Should You Name Your Business an SEO Keyword Phrase?

"Dear Top Hat IMC: I'm a start-up working my way towards the branding process. I spoke with some colleagues who recommended that I name my business a specific search-engine-optimized keyword phrase. They claim that way everything I do will be in position to attract prospects online, which is where my primary audience hangs out. What are your thoughts on this?"


I must say—this is one of my favorite questions we’ve ever been asked. This conversation puts us at the intersection between branding and search engine optimization (SEO).

In Summary: Absolutely Not

The short answer is no—we don’t recommend this.

When you’re talking about the branding design practice, your goal is to create a brand that will last the test of time. Not only that though, your goal is to create something that’s understood and compelling to your ideal customers.

I think it’s a really great first step that you understand that your primary audience is online. I wouldn’t, however, use keyword research as your starting point for building a brand, which I’ll describe more in depth in a minute.

Side Note: Defining a SEO Keyword Phrase

The practice of cultivating SEO keyword phrases starts by identifying what your ideal customers are inputting into search engines. Furthermore these keyword phrases should indicate what they’re searching (or could be searching) for. By understanding this, you’ll know how you can connect the dots—your product and their organic search.

The above image is an example of a few keyword phrases quickly identified. As you can see, if I’m the person actually entering this keyword phrase, it’s very obvious what kind of product will help me. Something that will get my cat to stop scratching the furniture.

The SEO keyword process would uncover this and measure its volume. Otherwise, how many people are actually searching for this?

From there, what the colleagues are proposing is that a brand name be spun from some popular keyword phrase. That way, in theory, the solution brand will rank high and get a lot of traffic.

Use the Branding Design Process to Conceive Your Brand Name

I would start in the market research and branding process:

  • Understanding your ideal customers like your family
  • Diving into your own story
  • Fearlessly entering the naming and brand copywriting process
  • Finally, bringing the brand to visual life.

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Name Your Brand After an SEO Keyword Phrase

Only Using SEO Keyword Phrases Limits Your Potential

If you narrow your brand name down to a list of keyword phrases, you’re limiting your potential.

A name is literally everything. There shouldn’t be boundaries on uncovering the absolute best brand name.

As you can see from our example above, sometimes keyword phrases can be fairly long. Is “get my cat to stop scratching furniture” a great brand name? In my opinion, not really. You might be able to spin a cool derivative that’s somewhat catchy, but again, you’re really limited creatively.

Using SEO Keyword Phrases for Your Brand Name Leaves You Vulnerable to a Brand Name That Will Break Down over Time

With a brand, again, your goal is to create an identity that will last the test of time.

What you identify with keyword research can dramatically change over time. One year it might be one set of keyword phrases and another year it might be another set entirely. The art of keyword research is constantly changing and transforming.

A brand that’s constantly changing—as dramatically as keyword phrases can over time—will lose its audience quickly. What your essentially doing is creating a brand name, and corresponding visual identity, that will be outdated at some point in the near future.

Identifying SEO Keyword Phrases Doesn’t Mean You’ll Rank for Them

OK, so let’s say that you identify optimized SEO keyword phrases. You’ve discovered that “get my cat to stop scratching furniture” is popular. In fact, 50,000 people search for it a week. Obviously, if that were actually the case (I didn’t check, so it could be), and your product deals with fixing that, you’d want to rank in the top of Google search for it with your website and content.

What these guys forgot to mention is how long and difficult it is to go from zero to ranking. If there are indeed 50,000 people searching for this a week, I can guarantee that the competition already has a solid foothold. This means that you’re playing from behind with a new brand that has zero domain authority and zero SEO work that’s been done.

SEO is a Long, Deeply Involved Process

Having a keyword optimized domain URL—for example in this case “” doesn’t mean you’ll rank on the first page of Google.

In fact, a domain name doesn’t even really guarantee you much of anything. It’s just a piece of the puzzle.

Here’s a peek behind the veil at how a website high ranks for anything:

These are just a few of many things that contribute to the SEO power of your website to showcase how nuanced SEO is.

The Age and Credibility of the Domain Name

If you have a domain you just bought—that isn’t an expired domain you researched and bought—then your domain is starting with a domain authority of 0 out of 100. Your competition ranking for your keyword phrase? They might have a domain authority of 56, which is significantly higher.

The Total Number of Pages on Your Website, Their Quality and How Well They’re Optimized

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Inbound Marketing practices advocate for creating amazing pieces of content. Case and point here—website pages and blog post resources that are helpful and high quality. The more of these you have, the more momentum your website builds.

Starting at the beginning, like in this case, you have 0-2 website pages. You’d have to start creating pages/blog posts like mad and they’d have to be optimized and high-quality (readable and more than 300 words minimum).


Websites that rank highly have a lot of credible backlinks. A backlink is anytime someone links from their website to a page on your website.

Getting backlinks is an art form in and of itself. To do it right, you also need some time to get high-quality placements.

Social Signals

Social media does play into the SEO puzzle. Let’s say you publish an awesome blog post that goes viral on social media. People are tweeting it, liking it on Facebook and Pinteresting the heck out of it. Your website is going to be in a position to start ranking higher because it has that social proof.

In Summary

The long and short of it is that identifying SEO keyword phrases is the tip of the iceberg. As you can see, once you do that, you have a long journey ahead of you.

You know what though? Once you do that, you don’t need a brand name that is a keyword phrase. In fact, whether your brand name is a keyword phrase or not is irrelevant.

Focus on cultivating a truly incredible brand. When you have that, you can then leverage the separate powers of SEM to then position that brand high in the ranks.

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