There’s nothing more important for a startup than building the right foundation, and choosing a great domain name is the cornerstone of an online business.
I’ve asked successful online business owners there advice for choosing a great domain name. Here’s the top 11 responses:
*** We Wanted Something That Wouldn’t Limit Us ***
“Brainstorming was the way I came up with our name. I then eliminated the ones where the URL was not available or didn’t speak to the industry. After that, my list was only 2 to 3 names. We wanted something that wouldn’t limit us to just lawn mowing but other household services as well.
“This entire process took about 3 weeks before I was happy with the name.”
Gene Caballero – GreenPal
*** If You Have To Explain Your Business, You’ve Already Lost ***
“I am a branding expert who has studied, met and interviewed some A listers who set up global brands like Calvin Klein, 50 Cent, Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook and others. As my coach keeps telling me, “If you have to explain your business name you’ve already lost.”
“You don’t have the money to market and brand yourself like Uber, Geico and Apple. So the rule of the day is come up with some self explanatory domain name. Get to the point.
“Examples are below:
“By all means try to be a little quirky or clever like www.zappos.com, which is similar to the Spanish for shoes (zapatos) or www.fiverr.com, but you do run a little risk in doing so.”
Eugene Gamble – EugeneGamble.co.uk
*** Matches Your Business Name ***
“Make sure your primary domain name matches your business name, and make sure you purchase close variations if they’re available. An example of this would be purchasing mybusiness.com, and also mybusiness.net, .co, .us etc.
“If your business name is often misspelled or misunderstood, it’s also a good idea to purchase domain names that cover those mistakes and direct to your main businesses site.”
Jeff Gapinski – Huemor
*** Looks and Sounds Good ***
“Hi John, I started a global branding company 15 years ago and we do a lot of naming work for our clients, the first step is to create the committee or team in charge, identify who else should be involved in the process and then set the criteria.
“Here are some examples of possible criteria:
1. Has versatility (works in multiple ways from course name to concept to book)
2. Is sexy (catches fire/engaging)
3. Can be sustainable over time (longevity)
4. Looks good
5. Sounds good when spoken
6. Contains playful element
7. Beginning of alphabet if possible
8. URL available
“Once these are confirmed then you can start the process. We have many exercises to help generate names and a process to pare them down and test for a winner. It is a lot of fun and harder than it looks.
“For my company when I started the firm I jokingly referred to the women as the Marketing Mavens & the guys as the Marketing Moguls & for short I called them Mavens & Moguls as a working name but never expected it would stick.
“I did research over e-mail with prospective clients, referrers, media, etc & tested ~100 names. Mavens & Moguls was one choice on the list & to my great delight & surprise it came out as a clear winner. It has helped us be memorable and stand out from the pack.
“Because I have a hyphenated last name half the battle is for clients to be able to find you when they need your help. I have had clients tell me they could not remember anything other than my first name & one word of my company so they googled Paige & Mavens and we popped right up.
“I was at an event one day and a venture capitalist started waving in my direction and shouted “Hi Maven!” across the crowd, everyone looked my way and we ended up getting introduced to a portfolio company that hired us!
“Names contribute to your brand and in our case I think it has been a major plus. Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power or distinction in a specified area. I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other consulting firms.
“It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously. Would you rather hire Strategic Marketing Solutions or Mavens & Moguls?
“We are the not your father’s Oldsmobile of marketing firms. If nothing else our name is a great conversations starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.”
Paige Arnof-Fenn – Mavens & Moguls
*** Don’t Buy a Dead Horse ***
“There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a great domain name; length, uniqueness, competitive landscape, etc… But no matter how creative you are, if you fail to research your potential new domain name, you could be buying a dead horse.
“I recently worked with a company who owned a .net top-level domain name. They tried to purchase the .com TLD name for years, but it was owned by another company. Once it was available, they jumped at the chance. It wasn’t until after they migrated their site to the new TLD that they realized, the previous owner was sketchy at best.
“Their new .com URL had spammy backlinks all over, now pointing directly at them. Luckily, the previous owner, while sketchy, wasn’t super active. The damage was small. They were able to disavow and overcome the negative SEO impact over time, but it could have been a lot worse.
