Choosing the right domain name for your business can be a challenge.
Rather than think of it as a chore, it should be a fun adventure. Here are several steps that will help you choose the best domain name for your new site.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper or in front of a whiteboard and brainstorm a bunch of ideas. Do this with your business partners if you have any.
Start writing words that have something to do with your business idea or the image you want to create. For example, a consulting firm might list words like results, help, assist, and trust.
This is brainstorming, so don’t be shy about including words that might not be a good fit. You never know when one word will trigger a different idea. You can always cross them off the list later.
Keep going until you have at least 20 good words.
Expand the List
Now it’s time to visit a good online thesaurus to find synonyms for the words on your list.
A great option for finding new words is WordHippo. Type in the terms you came up with in the first step and find related words to add to your list. Don’t be afraid about making the list longer at this stage!
Narrow Down the List
You hopefully have a list of at least 25-50 words. You might even have hundreds. It’s time to start whittling down the list by crossing off the ones that aren’t a fit.
Here are some choices you might want to cut:
- Words that are too specific.
You might have a vision for what your company will do or sell, but are you sure it won’t expand to something else? Let’s say you’re creating a site that will only sell baseball gloves. Using the term “gloves” in your domain might seem smart. But what happens a few years from now when you decide you want to expand and sell baseball bats?
- Words that might cause confusion.
Avoid words that might have totally unrelated connotations. For example, my company tried to come up with a domain name that described how we transferred technologies between each other. We thought of the term fluid, as in the technology moved fluidly between companies. Guess what? Everyone we met thought we were in the water business.
Don’t Commit Yet
You probably have a couple of names at this stage of the process that you really like. Don’t cross names off just because they aren’t your favorites, as you might need to come back to them later. In other words, you have a few steps to go before you can commit.
See What’s Available
One of the biggest restrictions in choosing a name these days is whether or not the domain name is actually available. Good news! You can go to Namecheap.com and search for each of your options without having to make a commitment.
If some are taken, get creative and add a word to the beginning or ending of your preferred name to find an available domain. Try your city or state, an adjective, or other solution to make yours unique.
Another great option: consider name extensions other than .com.
Phone a Friend
Now it’s time to share your shrinking list with close friends. Ask them what comes to mind when they see each domain option.
You might be surprised that they find something glaringly obvious with a name you like.
“Oh look, when you put the first and second words together, it spells something naughty!”
At that moment you’ll be glad you got this feedback before you moved forward.
Can Any Domains Be Acquired?
If some of your top choices were already taken, you might dig deeper to find out if any of the already-registered domains could still be purchased.
- Who owns the domain? (you can check on who.is)
- Is there a website on the domain now, or is it “parked”?
- How much money does owner want for it?
If the purchase price is way outside your budget, you can cross it off your list. Also, if it turns out a big company is already using the name, it’s probably best to cross it off your list. They’re not selling.
The Radio Test
You already asked your friends for feedback. Now you need to call (don’t email!) a different set of friends and ask them if they can spell the names you’ve come up with.
This is the ‘radio test’. If someone heard your name over the radio or at a bar, could they actually spell it when they go looking for your site? (You might be surprised at how many domains fail this test!)
You need a domain that is easy to say and even easier to remember. Something with an odd combination of letters, dashes, or other workarounds might be hard to spell and easy to forget.
If they can’t spell it, you should probably cross it off your list and find a better option.
Social Media Branding
This is a good time to think about what social media handles are available for your idea. You might have a great domain name but can’t get the matching Twitter handle or Facebook page.
You can see what’s available on social media using a variety of sites like namecheckr. If a name isn’t available, it’s not a deal-killer because your domain and social media handles don’t have to be an exact match. But for branding purposes, it’s something to think about.
You’re almost done! It’s time to make sure your ideal names don’t infringe an existing company’s trademark, because you might have to change your domain (and maybe even company name) later, meaning significant cost and loss of business. Check out Trademark247.com for an easy way to search for existing registered U.S. trademarks.
Consider hiring an attorney for a more exhaustive review.
Get the Name
Have you made it this far? Congrats! It’s time to register the domain name and create your website.
The process of choosing a domain name might seem daunting, but it’s actually something you can do within a couple of hours or less. Investing a little bit of time picking the right name at the outset might save you lots of headaches down the road.
When you’re ready, register your new domain at Namecheap.com. For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we’ll have unbelievable deals on domain registration for up to 98% off regular prices.
Andrew Allemann is editor of Domain Name Wire, the longest-running blog covering the business of domain names. Domain Name Wire has covered the business of domain name investing for over ten years.