want to go to your blog quickly I just type Marelisa into Google and you’re there.

  18. Robin on August 10th, 2009 12:13 pm

    Cath – you are so funny! I’ve noticed I have to be careful with domain names – sometimes the one you want just won’t work at all, like the therapist example. Also funny I am reading this today – we just had our new business name confirmation letter today – the online computer rejected it saying it was too similar to others, but a real person must have okayed it. I’m too shy to say what it is just yet (but we love it) – and we have drunk a bottle of red wine to celebrate. – R

    Robin’s last blog post..Blogger Meet-Up!

  19. Dot on August 10th, 2009 2:30 pm

    My last name has always given me trouble. No one ever pronounces it right, or if they do, they spell it wrong, but it’s me and it’s going to stay me.

    I’ve had several blog names and they never seem quite right. For non-business blogs, I think it makes more sense to pick a name that could relate to a variety fo things, because you never know what you might want to write about. For instance, Deeper Issues doesn’t sound like there would be humor in it, or science. Something like Purple Frog might be a lot better, since there aren’t as many expectations.

    Dot’s last blog post..Loss

  20. cathlawson on August 10th, 2009 4:44 pm

    Hi Barbara – I like your blog name – it’s a good conversation starter.

    Congratulations Robin, that’s brilliant news. Far too many decisions are made by computers – it’s frightening.

    Hi Dot, I like the name Deeper Issues but I see what you mean. Purple Frog is a great name too.

  21. Kathy | Virtual Impax on August 10th, 2009 9:11 pm

    I FREQUENTLY get compliments on my business name – and I’m constantly explaining about how GAWD AWFUL the name I chose is.

    a) I have to spell it all the time. BAD SIGN
    b) No keywords in the name or domain name – I have to work hard for the traffic I do get
    c) it comes at the END of every directory because it comes at the END of the alphabet

    Easy to spell – starts with an a, b,c or a number – short – contains keywords.

    Sigh – so I spend my time trying to help others avoid MY numerous and painful mistakes.

    Kathy | Virtual Impax’s last blog post..Social Media’s Magic Ingredient

  22. Kathy | Virtual Impax on August 10th, 2009 9:11 pm

    I FREQUENTLY get compliments on my business name – and I’m constantly explaining about how GAWD AWFUL the name I chose is.

    a) I have to spell it all the time. BAD SIGN
    b) No keywords in the name or domain name – I have to work hard for the traffic I do get
    c) it comes at the END of every directory because it comes at the END of the alphabet

    The next time I launch a business – I’ll name it something that’s easy to spell – starts with an a, b,c or a number – short – and make SURE it contains keywords.

    Sigh – so I spend my time trying to help others avoid MY numerous and painful mistakes.

    Kathy | Virtual Impax’s last blog post..Social Media’s Magic Ingredient

  23. Kathy | Virtual Impax on August 10th, 2009 9:13 pm

    DAMNED BROWSER!!! Now I’ve commented TWICE!!! Cath – sorry to “spam” your comments… can you remove TWO of these for me to hide my shame? (This one and ONE of the above bits of drivel!!!)

    Kathy | Virtual Impax’s last blog post..Social Media’s Magic Ingredient

  24. J.D. Meier on August 11th, 2009 7:42 am

    It’s way too true.

    In fact, my name sort of sucks. The J.D. part is cool, but the rest is hard to spell. Maybe I need to go Arnold style and run with JD nolastnameneeded? … ;)

    The right name does make all the difference. Evocative names are sticky and sell themselves. For example, I originally launched “the book share.” People were quick to tell me the named sucked. When I launched “Sources of Insight” suddenly people were intrigued, like smart stuff must be lurking inside or wisdom of the ages is going to pop out or something. There’s a lot to be said for the right name.

    J.D. Meier’s last blog post..How To Have a Strong Week

  25. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach on August 11th, 2009 8:44 pm

    Oh my, do you have a couple of weeks to listen to me expound upon this idea?

    I firmly believe that BEFORE you build a website around your product/niche/etc., you should FIRST have:

    Your name domain (ie, ,,, etc.)


    Your tag name domain (ie, ,, etc.).

    Build up your name FIRST and foremost and THEN focus on your niche. That way, should your niche be swallowed by the recession/economy/etc., you still have your name domain on which you can rely until you regroup and reinvent yourself.

    I’ve had both and now for 10+ years – they’re invaluable to me.

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach’s last blog post..6 Brilliant Squeeze Page Resources You’ll Want To Explore Part 1

  26. John Hoff - WpBlogHost on August 11th, 2009 9:35 pm

    Funny you should talk about this because today I was taking a good look at our name and considering changing it from WpBlogHost to WP Blog Host.

    I think the one word spelling looks nicer in graphics, but there have been some people who have read it wrong. Plus WordPress is usually WP, not Wp.

    I think your name can definitely hurt you. Great points.

