Nomenclature: an unconventional approach to ecommerce product naming conventions

Nomenclature: an unconventional approach to ecommerce product naming conventions

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Have you ever tried naming products? Your product becomes a prize-winning sculpture and you an art critic. Pace around it to consider it from every angle. Rest your chin on your hand and study it in quiet contemplation. What is the very essence of this thing before you? And what on earth are you going to say about it?

I've recently dived into the world of nomenclature to name my own products. It's turned me from Stephen Bourke, Ecommerce Store Manager into Stephen Bourke, Grey-Haired Stress Head.

You see, there's the creative side to the naming process - coming up with the actual name of the product. AirTag? Air Force 1? Maybe I should have just stuck Air at the front of everything… But there's also the more technical side of product names for ecommerce. And it's the latter that has tripped me up.

That doesn't mean it needs to trip you up. By the time you've read this you'll be able to:

  • Streamline your product naming process
  • Avoid wasting your time building underperforming product links
  • Build a polished product on Google Merchant Center

Google overlords and brand vandalism

What are you reading this on? What colour is it? How many GB are you packing if you don't mind me asking? Any other distinguishing features? The answers will give you a decent starting point for a product name for your device.

But what makes a great ecommerce product name? My initial priority was my customers: will this product name resonate with my target audience?

It soon became obvious that I wasn't going to have any customers if the product names didn't first meet the approval of the all-seeing Googlebots.

Since my store will be part of Juni's footprint, my product names also need to follow — or at least not destroy — the work of the SEO and Brand teams at Juni.

In the early days of this naming process, I was demoted to the role of brand vandal. I mentioned in a previous post that I had to abandon one Shopify store because of the number of Google Merchant Center errors I was racking up. Turns out that my work was interfering with the main Juni site’s SEO performance — thank goodness the SEO team are friendly people with a sense of humour.

How to create SEO-friendly ecommerce product names at scale

So, how do you avoid those mistakes? How do you avoid offending Google when naming your products? With the benefit of hindsight, my top tips are:

Have a plan before you start

To avoid having to start all over again like me, have your naming conventions set in stone before you create your first product on your store.

Keep redirects to a minimum

It's best to have fresh products and avoid the need for redirects. Creating product URLs using Shopify was an infuriating experience. Making changes means creating redirects, which affects your ranking and analytics. Get it right the first time to avoid this.

Use a test site or testing tool

Find or make a resource that allows you to quickly build out product names in different formats or sequences so you can test how they perform and how they are perceived.

Creating a product name generator to support naming conventions

Creating SEO-friendly product names quickly and efficiently in high volume is not easy. So how do you generate them in a way that achieves your goals, can be easily reviewed, and doesn't become a full-time job?

What if you can set the parameters and let the names generate themselves? A product name generator was the natural progression of a testing tool for product names.

The generator needed to:

  • Capture all the key attributes of each product
  • Be accurate, relevant, and unique to each product to help with SEO
  • Align my product names with Juni brand language

How to make your own SEO-friendly product name generator

After some trial and error, here's the process you should follow to create your own nomenclature generator:

Define key product attributes

What are the things that matter about your product? What differentiates them from other products on the market and within the same collection? I called these identifiers. For my products, they were:

  • Brand name
  • Model name
  • Colour
  • Material
  • Style

Consider your product name template

Think about how those attributes might join together to create a product name. My starting point was:

[Company Name] + [Primary Identifier] + [Secondary Identifier] + in [Colour]

My initial line of products is a range of sustainable clothing from Full Circle Clothing. So my primary identifiers were things like:

  • Eco-friendly
  • 100% cotton
  • Plastic-free

Secondary identifiers were the different product types:

  • Circular Long-sleeve T-shirt
  • Circular Crewneck
  • Circular Hoodie

So a typical product name might be:

Juni Plastic-free Circular Hoodie in Off-black       

You can adapt the template and the number of identifiers to suit your products.

Do some spreadsheet wizardry

If you have a basic understanding of spreadsheets and setting up those magical formulas, a template should be relatively simple to create. If you don't have those skills in your locker, it's definitely worth weighing up outsourcing, considering the amount of time you'll save.

Whatever route you go down, here's the end goal: a series of dropdown boxes that allow you to mix-and-match product name components to generate a full product name. The spreadsheet formula should also stop you if you choose an incorrect combination (like selecting ‘black' for a product that's only available in green).

Continuing your nomenclature adventures

With my product name generator complete, I took the whole process a step further to create a product description generator. And you can, too. All you need to do is:

Create descriptive statements for each identifier

Write (or hire someone to write) a series of descriptions related to each of your identifiers. For our example product this might be:

Plastic-free: It's completely free of plastic. No plastic in the fabric. No plastic in the stitching. No plastic in the label.

Circular Hoodie: Create your own super-cosy cocoon with the help of the Circular Hoodie.

Off-black: This version is dark... but maybe not quite as dark as you're used to. The future is off-black.

Keep in mind these descriptions will be knitted together, so they need to be written in a way that works for that.

Decide on your product description nomenclature 

Similar to the product name nomenclature, you now need to decide on a template for product descriptions. After some trial and error, I settled on:

[Secondary Identifier/Product Type] + [Colour] + [Primary Identifier]

It made sense to introduce the product first, then talk about the colour before getting into the detail of product specifics, like eco-friendly credentials. So you get:

Create your own super-cosy cocoon with the help of the Circular Hoodie. This version is dark... but maybe not quite as dark as you're used to. The future is off-black. It's completely free of plastic. No plastic in the fabric. No plastic in the stitching. No plastic in the label.

You could also expand the description to include optional identifiers or brand statements that weren't included in your product name — that's something I'm looking at adding on.

More formula magic

At this point, you'll create the formula for this part of the nomenclature. This should pull all the components together and prevent inaccurate descriptions from being created.

With just a few statements for each identifier, you'll create a tool that generates hundreds of thousands of product description combinations. That has the potential to save you a huge amount of time, just as it did for me — I decided to outsource and work with ZippyLingo to craft unique product statements and the spreadsheet formula to pull it all together.

Try my product naming conventions for your store

I'd love to hear how you get on with creating a name generator. Or did you take an alternative approach to naming your products? If so, let me know what you did differently. Share your story by sending me an email to community@juni.co.

Nomenclature: an unconventional approach to ecommerce product naming conventions
Stephen Bourke
Ecommerce Store Manager

Stephen has over 4 years of experience running businesses and assisting entrepreneurs with Shopify stores. When he's not setting up shop, Stephen enjoys a good board game with his husband and friends. He's known for trying adventurous vegan cuisines.

Download our free whitepaper and gain important ecommerce and marketing insights, directly from Juni.

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