“It’s difficult enough to gain page rank with a new domain name. It’s painful if not impossible with a used and abused one.
“Research your new domain name. Be positive you’re not inheriting a bad link profile, spammy reviews, and other SEO penalties.”
Daniel Davidson – ByDan
*** Keep Your Domain Name Short ***
“Your domain should be simple, relevant, and memorable above all else. The best way to get your domain to rank in a top search position is to keep it short (under 15 characters), avoid hyphens, and choose a .com TLD. Recent studies show that 86% of the top 10 domains now use .com over any other TLD.”
Coco Jeannine – Inseev Interactive
*** .io Domain Names ***
“There are so many domain names now taken it’s almost impossible to find what you want! Recently we have been advising companies to get creative with their names by using varying degrees of urls. For tech companies we have recommended domains ending in .io This seems to one of the trendiest shifts in domain names. Another piece of advice is to add a verb onto the name for example get or buy.
“Some simple recommendations but they work!”
Lysa Miller – 3 Media Web
*** Make Sure It Isn’t Hard To Spell! ***
“My name is Joe Pirapakaran I’m a small business owner with a few tips on choosing a great domain name:
1. Make sure it isn’t hard to spell
E.g. Mississippilaketoursandcharters.com. Is not only pretty long but it’s almost hard to spell to the average person. You want to make it have some easy to spell words.
2. Make sure there aren’t 2 letters that touch each other so it doesn’t confuse your customer
E.g. Supershuttleexpressservices.com. Has 2 letters that touch each other, if you miss one of these letters it could take you to a whole different site or not a site at all.
3. Register the .com .net .org .co
“There are multiple endings to a domain name. On top of registering the .com you want to register as many of the others as you can to eliminate scam or similar websites to yours using your domain to gain customers.”
Joe Pirapakaran – Airport Express Parking
*** Trademark Legal Issues To Be Aware Of ***
“As a small business owner and an attorney who advises small- and medium-sized businesses, I know a lot about the common legal issues these entrepreneurs face. The biggest mistake I see is when the word, logo, phrase, tag line, slogan, etc. is not cleared for use by a trademark lawyer.
“Often, entrepreneurs think of a great trademark and start using it without the proper clearance searches to ensure the name is not already taken. This is a totally separate (and misunderstood) process from forming a LLC or Corporation with a Secretary of State, or purchasing a domain name.
“Those steps do not indicate not ensure that the word or phrase is available as a trademark. Entrepreneurs and startups, particularly millennials, skip this step due to cost and budget reasons, but as you can imagine, skimping on the protection of your business name puts the entire venture at risk.”
Sonia F. Lakhany – LAKHANY LAW, PC
*** Never Include Trademarked Names In Your Domain ***
“When selecting a domain name, first and foremost, never include a trademarked name, such as sellyouriPhone.com.
“Secondly, it’s unlikely you’ll ever acquire the name recognition of Dell, Amazon or other famous companies, so choose a domain that helps explain what the website is about, such as jonesstockphotos.com.”
Simon Slade – Doubledot Media
*** Use Domain Name Generators ***
“Choosing a great domain name may be one of the most important factors in determining whether your company achieves its goals. Why? Because multiple studies have shown that a name that is catchy, intriguing, memorable and easy to remember has a much better chance of being visited. So what’s the key to selecting a great domain name?*
“One thing you should do is use a domain name generator, or if necessary, purchase a domain name that is already taken that perfectly fits your company. Domain name generators allow you to enter keywords and phrases directly applicable to your business, and create multiple domain names for your consideration.
“But if you find a domain name that is absolutely perfect but is already taken (without a site being created) you may be able to buy that domain name from the owner, or from a company such as GoDaddy.”
Tabitha Jean Naylor – TabithaNaylor.com
Choosing a Great Domain Name – How I Do It
Recently I found a great website (ExpiredDomains.net) that lists recently expired, and available domain names!
On this website you can find great domain names which owners have decided not to re-register. Domain names as short as 6 letters long.
Tip: You’ll have to go back a few weeks to find domains that are ready to register right now.
Ready To Register Your Domain Name?
When you’re ready to register your domain name, I recommend you use Namecheap as your domain registrar. Its the service I use to register all my domain names.
Do you have any thoughts on choosing a great domain name? We’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below…