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How Using a Clever Domain Name May Work Against You

Steve Jones Posted on August 4, 2016

Clever Domain Name

One of the biggest reasons we give for having a better domain is to help you stand out among over 326.4 million registered domains. “Standing out” might lead you to believe that you should have a clever domain name to catch people’s attention, but that can easily backfire.

Clever names take a variety of forms. You might use a name with a double-meaning, a play-on-words, an obscure foreign word with relevant meaning, a domain hack or perhaps an interesting brandable misspelling/variation.

Many brandable domain names are meant to be clever and some have great success. A lot of recent startups have gone this route including the successful Hipmunk and Pinterest. Brandable phrase domains used in promotions can be clever as well, such as FedEx’s and Durex’s

Getting noticed is half the battle and these kinds of names do it well. Not only that, but they’re often less expensive to buy than straightforward domains. So clever domains do have a lot of positives going for them. Not all of them work well however.

What are potential downsides to going with a clever name?

1. Too clever and it may not “connect”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming others see what you do. Getting a little bit too clever can result in a name that goes completely over most people’s heads. Then it simply becomes weird or confusing because they have no idea the meaning of the name.

2. Does it actually mean anything?

Word play can be an art and sometimes it’s tempting to display it wherever you can. If you use wordplay in a domain, make sure it actually does have some meaning. Being clever just to be clever usually doesn’t bode well for a brand.

3. With a double-meaning, the “other” meaning might win out

You might try to spice up your brand with an adult double entendre. Sometimes it can backfire, namely if the adult meaning wins out. What if someone seeing the domain actually expected adult content to be on it? Always be careful going this route.

4. May not come off as serious

There’s a fine line between clever and silly. Silly is not an adjective most businesses would want associated with them. Social-targeted sites have managed to see success with silly names but it won’t work for every business.

5. May simply alienate some people

Even if you can avoid coming off as silly, clever names in general tend to just alienate some people. You can’t please everyone, but realize that not everyone responds well to these kinds of names.

6. Catchy phrases don’t always make good brands

Brandable phrase domains can be very effective and are they’re used everywhere for slogans and promotions with great success. That said, people usually don’t expect a primary brand name to be a brandable phrase and it can hurt perception and memorability. Often a brand using a phrase is better suited with an acronym, such as how phone company Research In Motion goes by RIM.

I encourage you to look at a clever domains as a viable option for a brand, but weigh the positives with the negatives. It’s easy to get too attached to a clever domain name which may not even be a good one let alone right for your business. Consider the identity you want to portray and the message you want to convey. Make sure those come through with the domain you get.

At Domainate, we can help you figure out the right style of domain name for your business brand. We’ve helped new startups brand and billion dollar corporations rebrand with great success on clever and straightforward domains alike. Contact us if you need help with getting the best domain for your business.


Steve Jones

Steve Jones is an online marketing strategist specializing in branding, domain names, funnel development, and Facebook advertising. He currently serves as COO of Domainate Incorporated. Steve's expertise in branding and domain names spans back to 2004 and he has personally...

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Categories: Branding & Domains
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