    John Hoff – WpBlogHost’s last blog post..A-List Bloggers & Everyday Bloggers, They Do Things Differently

  27. Trade Show Guru on August 11th, 2009 9:51 pm

    hi Cath,
    I once saw a list of “ten domain name blunders” with names like I thought I’d bookmarked it but now I can’t find it. The crazy thing was that all of the names were REAL domains…
    Anyway, I’m happy with my name but if it was Dingle Jughead I’d probably change it. ~ Steve, the trade show guru

    Trade Show Guru’s last blog post..Trade Show Kinsella

  28. Andrew on August 12th, 2009 2:40 am


    Related to your third point – your business name should also reflect the type of goods or services you sell if at all possible.

    If I was to perform a Google search for an accountant, for example, I would be much more likely to click on a link whereby the firm in question had the word ‘Accountant’ or ‘Accountancy Services’ in their business name than I would where the firm in question did not have such a word in it’s name.

    The name ‘Webber Certified Practising Accountants’ for example, tells me right off the bat that the firm in question are accountants – which is what I am looking for.

    On the other hand, names like “Webber & Associates” or “Webber Services,” do not make it clear what the business actually does, and I personally would not be likely to follow a link to such a company.

    In business, your trading name is part of the sales process, and should be chosen with great care accordingly.

    Andrew’s last blog post..Stern Hu’s detention and why the international business community should be worried

  29. cathlawson on August 12th, 2009 3:51 am

    Hi Kathy – I like the name Virtual Impax. I honestly don’t think keywords in the domain name matter too much. Probably the only downside is that you come at the bottom or the reader cos of the “V”.

    LOL – JD – I think JD is a good name – and I like Sources Of Insight too. Meier can be a bit of a pain to spell until you get used to it..

    Hi Barbara – I never really thought about a tag domain name. And is an awesome one.

    Hi John – I think you should change it. It isn’t easy on the eye. And it wouldn’t be a massive change – you don’t need to change the domain or anything.

    LOL Steve – I’ve seen some real clangers listed. I found a really bad local one a couple of years ago. Don’t recall what it was but I emailed the company and they didn’t get back to me. They were probably sick of people telling them.

    Hi Andrew – That is true to a point – especially online but I think it also depends on the type of business you’re looking for. If your name doesn’t describe what you do – sometimes people will ask you, then you get the opportunity to tell them about your company.

  30. Jason Cohen on August 12th, 2009 4:08 pm

    It’s fine to say “You should pick a name FIRST and then build a company,” and of course you should try.

    But life usually doesn’t work out that way. You often don’t discover the best words, key words, your USP, or other such things until 1-2 years in.

    Jason Cohen’s last blog post..Tips for increasing software conversions, parts 1 & 2

  31. Cath Lawson on August 13th, 2009 2:04 pm

    Hi Jason – That is very true. If you tried to come up with a good business name before anything else, you’d probably never get started. And I don’t think it’s the name that’s so important. It’s not the name folk remember – it’s the log.

    I can’t even pick titles for blog posts until I’ve written them. I want to pitch a non-fiction book and I should be able to do it with three chapters and a title. But I can’t come up with a great title and it’s titles that sell books.

    Will you need to change the domain too? That is not quite as easy but do-able. Wendy Piersall changed her domain name last year to

    I think her traffic dropped initially but it gradually picked up again.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Is Your Name Letting You Down?

  32. Patricia on August 14th, 2009 12:48 am

    My last name was not too popular in Scotland and no one hesitated to tell me that – but it is electrically powerful name in Canada and no one has ever hesitated in telling me that.

    I love my blog/business name and I think it bodes well.

    I grew into my first name as I was Patty when little, which I hated, then Pat – not me either, then HAM like my brother who made it through Junior High before me – Tricia for college and now I feel like I can wear the handle of the name I truly feel is mine. Patricia means a woman of wealth and wisdom.

    And here is a winning Name: Cath Lawson, you won a copy of Jannie’s CD – I need a Man….so email me your address and I will get it into the mail right away.

    Patricia’s last blog post..Home Again, Home Again – Higgity Fie

  33. Just Three Things for a Friday Post – on August 14th, 2009 8:25 am

    [...] copy of Jannie’s CD goes to Cath Lawson because she did say that she did not have the CD and she [...]

  34. Cath Lawson on August 14th, 2009 7:27 pm

    Hi Patricia – I didn’t think you had a second name that would cause people to be mean to you – i hope it didn’t spoil your trip. I like Patty and Patricia but Pat is not good – glad you didn’t stick with that.

    Thank you very much for the CD – I love Jannie’s singing. But I thought it was a download – I hope it isn’t going to cost you too much to mail over here. I meant to come back and say something worthy too – but my mind has been AWOL this week.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..Is Your Name Letting You Down?

  35. Patricia on August 14th, 2009 8:38 pm

    It will not cost me much at all, I just need your address to send it off.

