If you’re following our B2B eCommerce series, in part one you learned how to sell complex and highly custom products online. In the second post, we explored ways to sync your physical inventory online. In this, the last installment, we’re drilling deeper into a topic we touched on earlier — product naming conventions

Why does this topic warrant a closer look? Because the names you give your products online have ramifications that extend beyond product recognition. Your customers aren’t the only ones reading your product names, after all. Google is too, and what they find can alter your search rankings and either hamper or help your marketing efforts.

There is no one right way to name your products. There are, however, guidelines you can follow to choose the best product naming conventions for your inventory. We’ll go over why these conventions are important and explore best practices to get you thinking the right way about product names. Let’s begin!

Why Your Current Product Naming Conventions Probably Won’t Work Online

Online product names help customers find what they’re looking for and distinguish your products from each other and the competition. But if your business predates the internet, or if you only recently began looking at selling online, you likely created your inventory naming scheme to solve a different problem.

In part two we discussed a hypothetical toaster company and how they might name their products online. We suggested the following well-structured, intelligible naming scheme:

Mark 5 Low-Profile Toaster With Porcelain Heating Elements – Double Slot – Red

However, your current product naming conventions may be significantly less clear. Does something like this look familiar?

M5 LP Porc 2Sl Red

A lot of companies use this kind of naming shorthand to quickly describe their products with as few characters as possible. These names allow warehouse pickers on their forklifts to quickly find and fulfill customer orders.

The problem with porting these names online is that they can be very difficult for people outside of the business to read. Additionally, their structure is often inconsistent because of a lack of initial planning and scattershot contributions from many people over a long period of time. You want your customers to find your products quickly, so your old inventory names won’t cut it.

How to Choose Better Names

Let’s look at our first example again:

Mark 5 Low-Profile Toaster With Porcelain Heating Elements – Double Slot – Red

This is an unambiguous name that supplies all of the relevant details a customer would need to distinguish this toaster from other models. However, your product naming conventions can be simplified even further.

Take a look at this toaster on Amazon. You’ll notice that you can choose between several configurations within the product listing. Under “size” you can opt for a 2 slot, 2 slot long, or a 4 slot model. Additionally, you can select either a Cool Touch 2 slot or a Cool Touch 4 slot. Expanding on this, our imaginary toaster manufacturer might also offer different color options within the same listing.

This helps because it reduces the amount of information you need in your product title. Looking at our example again, if we offered size and color configurations within the listing, we could simplify the name to read:

Mark 5 Low-Profile Toaster With Porcelain Heating Elements

Within the listing customers could select their color preference and the number of slots they want.

Product Descriptions

The way you describe your products can help shoulder some of the information load as well. Your product naming conventions need only express top-level descriptors — the basic features customers need to identify the product. The product descriptions then carry the fine details, expanding on the name to answer deeper customer questions.

A good way to learn naming conventions is to surf major online retailers like Amazon or Walmart. Study how they name their products. They’ve spent countless millions of dollars refining their naming conventions. If their structures work for them, they will likely work for you.

How Proper Product Naming Conventions Help Your Business

Clear, sensible product names that provide the details customers need to quickly identify your products’ salient features will sell better. Accompanying descriptions that elaborate on your names will enhance this effect.

Sound product naming conventions have a secondary benefit. They give your SEO a boost. Consider that “M5 LP Porc 2Sl Red contains virtually nothing that people would actually search for, making it unlikely that your listing would come up when someone's searching for a toaster.

By comparison, a quality product name would closely parallel the terms people are searching for. You can use this to your advantage. Do some keyword research to see what terms come up most frequently. You might also check the product naming conventions your competitors use. Design your names to target what your customers are searching for and you’ll dramatically increase the chances that Google will serve up your listing.

Final Thoughts

If your product names are incomprehensible shorthand, they need to change before you take your products online. However, this doesn’t have to happen immediately. You might have hundreds or thousands of products to modify.

If you sell strictly B2B, and your customers are already used to seeing your shorthand names on their invoices, you could opt to make your products available online with their current names, and then slowly change them as you have time.

However, if the general public can access your site, it’s better to rename items and then add them at a pace you can handle. You might choose 50 products a month to change names, write descriptions and then add online. You don’t have to rush. Consider that customers can’t buy your products online at all currently. FIfty new products a month is still an improvement, with the added benefit that your customers will have an easy time finding what they want.

We hope you enjoyed this series. If you missed either of the previous two entries you can find them on our blog.