One of the most frustrating, exciting, and frightening aspects of launching a new company, website or product is coming up with a name. Several of the forums I frequent quite often have people in a quandary over what to call themselves and asking the other forum members for help.
Let’s face it, if you are running a business, you will at some time or another want to/need to get a website. Building a website is fairly straightforward. Where the challenge arises is in coming up with that great name and actually finding the domain name available. For the most part, the easy names are already taken. Sometimes you can still get lucky but you are going to have to put some effort into it.
I just finished reading a book on this topic and had absolutely no idea how much the big marketing firms charge for naming services. $40,000 for a name is not unheard of. I never really thought there would actually be a huge industry just in naming new prescription drugs. Some of the larger companies have dozens of namers on staff who’s job is to simply invent names for things.
Most of us could not imagine spending $1,000 for a name, much less $40,000. At that level of business, a great name can make or break a product. You might remember the huge flop that was called “New Coke”. For the rest of us, we are left to our own devices to create a name for ourselves. We can enlist friends and family, and even forum-mates to help; but, ultimately we’re on our own.
How I Name My Websites
I thought I might share some of the things I do in hopes that someone facing this dilemma might glean a few ideas.
Naming Websites – Step 1
The first thing I do when trying to come up with a name for a new company and/or website is to simply sit down with a piece of blank, unlined paper and a pencil. I write every word or phrase that I think describes what my core product or service is going to be about. I use nouns, adjectives, adverbs. Anything that comes to mind, gets put down. I don’t think about if the idea is nonsensical, already taken, or if it would be easy to do search engine optimization(SEO) for. The goal is to simply do a brain dump of words.
I prefer to use a pencil because; it just seems a bit more free-flowing and creative; there’s something somehow permanent about using a marker or pen. The idea here is to let those creative juices flow without worrying if it’s a good idea or not. If you need to, get a second piece a paper. Neatness here is a distraction, so don’t worry about perfect penmanship, neat lines or even columns.
Naming Websites – Step 2
Once the flow of ideas seems to stop, I go through the list and consider the words that could be used together or really just don’t fit. If they don’t fit, they get lined out. I do make sure they are still readable. Sometimes the words that don’t fit may lead to the right word or even a portion of your future marketing pitch.
The words that are repeated or attract my attention the most are the words that I start to focus on as a place to start.
Naming Websites – Step 3
I pull out my trusty thesaurus and start looking up the words in that group. Generally stick to words in your vocabulary. You are looking for ideas not an impressive 5-syllable word.
More often than not, one or more of these words will often in the end become part of my website name or catch phrase/tagline. The name of this blog – Blog About Crafts was one of the very first things I listed. I think it was my Mom who finally said, “Why not call it Blog About Crafts?”, isn’t that what it’s going to be anyway. I laughed at the idea. Such a simple name had to already be taken. To my surprise, it had never been registered and was indeed available – so don’t assume that an idea will not work. Again, at this point you are idea gathering not naming.
When I’m coming up with a name for a website, I almost always try to get clever and come up with some new word. Google? Etsy? YouTube? Surely, I’m clever enough to come up with something like that. Inevitably I come back to using real words. So unless your are particularly clever that way, I would suggest you stick to phrases. I’ve also found that word phrases are easier to remember and easier to brand online. Using a phrase also makes SEO quite a bit easier.
Conventional wisdom is that long domain names are a pain to type and will hurt your business. Having a name that no one can remember will hurt it worse. Do however keep in mind that a huge domain name can be a risk.
Naming Websites – Step 4
After I start getting together a list of words that match my personality, my product or service and just plain seem catchy; I start doing a bit of web research. One website that I’ve found particularly helpful is:
Nameboy Domain Search (Before anyone asks, I have not been compensated in any way for mentioning this site. It is far from being the only site of it’s kind, but I like it’s results better and there appears to be no limit on how many searches I can do for free.)
Nameboy allows you to put in several words or phrases and returns a list of domain name suggestions. Some ideas are good, some are truly awful. I have never ended up using one of their suggestions but the tool has pointed me in different directions and helped to develop my final short list of names.
On a clean sheet of unlined paper, start writing a list of potential domain names.
Again, don’t focus on what you like, get the ideas to paper so they don’t get away. You will see so many variants and play with so many combinations of words that it will be impossible to remember what you have checked and not checked. If you are in the US (perhaps even if you are not), always try to get a dot com name. As a rule Americans will assume a dot com extension and a website with a .us, .info, or .biz extension will have a harder time marketing themselves. Why do you want to risk your shiny new prospect visiting the .com version of your name when someone else (maybe your competition) already owns that name?
The safest choices are the ones where no one has ever registered that name and the .com, .biz, .info, and even .us and .org variants are available. That tells you that no one on the Internet is actively trying to market that particular domain name – a great start to getting the coveted #1 position in the search results.
Naming Websites – The Final Step
Live with the list for a few days. Believe it or not, there will be some names that you find yourself continually returning to – they will speak to you. You may also see where some names have connotations that you don’t want to associate with. For example, the word Nation could be seen as militaristic as well as a community.
When you’ve narrowed the list down to those few you really like; go visit Google. Make sure there is not a large company somewhere that is using your great name as all or part of their tag-line. Even if the domain is available, that doesn’t mean someone has not already expended a great deal of effort market that same word or phrase.
You also have to consider that with websites like Etsy, someone could have already been linked to that name. Better to give up a name before you “own it” than to have to compete against someone on the Internet already known as “The Wacky Knitter”, “Sewing Fool”, or whatever other name you may have come up with. (Those two names are just two very poor examples to make the point.)
Another example, if you are a member of Craftster.org, you probably know the owner’s name. There will always be only one “Leah” on that site no matter how many members wear that same name. Do not make your marketing efforts a game of catch up before you ever start. Why make your marketing harder than it has to be?
Watch Out For Idea Thieves
A word of caution, there are bottom feeders out there who are just waiting for unsuspecting folks to tell them about a great idea for a domain name. There have been many tales of woe as someone had found the name of their dreams only to have someone else register it out from under them. Only search for domain name availability on the tools that allow you to enter partial names. It will make it harder for these schiesters to steal your name out from under you. If this does happen, my suggestion would be to let it go. These folks are hoping that you are so desperate that you will pay anything to get your perfect name back. Don’t fall for it.
One Example of a Great Name
One of the most well known websites in the online crafting world is called Purple, Pink and Orange. I admit it would not have been a name I would have chosen. It does flow off the tongue well and they were definitely the first ones to launch a marketing campaign for that name. It defies the “domain names must be short” concept and does not immediately convey what the website is about. Yet, it has been highly successful for them.
While it’s not a Google or a Etsy; it’s equally clever and unusual. When you are creating your word lists, include personality traits of both you and your product or service.
Naming A Website – Final Thoughts
Finding a name for a website or company is never easy. Take the time to put some thought into it. Consider how the name has been used in the past as well as consider how you plan to market your new website or company in the future.
If you think you could proudly tell a stranger the name – great!
If you would mumble it under your breath – keep looking!
Anyone willing to share their process? Do you approach this as I do or do you have a different method?
To continue reading on this topic, please visit – What do I call it? – Part II.