Choosing a Company Name and Domain

When it comes time to choose a name for your new business, you really want to get it right. Your company name is going to be the main connection between your brand and your customers. A name isn’t just about what you’ll print on business cards and employee t-shirts. It will influence the way you are recognized both in-person and on the web, how memorable you are, how and where you market your products and services, and even how people feel, what emotions are evoked, when people think about your company. So, you should make sure to take the proper time and care, and conduct the necessary research, before settling on a name and moving forward.

Between naming our own companies, past and present, consulting for other companies, and helping clients with their branding needs, we’ve had loads of experience choosing names and domains for new businesses. Over time, we’ve developed a process that puts businesses in the best position to succeed. Here are some of the things we look for, as well as the research we do, when choosing a business name and domain.

The List

It starts with a brainstorming session where we generate a list of potential names for the business. When thinking about what to put on this list, we don’t like to get too tricky or gimmicky. We stay away from anything too cutesy, or that relies too heavily on puns or wordplay. Everyone will have a different threshold here, but in general, we don’t like to risk eye-rolls. We also stay away from made up words and non-sequiturs. For starters, we like to keep it simple and not confuse people.

We do like to draw inspiration from the company’s products, services, industry, goals and philosophy. We think about how people would interact with the products, what the company will be helping customers to achieve or accomplish, and the company’s place within its industry.

For example, one of our clients is Lookie Lou, an online women’s vegan boutique. They are a high fashion company with a focus on organic and ethically produced products. When it comes to fashion companies, 90% of shoppers who walk into a brick-and-mortar clothing store aren’t there to buy anything, they are just looking. They are “lookie-lous.” From a company philosophy standpoint, the idea of vegan and sustainable principles being applied to food is now pretty common, but it is a relatively new idea for clothing, and especially for high fashion. You might say that the idea is just starting to “peek through.” We liked this idea that customers visiting the site would themselves be peeking through to a newer idea, so we ran with it.

Domain Search

Once we have our list of usable company names, we open up GoDaddy (or any other domain search site), and start plugging in names to see what is available that matches the company names we’ve come up with, and crossing off the ones that are taken.

When considering a domain, you might hear or read varying philosophies on the value of top-level domains and how much weight to put into acquiring a “.com” for your business, vs something like a “.net” or even “.co”. With rare exception, we think it’s “.com” or bust. First, Google values .com more highly when it comes to their search rankings, which is a big deal. And according to smallbusiness-domain.com, 75% of all domains on the internet are still .com. Regardless of how you may feel personally about the difference between .com and .net or .biz, those who buy and sell domain names value .com domains at around 20x more than comparable .net names.

In fact, we value .com so highly, we’ll even change a potential company name or spelling rather than settle for an available dot-anything-else.

Take 0-Sixty, for instance. A lot of the variations in spelling out the numbers were taken, 0toSixty, 0to60, and so on. Normally, we don’t go for dashes, but in this case it made a lot of sense, and was even a helpful element in creating a fantastic logo. But we didn’t just change the domain name, we changed the company name to 0-Sixty, too. Consistency between a domain and company name isn’t just important, it’s a necessity.

Google Search

We take our whittled down list of company names with available .com domain names, and run it through Google. We want to see what already comes up when people search for the name of the company and for relevant keywords. How much competition is there for search terms? How expensive are AdWord campaigns going to be? We are looking for low competition opportunities so that we can maximize SEO efforts. When people search for the company name on Google, we want our page to come up early and often.

Make a Choice

Lastly, we put it all together. Hopefully our list has been whittled down to a point where we have two or three good options, in which case we’ll usually just grab the domain for all of the best options. Then, we can start developing branding and pick our favorite from there. It can also be useful at this point to check out and grab social media handles for the most relevant social media sites.

It’s important to give yourself enough time to let the potential names sink in and see how you feel after living with them for a few days. After all, you’ll hopefully be living with your business name for a very long time. 

Need help navigating this process for your business? Contact us for help!