Company names don’t always translate well to domain names

Feb 1, 2008   //   by Stephan Spencer   //   Branding, Online PR, Search Engines, Web Marketing  //  7 Comments

Be careful when converting your company name / brand name into an (available) domain name; it can have embarrassing repercussions.

I was reminded of this fact recently when seeing an email in my inbox that was sent to multiple recipients, including myself. One of the recipients was someone at arsecommerce.com. This domain name may appear rather ordinary to us Americans. But to those who speak “the Queen’s English” – including those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – I bet they get a chuckle when they see it. I can imagine them thinking to themselves “Is this the company that put the “arse” in commerce?”. The company is ARS Ecommerce, not Arse Commerce.

Company names that work well in one context may not work so well in another. I remember a classic example of this from a hilarious piece in Business 2.0 magazine (circa 2001) called “Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History“. Here’s the money quote:

In October 1998, an e-commerce software vendor launches with the name Accompany, which, when said aloud, sounds exactly like “a company.” As in “Hi, I’m calling from Accompany.” “Which company?” “Accompany.” And so forth. It changes its name to MobShop in March 2000.

In my post on the News.com blog titled “Eleven steps to buying a domain name that doesn’t suck, I give another classic example of a domain name faux pas: therapistfinder.com. No, it’s a site for finding therapists, not rapists.

You also have to consider whether your choice of domain name will get you inadvertently blocked by email firewalls or the search engines’ adult filters.

Take for example this parts store – partsexpress.com – hyphenating the two words would have been a good idea. Ditto for whorepresents.com, an agency that represents celebrities.

Here are a few other examples of domain names gone horribly wrong:

  • cumstore.co.uk for Cumbria Storage Systems, Ltd.
  • choosespain.com to travel in Spain, pain-free!
  • mammotherection.com deals with modern architecture and engineering
  • cummingfirst.com is for a church in Cumming, Georgia

While these are pretty funny (and/or disturbing, depending upon your point-of-view), these are reputation management nightmares. Sadly, they were all preventable — usually with merely a well-placed hyphen or change in keywords. NYCanal.com could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment by choosing ny-canal.com or newyorkcanal.com instead.

7 Comments

  • This is so important when considering the domain name to use for a business that you may be leaving one day as well. I wouldn’t want a business branded under the name of James D. Brausch and I am pretty sure he wouldn’t want to sell his name, but he might want to sell the company someday.

  • I agree with your comments Nicki, I prefer to have a URL that is keyword rich, others prefer not

  • I was advised to get a keyword rich domain, at the time there where plenty on offer. A few years ago who would have realised keyword rich domains would be so attractive.

  • I tried to incorporate both aspects into my domain name.

  • Try being present at the meeting where the new web address was announced. I thought they were pulling my leg. I started to snicker and then I realized, in shock, that they were serious.

  • or talking to a vendor for the first time, then having to explain, Its A-R-S Ecommerce as they try not laugh at you. I’ve found in the long run its a great icebreaker though.

  • Yes, its sad. When we were informed of the change, there was a collective sigh among the employees. We knew we’d be explaining for months that we are not selling arse on the internet.

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