Anthony Basile

Oftentimes, when we talk about Google, we’re speaking about the search giant taking something away. It was just early July, for instance, when Google mothballed the sitemap API endpoint. But today, it’s time for an update on a relatively new and useful feature: site names.

What Is a Site Name?

Site name functionality rolled out in May for Google searches carried out on mobile devices, and this week it has expanded to both desktop and mobile use in 4 languages — English, French, German and Japanese.

A site name is a unique display name for your company’s website, both the homepage and individual pages. You can give a site name to both domain-level and subdomain-level sites. The name is displayed on the search engine results page (SERP) — separately from the page title link and web address — and lets people know which company they’re interacting with.

Site Name Best Practices: What Does Google Recommend?

The process of choosing a site name isn’t just one step: Your choice must be accepted by Google’s automated system. You should pick a name that is as short and unique as possible. The idea is to name your brand, rather than describing it.

Google gave a few examples — you shouldn’t try to go for a generic or promotional name, such as “best (business type) in (location).” Rather, it’s best to simply give the name of your company in its most cut-down form. Extra words such as “Inc.” can be left off.

The name you choose should be the one you use consistently across the website in question. When Google’s automated tool is crawling your site to decide whether to award you the name or not, it will search for other uses of the name.

You can choose an alternative site name, along with your primary choice. This means if Google’s system won’t let you use your first choice, the secondary one might qualify.

In the end, if the process is successful, you’ll have a consistent, simple and easy-to-parse site name appearing on SERPs, helping users click on your links with confidence.

What’s the Latest on Site Name Use?

Following the initial rollout of the site name feature in May, Google has offered some new guidance as it has reached desktop users. For instance, since only one site can have any given name, using the alternate name feature may prove especially important: If your No. 1 choice is taken, the alternate may still be worthwhile.

Furthermore, there is a new guide to getting a site name approved even if preferred and alternate names are rejected by the automated system. A domain or subdomain name can be used as a site name if it’s properly tagged and the primary method of securing a site name has failed.

There is also a known issue with pages on a site not yet displaying the chosen site name, even if it has been approved for the home page. While Google’s engineers work on fixing the issue, they note that the preferred name will eventually propagate on the pages.

Now, as site name functionality spreads across devices — and as support for new languages remains under development — you can start adding this new facet to your SERPs.