OnStartups

How To Make It Hard For People To Find Your Startup Online

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on April 30, 2008 11 Comments

Ok, it's late (2:07 a.m. here in Boston), so please forgive my snarkiness.

I'm going to presume that most startups would like to be found online by people (you know, like potential users or -gasp- customers) .  People try really hard to get their internet marketing "right" so as to increase their chances of being found by the right people online.  There's a whole industry based on this need.  I should know, I'm in the business of helping businesses get found.

That's why this particular example really struck a chord with me. 

Lets start at the beginning. 

I was catching up on some of my reading when I came across an article on the Under The Radar Blog.  The article made reference to an upcoming conference they're holding where a series of startup companies present and a panel of judges...um...judge.  One of the companies on the list is Aviary described as a startup that has a "suite of web applications for people that create content".  Fair enough.  The article even provided a link to the company website:  http:/aviary.com

Just one problem.  Aviary.com doesn't go to the startup's website.  It goes to Avalon Aviary which is (drumroll), an aviary in Loveland, Colorado.  Ok, me thinks, they got the website wrong.  No big deal.  It's probably something like AviarySoftware.com or AviarySomethingElse.com.  Nope, no luck.

Given that I'm an obsessive kind of guy, I start doing Google searches.  I know the company exists.  I start using search terms that I think might work.  Things like "aviary software" don't deliver the company's website.  Tried "aviary web suite" too.  No go.  I'll spare you the gory details.  Ultimately, I found the website.

Here's where it is:  http://a.viary.com 

Ah, clever.  But, I never would have thought of it.  Sure, del.icio.us (now, delicious.com works too) pulled this off.  But, why would you intentionally do this and make life hard on yourselves.  In any case, I'm not a big fan of clever domain names.  I like easy domain names.  Ones that are easy for people to pass around and distinctive. 

Now, this story would have ended here.  Fine, sub-optimal domain name, no big deal.  But, there's more.

The Aviary website has a high Google PageRank (PR7).  This means its got some decent authority.  So, why didn't the site turn up for all the searches I did?  I was trying to find them.  Reason?  Their page title is "Aviary - Creation On The Fly".  Somehow, I don't think that people are going to search for "creation on the fly" unless they become so big and popular that people actually remember the tag-line.

Quick Tips On Being Found Online:

1.  Try to use a domain name that's not too clever and is easy to convey. 

2.  Get your page title right.  Google cares about page titles.  By "right", I mean something that actually contains terms that people searching for you might use. 

By the way, Aviary does have some really, really slick tools.  I just wish I didn't have to try so hard to find their website. 

End rant.