Photo courtesy: Rasmus Andersson
The name and domain name of your company are often the first impression potential customers have of you.
Ideally, you want your company name to catch their attention – for all the right reasons – and make people want to find out more about what you do.
As a self-confessed naming fanatic, I am often surprised how little thought some entrepreneurs give to their business name and domain name. Not only do you risk losing potential customers because you chose a bad name or domain name, but you could even end up in legal hot water due to unintentional trademark infringement.
Whether you are hoping to create your new company name and domain name from scratch or intend to buy a “ready-made” brand name with matching domain, there are a number of things you should consider to ensure that your precious time and money is well spent.
Should you go with .com or another TLD?
For starters, consider the domain extension. Are you building a country specific business and want to highlight this fact through your choice of domain name? If so, then going with a ccTLD (country code top level domain) is probably your best bet.
For instance, if your business will only be focused on the Canadian market, and you want to proudly promote your business’s Canadian-ness, then picking a .ca domain name would be prudent.
If, on the other hand, you have global aspirations and want to subtly (or not so subtly) give the impression of being an “international” business, then choosing a TLD such as .com (or perhaps one of the new domain extensions such as .web or .store) is a smarter move.
What is the length of your name?
Size does matter, but in the case of domain names the smaller (the shorter) the better.
With a shorter domain name, the fewer keys people will have to type, which means the chance of them mistyping and making an error are reduced. Also, a shorter domain name is easier to use in marketing material where space is limited, such as in tweets, radio ads, etc.
If possible, keep your domain to 10 characters or less in length (measured from the left of the dot), and shorter if possible. I am particularly keen on seven-character names because in North America seven characters is also the length of a phone number.
If you plan things well you can not only get a seven character name but also a matching phone number, e.g., 1-800- DARTELO to go with your dartelo.com domain.
Shorter means less stuff for people to remember, which will make name recall easier.
Do you need a keyword-based name?
If it’s important for you to have a name that describes your business, then you may want to consider going with a keyword-based domain name.
For instance, if you plan to specialize in vegan brownies, then a domain name like veganbrownies.com or – to a lesser degree –healthybrownies.com would be a good fit. Not only will it make it crystal clear what your company is all about, but it
will also help your website rank better for the keywords in the domain name.
If SEO and being found via search is a primary consideration for you, or perhaps the only marketing method you have at your disposal, then a descriptive keyword domain should be considered.
These types of domains also help to make you look as if you own the entire business category, especially in the .com, since there can only be one veganbrownies.com, and if you owned that you would be planting a flag in the ground as “the” definitive vegan brownie company (no matter how large or small your business really was).
The downside of these sorts of domains is that they can be rather generic sounding, making it harder for you to distinguish yourself from the competition or convey the true essence of your brand character. Blazing Brownies, for instance, is arguably a more creative and memorable name, but somewhat less descriptive.
Purely generic names are also much harder to trademark precisely because they are so descriptive. So you will need to think about where you want to be in the spectrum of descriptive vs. memorable.
What about an invented name?
The exact opposite of descriptive, keyword-based domains is what I call the whimsical or invented names. These are names that are completely made up and would (and should) never appear in a dictionary in any language.
Since you’re creating these from scratch anyway, I recommend keeping them at seven characters or less. Kazeron, Dartium, Murgola, etc. (all of which I made up as I wrote this) are examples of these types of names. These names often sound a bit like an actual English word, but with an unusual spelling or other creative twist to them.
There are some real pros and cons to these invented names. What’s great about them is that you’ll probably be able to register the domain name at cost or pick it up for under $3,000, since whimsical names like this are relatively inexpensive on the domain name aftermarket because they are not as popular as the keyword domains.
These unique names will also help you quickly rank very high in the search engines for your name, so if someone already knows your company name they will be able to find your site easily. It will also be much easier for you to trademark and protect your new name, if that is important to you.
Unfortunately, these invented names will not help you rank in the search engines for your product or service since those keywords don’t appear in the name itself. And your potential customers may not have any idea what type of business you are based on your name alone, so that could be seen as a disadvantage.
If you get too clever with your invented name, people may have trouble spelling it correctly, so try to pick a “sounds like” name that people will intuitively know how to spell. Finally, don’t forget to double-check to make sure your invented name does not mean something offensive or inappropriate in another language. Chevy Nova anyone?
Maybe a conjunction name is for you?
Somewhere in the middle between keyword-based and invented names are the conjunction names, typically formed by pairing two real words
in new and exciting ways. Ad agencies and startups are particularly fond of this naming approach, which is why you’ll see names like Blink Frog or Pink Wrench or Zombie Muffin.
These names can be quite fun and memorable, but they are not suitable for everyone and risk being overly trendy. That being said, I am particularly fond of alliteration when coming up with these names, wherein both words start with the same letter: Purple Pagoda, Rubber Rose, or even my company name, Name Ninja.
What’s great about conjunction names is that for any one root word there are thousands of possible words to pair it with, which means that with any luck (and a bit of patience) you should be able to find a conjunction name that you like to hand register as a domain. And even if a domain investor already owns the conjunction domain that you really want, these types of domains are typically priced under $3,000 for the .com, which is a relatively modest amount to pay for your brand name.
Conjunction names are a great choice to make when you are on a tight budget as there often so many for you to choose from at all price points. They are also easier to trademark than purely descriptive ones, but they won’t be that helpful from an SEO perspective.
Another reason I like these names is that people will know how to spell them since they are real words.
Beware the naming gotchas! Here are some of the things to avoid when picking a domain for your new business.
- Don’t pick a domain with a dash. Most people will forget to type the dash and they will end up at the wrong place – perhaps even one of your competitors!
- Avoid numbers (either numerical or spelled out) because people may get that wrong as well.
- Abbreviations are also problematic for the same reason.
- Don’t fall prey to what I call the “Web 2.0 Disease” of dropping vowels from your name.
It may seem cool and clever at the beginning, but trust me when I say that you will only come to regret this decision down the road when you end up being forced to pay a fortune to fix your mistake by purchasing the correctly spelled version of your domain name.
Over to you
What are your tips on finding a good domain name for your business? Please let us know in the comments.
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