Let's face it – finding a good domain name is tough these days. Over 100 million domains have already been registered, and from all accounts, the trend is not likely to stop soon. So what's an aspiring internet entrepreneur to do? While not a guarantee, these eight and a half steps will go a long ways towards landing that perfect domain name without breaking the bank.
1. Start the search
The best place I've found to locate domain names is DomainTools.com (formerly WhoIs.sc) They can tell you if the.com is taken, and by what, as well as offering other variations of the name that are available. They can also look up the history of the domain name, if it's been registered in the past, as well as providing information about the domain's current traffic, where it's hosted and who it's hosted with. When you come across a name that you might want, open an account at GoDaddy.com or eNom.com so that you can purchase the name affordably (generally $ 7 to $ 8 to register a new domain name.)
Other sites to search for pre-owned names are Afternic.com, Sedo.com, and BuyDomains.com. Each has a large inventory of names that can be searched by category. Unlike finding an unregistered name, these names will often run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, so determine ahead of time how much you are willing to invest in a good name. Lastly, look at sites such as SnapNames.com for names that will be "dropping" or expiring soon. If you find a name you like, and you have the time to wait, you can pick up some good names from domain owners that let their names expire. Now that you know where to search for a domain name, let's take a look at how to do it effectively and successfully.
2. Get the.com extension
This is the number one mistake I encounter when dealing with naming disasters. In a hurry to go to market, eager entrepreneurs decide to take the available.net or a hyphenated version of their name. You will likely regret this decision as future customers default to the.com address. You may even find your emails going to the.com domain address, which is even more frustrating if the.com version is a competitor. This can be a costly mistake in terms of customer confusion. And you will spend valuable time in explaining the.net or hyphen to each new client you encounter. Be patient and get a name that's unique, distinguishable and memorable – and one that's a.com.
3. Be creative
Here's another cold, hard reality – the simple one-word domain names are either gone or tremendously expensive. So if you think the name Paradigm or Pinnacle is cool, those names were probably registered about the time Al Gore invented the internet. You will have to do better than this. If you insist on using a common name of this type, then look for endings to go with these names such as …
You may also try adding an industry specific modifier such as …
Even if these endings are available as a domain name, be aware that a competitor may have used the same strategy and have a very similar name. Usually it's better to go one step further and create a truly unique domain name that will not show up with a slew of others. Here's one way to do just that.
4. Combine evergreen words
One of the best domain name creation strategies I've discovered is combining simple, positive words in a unique fashion. To accomplish this, create a list of basic words that describe your business or industry. Then try adding a positive connotation / evergreen word that will give the name that little extra twist to make it stand out. An example of this is a company that came to us that specialized in embossing and promotional goods. We took the basic word "Boss" (from emboss) and combined it with the evergreen word "Mark." The result was BossMark.com, a name that resonated well and was available as a.com domain. Other examples we have found using this method are KoreOne.com, TeamLogicIT.com and BrightHire.com. Even though 100 million domain names have been registered, it does not touch the number of names available if you take every known word and combine it with every other possible word. The more basic dictionaries contain 60,000 words. So combining 60,000 words with a possible 60,000 other words results in 3,600,000,000 possibilities. So yes, there are still good domain names available. Some good evergreen words are …
Not only will this open up possibilities, it will allow you to track your company's success online, since you will have a unique name. When we created the name Coghead.com, there were few, if any, references to that name on Google. The client was then able to monitor their exposure simply by looking at the number of matches on a search of their name. As of this writing, Coghead brings up345,000 hits, a good indication the word is getting out. A search of the word "summit" brings in 73,000,000 unrelated matches, so imagine trying to get noticed using that name.
5. Think of phrases
This is another strategy that is often overlooked. In a rush to come up with short domain names, memorable phrases get overlooked. An example of this was an online jewelry company we named SeaOfDiamonds.com By using the metaphor of an ocean, we created a thirteen letter domain name that is still easy to say and recall. And the name was just sitting there available. Does this require a lot of thinking and digging? Yes! But if you hit upon the right name, it's worth it. Another client with the name Harbor House Crabs, found the phrase ilovecrabs.com, and secured that domain as their primary ecommerce site. If you can not find a word, then try a phrase that pays.
6. Invent new names
Another method is to invent names, but be careful. Totally invented names such as Xerox or Kodak, start off with no inherent meaning. So if you invent a domain name, still try to use familiar parts of speech that contain some sense of feeling or emotion upon which to build your brand. An all-natural bug spray company we named Skedattle.com. A web based IT company we branded Graynium.com to underscore their intelligence and insights. A knowledge management firm we named Claricent.com, for bringing clarity, insight and understanding to their clients. If you go this route, make sure the name you invent can only be spelled one way, or on a minimum, capture all possible misspellings of the name and redirect them to the main domain name.
7. Run a legal search
Once you locate an available domain name, be sure to check and see if you can trademark it. The best place to start is Uspto.gov. There you will find a database of trademarks you can search to see if your new name might conflict with a similar existing business. Just because it does not show up does not mean you are in the clear. There might be a business that operates on a state or local level that does not appear in the uspto.gov database. So do a Google search as well. This will generally provide a good indication if someone is using the name or something similar to it. To make sure you have a clear name, check your list of available domain names with your attorney or an online trademark company such as Tmexpress.com.
8. Hire a specialist
If your time is valuable or you can only find domain names with huge price tags, consider hiring a naming firm. They can provide the experience and expertise to devise names, often for less than the cost of purchasing a mediocre domain name. I've encountered more than one instance where a client was prepared to pay upwards of $ 20,000 for a domain name that was bland at best, when they could have a custom created domain name with a matching tag line, and matching logo artwork for abut half that price. Instead of a just domain name, you'll have an entire brand identity. Granted, not everyone can afford this type of help, but for those looking to build a substantial internet presence, the expense is often well worth the price.
8.5 Make the decision
This really does not warrant a full step since it looks obvious. But in the end it simply comes down to a choice. And to move forward in business you have to make choices. Do not be paralleled by indecision. Review the steps above and ask the opinions of those who have your best interest at heart, (ie your best clients, trusted employees, a spouse.) Limit the feedback to those terms you value, otherwise you will get overwhelmed and confused. In the end, it must be a name that you believe in and about which you can tell a story and feel passionate. And once you find that perfect domain name, all that's left is making a name for yourself!