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

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


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  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:/

Just one problem. 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 or  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: 

Ah, clever.  But, I never would have thought of it.  Sure, (now, 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. 

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Apr 30, 2008


I honestly would *love* to own, but it's already taken. This wasn't about us trying to be clever... just making do with what is available to us with the hope that when we do have greater resources, will then be in reach and we won't need to change our branding too drastically.
Now speaking of being too clever, had you just Googled "Aviary" we are actually the 1st result. :)

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 3:12 AM by Avi Muchnick

And now I realize I just responded snarkily to someone who gave genuinely good advice to startups picking a name (never minding the agonizing decision process on our end in choosing to go forward with initially).
I tend to shoot from the hip - so sorry. That was very uncool of me!

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 3:19 AM by Avi Muchnick

Dharmesh, I'd actually say that some startups aren't being clever enough with naming their companies. Sure, many of the best names are already taken, but a lot are not. And, many more can be had for a few dollars. For example, just yesterday I purchased for a website that needed a new name. An obscure word, but considering the budget for it was $100, not bad at all. I could give a long list of examples of great names that have sold recently for decent prices, sold recently for $25,000. Yea, as Avi pointed out you can find his website by using Google. But, that doesn't prevent people from getting lost by going to in the first place, and one would hope that his business plan took into consideration the amount of attrition his marketing efforts will have with people giving up before they figure out where to put the '.' in his url. Next time you're having trouble thinking of a good name, call me first.

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 9:50 AM by Peter Davis

Avi: Thanks for stopping by. And you're totally right, I should have just done the simple search on "aviary" (doh!)
I still stand behind my original advice of trying to get simpler with domain names. Even for SEO (search engine optimization) reasons, this makes sense.
Now that I know your name is Avi, I can see the appeal for Aviary (as a company name).
Sorry for the snarkiness. Good luck at Under The Radar. Knock 'em dead!

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 11:21 AM by

I had a similar problem when I first searched for the aviary web applications. It's ok though, I'll use Google or go directly to now. It would be better if they owned but, to me, the aviary apps are interesting enough to remember the creative domain name.

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 1:31 PM by

Just to be clear, it's not that the quality of the tools is not worth X amount of effort. I think the Aviary tools are cool.
I'm speaking more as a startup guy and marketing guy. All things being equal, you'd prefer it to be easier to market your product than harder -- regardless of how good the product is. Sometimes a great product will overcome marketing obstacles, but I'm a simple-minded guy and would rather not have the obstacles there in the first place, when possible.

posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 1:56 PM by

I wonder; if aviary had an easy name, would this post have come about? I am sure this post certainly increases the traffic to Aviary. Nice Nice! I certainly checked out their site (and am still reeling from the dropped jaw!)
Smart future planning there Avi!

posted on Thursday, May 01, 2008 at 3:03 AM by Sri Panyam

You made me remember the month-long brainstorming i did with my team to choose our name :) And the result was worth it!
Our business idea is to provide an Internet portal to the city community for its day-to-day collaboration which could help reduce its everyday local commuting.
The constraints for choosing the brand were kept really strict..
- it should unambiguously convey the concept to the reader/listener/viewer, because we believe that businesses where customers are already educated (food, apparel, cosmetics etc.) can have exotic or alluding or cool names, but not us. Customer education should start with the brand itself.
- Since our ambition is to expand in 30 cities across India and cater to the urban middle class, the brand should be unambiguously recognized by non-English speakers of all Indian states (this was the toughest one!.. bcoz there are 15 popular languages in India).
- it should meet the other obvious constraints of domain names like as-short-as-possible, easy to spell etc.
We did a survey among family and friends asking them to rank their choices among 30 options.. and the result was “CITYWALA” :)
(by the way NONE of our potential competitors in the city portal domain today meet the above criteria!)

posted on Friday, May 02, 2008 at 11:01 AM by Raghu

I hear a new site is launching soon catering to publishers and bloggers who want to make money. Supposed to be in June some time

posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2008 at 12:36 PM by David C

Nice post ;)

posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2008 at 11:41 PM by Nader Soliman

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