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    Choosing a name for a new small business has always been an important decision. But in an age where so much business is done online, your name must not only effectively distinguish who you are and what you do in person and in print, but also online.
    What sounds “distinctive” to you may be confusing to prospective customers, even if it does regularly appear on search engine lists. A name that doesn’t instantly make sense, may likely send users to another one on the list that does.
    First, let’s talk about the name itself. Many new small businesses opt to use the owner’s name or initials, and the type of products or services he or she offers (e.g., Blackwell Landscaping; JVP Accounting Services). A state, city, or neighborhood tie-in is also an option (e.g., Riverside Automotive). Choosing something less formal is also an option (Ed and Emma’s Cafe; Jenny’s Pet Care) if you feel it will appeal to your target market. But, it may also make it more difficult to establish yourself as a professional, and someone customers can trust.
    If you use something other than your personal name or your business’s legal name, most states require you to register your “Doing Business As (DBA)” name or trade name. The Small Business Administration online guide, Registering Your Doing Business As Name, can help you through the process.
    Rather than investing too much emotional capital on a specific name, come up with three to five favorites and do an internet search to make sure they are not already in use. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (www.uspto.gov) offers a trademark search tool to see if your desired name or variations of it are trademarked. In addition, the online SCORE workshop, Naming and Trademarking: Creating Your Brand’s First Impression, to help you through the process of protecting your business name and logo.
    Similar online searches will help you find if you can easily convert your business name into a domain name for your website, blog, and email (e.g., jennyspetcare.com). Internet marketing expert Edison Guzman suggests exploring other options, such as using the keywords of your product or service.
    “One of the factors search engines use to rank websites is based on keywords within the domain name,” Guzman explains. “If your company name includes those keywords already, you get double the benefit.”
    Because of the relatively low cost of registering and renewing domain names, many small businesses register multiple names that are supported by the same hosting account.
    “This makes it easier for you to choose which domain you advertise online and off,” Guzman says. “Just make sure you choose the best keyword or phrase people are using to find your product or service.”
    This column is provided by Southwest Illinois SCORE with locations in Godfrey and Belleville. For more information contact (618) 467-2280, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; or visit score.org