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Domain Names for Startups and A/B Testing

Domain Names for Startups and Potential A/B Testing

This is a collaborative-wave post written by Tracy Lee and Omar Ead.

This post was inspired by a question posted on LSC this weekend in regards to four different catchphrases Omar was torn between for his startup.

This blog post will take you through:

  • Product abstract
  • Problem encountered
  • Problem-solution analysis
  • Conclusion

PRODUCT ABSTRACT

Omar’s product is a collaborative site where entrepreneurs can post anecdotes, quotes, and stories about their daily experiences.

PROBLEM ENCOUNTERED

What catchphrase to use? (Catchphrase would be used as the URL of the website, the tagline, and as the theme of the website.)

Initially, Omar listed 20 different catchphrases on Aardvarks and Mechanical Turk.

The top 4 results were:

  • Make it Happyn (happen)
  • No Risk No Reward
  • This is Sparta!
  • It is what it is

PROBLEM-SOLUTION ANALYSIS

Since Omar’s goal for his product is to have heavy adoption within the startup community (similar to what fmylife.com* has done with its user base), it is vastly important for him to launch the site with an awesome catchphrase.

*fmylife.com was used as an example here because the catchphrase is the domain name. It defines the product to an extent and mirror’s Omar’s goal.

fmylife

The battle with choosing the proper catchphrase aligns with the first step in Dave McClure’s AARRR concept . It’s acquisition. Everyone wants it, and in this case it’s also Omar’s UVP (unique value proposition).

aarrr

In a recent article, Ash Maurya discusses the idea of the UVP (unique value proposition) in relation to Omar’s problem.

He articulates the idea of a UVP as: “… a headline, image, or tagline that needs to engage the visitor in the first 5 seconds. The “experts” agree that a great UVP can more than compensate for getting everything else wrong on the page.”

In Omar’s situation, he determined the catchphrase needs to include the following elements:

  • Useful as a domain name (URL)
  • Define the product
  • Encourages culture (this is a user generated site).
  • Account for the power of distribution

USEFUL AS A DOMAIN

The phrase has to be simple, quick and serve as a URL. This limits Omar to choosing short, quick catchphrases that are easy to remember.

Omar also takes into consideration the SEO friendliness of the catchphrase/domain name. He notes a relevant name as your URL address is always a plus for SEO.

DEFINE THE PRODUCT

Omar wants the catchphrase to capture the essence of his target market and engage them.

Defining your product can be difficult, and it may take awhile before you can capture its essence.  Sometimes it’s an evolution that comes with product growth. In this case, the name and catchphrase are one in the same therefore the problem is of importance before the product launch.

Omar needs to be confident that the catchphrase chosen will engage the customer within a matter of seconds of landing on his site.

ENCOURAGES CULTURE

Creating a catchphrase that defines your product and engages your target market is important, but it’s also important to take into consideration future culture development with the phrase.

This contributes to market stickiness (the “retention” factor of Dave McClure’s AARRR concept).

Questions to ask:

Does the catchphrase provide layers of abstraction to the customer visiting your site (where people might drop off)?

Will it be a self-serving catchphrase, or will a customer have to struggle to “connect the dots” when they hear the name?

(From Peter, a member of the LSC) When they try to remember the name later, if they knew what the offering is, will it help them remember the name? (e.g., if they remember it’s about entrepreneurship, will that help them remember the name?) The flip is if they remember the name, will they remember what the offering is? (e.g., if they remember it’s called “No Risk No Reward”, will that help them remember that it’s about entrepreneurship?)

ACCOUNT FOR THE POWER OF DISTRIBUTION

Accounting for the power of distribution is important to keep in mind when choosing a catchphrase.

Distribution serves many ends, including marketing (i.e. viral marketing, is it tweetable, etc…)

WHAT ABOUT A/B TESTING DOMAIN NAMES?

After the back and forth between Omar and myself this weekend, I suggested he simply A/B test the two top catchphrases to determine the best one.

How might this affect brand recognition and how do you handle customer confusion before and after the testing? As an entrepreneur, we often forget that in the early stages of your startup, no one really cares about your product.

Before you gain traction, why not A/B test catchphrases to test bounce rate and conversion rates? After a decision has been made, simply forward the less optimal domain to the other.

abtesting

Omar response to this was: I wouldn’t go this far. Is it really necessary to pour in effort for this sort of problem?

And he’s right. If it’s not worth it to test, don’t. But if you’re going to days going back and forth, testing may help you move forward quickly without wasting any more time and can also assist in partner disagreements (don’t argue, test theories and let the data speak for itself).

CONCLUSION

What slogan, catchphrase, or domain name do you ultimately go with? It’s been a battle of mine many a time, and in the end, it’s not about the catchphrase or domain name- it’s about the product.

Let’s take Twitter for example. What’s a twitter? When people hear “twitter”, is it catchy? Or is it catchy because the product is awesome? Did Twitter spend hours, even days, thinking about what to name their product?

You must find a balance between deciding how much time to actually spend on this problem versus just “going with it”.

Omar did a great job at following the lean startup mantra for choosing a catchphrase, and in conversing with him we came to the consensus that it was important due to the nature of his product to make sure the catchphrase was:

  • Useful as a domain
  • Defined the product
  • Encouraged culture
  • Accounted for the power of distribution

A/B testing domain names was a fun suggestion and is again, a way to minimize time spent on something that may be trivial in your personal startup journey. If you really can’t decide, test out your theories and see what sticks.

Again, when in doubt, let the data do the talking.

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