    My last name is a clan name in Scotland of a clan that supported the King and not Prince Charles…no one was mean, they just had to tell me that whenever I was searching for something clan related.
    My Mother’s name was so changed in spelling that we could find out nothing except that her family estate is in England (maybe the Lakes District) and the family still lives there

    I did get a very lovely Thistle broach – very contemporary from a jewelry store called Hamilton and Inch in Edinburgh – I love it – so mission accomplished on that front.

    Nothing spoiled my trip – I will just have to come back to discover even more.

    Patricia’s last blog post..Just Three Things for a Friday Post

  36. John Everett on August 15th, 2009 9:28 am

    We started The Restless Mouse Novelty Co. over ten years ago, over time I think we would have done better with something more pithy. It doesn’t help that I have a speech impediment and have trouble answering the phone with my own stupid business name!

    John Everett’s last blog post..Every room smells funny!

  37. wilhb81 on August 17th, 2009 6:48 am

    Honestly, Cath. Names DO matter to one person, as it’s not only reflects one person’s image, as it could be a brand for the person as well!

    wilhb81′s last blog post..Business one-liners 63

  38. cathlawson on August 17th, 2009 11:23 pm

    Thanks Patricia – I will email you the address.

    And I’m glad you had an awesome time. I hope you’re going to write all about it. Edinburgh is lovely – it’s one of my favourite places in the UK.

    Hi John – I think The Restless Mouse Novelty Co is a fab name. But I can see how it might be difficult to say – speech impediment or not. Maybe you could just shorten it to The Restless Mouse when you answer the phone?

    Hi Wilson – well exactly – and your personal brand is important.

  39. Belajar internet on August 20th, 2009 3:34 am

    Chosing name for business is important one, we have to choice carefully, because we use it life time.


  40. Glenn London on August 20th, 2009 5:14 am

    This is a timely piece; I’ve been wrestling with changing my home exchange business name (InventedCity) to something more transparent. And just when I’m about to do so, I consider oddities like Yahoo Bing Google which (imo) don’t conveying the meaning of their sites.

    Still working on the decision.

  41. Sarah | Princess Costumes on August 21st, 2009 5:16 pm


    Your raise very valid points with name selection. Picking the right name can get you extra business. Names which are simple, clear and memorable stay with our prospects. I must say that the Therapist URL fits these criteria…so we must be aware of secondary meanings. Thanks for that…I needed a good laugh this morning!

    What’s it called when a person’s first and last name both start with the same letters. Angie Anderson, David DeGregor or Sarah Suzuki? I find I remember those names much easier. Would you agree? Then would that hold true for a business name as well?

    Sarah | Princess Costumes’s last blog post..Belle Costumes

  42. Ricardo Bueno on August 27th, 2009 7:19 am

    Funny that I come across this…

    My name (or rather my blog’s name and Twitter ID):… Is one major pain to spell! BUT…I wouldn’t and won’t be changing it any time soon.

    For one: it’s a great conversation starter! People recognize it and resonate with it. Heck, they even call me “Ribeezie” when they pick up the phone can call.

    Two: well I don’t know what number 2 was but basically, I picked it, it stuck and there we go. I might have to pronounce it a few times when I speak but it works :-)

    Ricardo Bueno’s last blog post..Bobby Mcferrin Show Us How To Engage With An Audience

  43. Patricia on September 3rd, 2009 4:40 am

    Cath I saw your comments on Betsy’s post….did you see Deep Friar’s post on 9/2/2009? Beautiful pictures of Ontario

    thought you might enjoy it?

    Still hoping you will email me so I can send you winning CD?

    Patricia’s last blog post..I Spy…Beauty

  44. Steve (Internet Marketing For Free) Thompson on September 10th, 2009 1:13 am

    Hi Cath, A business name is one of the most important jobs in starting your own business, even more so now with the internet. You will need to get a web name and a company name that is close together or the same and that is not easy these days.

  45. Chris Peterson on September 29th, 2009 11:38 am

    Hey Cathy!
    I just think that those were fabulous practical suggestions regarding the aspects one must avoid. However, some newbies would still remain clueless on do’s . To give you a nice analogy, absence of diseases isn’t good health, friend. I am sure that would be helpful to you & your readers.

    Chris Peterson’s last blog post..Follow Your Passion, Your Dreams!

  46. Vitalka on December 21st, 2009 3:41 pm

    Hi Cath!
    Sure, name has the meaning, especially when we speaking about bad ones. Trough all life it may influence on person (character), just because mother and father given such a name when child was born.
    From other side, normal (common) names will not shine in business, so, better to use some fine nickname in converstaion with clients.
    And, mostly, people as the first step investing in finding good name for their company, then building a site and during all the period owner’ name is not so important, because people tell more about company name and web-site name.

    Vitalka’s last blog post..????????? GPS ????????? GP43BL

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