Getting a great name for your business is challenging. We recommend that you search for a domain name first, then register your official business name second. It is much easier (and cheaper) to reverse engineer an official business name from a good domain name, than it is to get a good domain name for an established business.
For example, in the UK, whatever name you end up registering at Companies House will have far less impact on the success of your business than the name you choose to use online.
First, let’s examine what it takes to make a great business name that works online. Later, we will show how you can use a simple Business Name Generator to help you discover high quality business names that are available to purchase today.
A business name that works online is essentially a high quality domain name. Here are some domain name industry insider tips to help you choose a name.
The domain market cherishes short keywords for obvious reasons, they are easier to remember, but also cooler. Just as collectors love short car number plates, domain name investors (domainers) love short domain names. They are also easier for graphic designers, and brand developers to work with, more catchy, easier to spell out on the telephone, and more.
But they are also in short supply.
There are only 17,576 combinations of three letter domain names (e.g. ABC.COM) and 456,976 combinations of four letter domains (e.g. ABCD.COM) in latin scripts. However, this rises to ~308,915,776 domain names when we search for six letters, and so on.
Like any scarce resource, collectors are hungry to get their hands on short domains, and most of the three letter domains particularly in popular top-level domains like .COM and .CO.UK, have gone.
Poor quality domain names, i.e. long domain names are ten a penny.
A high quality domain has a magic factor. This the hardest thing to pin down, but you see examples of them everywhere: xero.com, google.com, facebook.com, easyjet.com. The companies are internet giants, and the domain names work like magic - unique, quirky, fun, and great as a brand. Interestingly, the best names are not overly descriptive (ie. flowers.com, accounts.com). They seem to be made from completely made up words, that suggest things whilst defining their own marketing space.
It’s easy to find examples of poor quality domains that do not have that magic factor. I have heard of one membership organisation whose domain name (their acronym) is the same as a famous fish tank product - ie. anybody searching for their organisation online would be forgiven for getting confused by the results.
The famous rubbish email address on the back of a van - email@example.com advertising the services of a small business is an example of a poor quality email address - comprising a generic domain name and wasted opportunity to use a keyword rich business name.
A high quality domain name is packed with keywords - the brand, or some generic search term, e.g. kaysflowers.com, jims-plumbing.co.uk. It signals the business purpose. It gives the customer some hint of the offered products and services.
So, we have a great idea for a business, and some thoughts about a high quality domain name that may work for our business online. We start some exploratory searches to check whether the domain is available, perhaps by typing some keywords into Google - and then we start to encounter problems.
In its infancy, the domain name industry gave great opportunities for investors to grab a large share market for small investment. Today, while it’s still possible to get a business name to use online for a few £s per month, it’s usually harder than that.
So, to better understand the problem, let’s review the domain name market today.
Domain names are cheap at face value, they can be purchased for under £10 per year, but some of them have secret value.
The domain name market has a thriving secondary market, dominated by ‘domainers’ - investors or speculators. The domainers’ game is to think of great domain names and to register them for next to nothing before you do. You then think of a good business name, search for the name, and realise it’s already been taken by a domainer.
If you’re desperate enough, you’ll seek to contact the domainer, and perhaps offer them an inflated price to transfer the domain name to you, at a premium. The domainer gets a great return for a domain name that may have cost him £10 plus a few renewal fees. Although some domain names can be purchased on the secondary market for reasonable prices, I’ve heard of others changing hands for $100,000’s. It is this potential for gold out of nothing that keeps the domainer market exciting and flourishing.
Every day, there are new businesses and brands emerging that are built around a domain name. Uber.com, webuyanycar.com, expedia.com, amazon.co.uk to name a few. If you can get a domain name to match your brand there are considerable benefits.
Domain names are easily recognisable, arguably more so than any other form of internet tagging, e.g. https://netistrar.com is clearly a website address, whereas our social media tags (netistrar, netstrar and netistrar-ltd) don’t give any indication for the user about which social media channel to navigate.
Similarly, the world’s biggest ‘app’ is email - and an email address (built around a domain name - firstname.lastname@example.org) is easily recognisable as just that, an email address.
Facebook offers a free page for your business - a great utility if you don’t mind the fixed layout, the limited choice of fields and Facebook’s business categorisation. However, a Facebook page will always be a page that belongs to Facebook. Any interest you are getting for your business, you are also sharing with Facebook, and they can influence what then happens to your traffic. It is almost impossible to get people to follow your ‘funnel’, checkout, workflow, sign up. They may wander off and start talking to their friends, get distracted by new notifications.
In the domain name space, your visitors visit your space. You determine the funnel, they are in your website. That website can be put together in the way that you want it to be, a single page website, a brochure, a content managed website, an e-commerce store.
So, we have a problem. The domain name market is hungry, and apparently, all the good business names have gone.
Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief, reports approximately 342.4 million domain name registered in the 3rd Quarter, 2018. Research by Gaelber.com 2008, analysing the top 1,000,000 websites as defined by Alexa, found the average domain name to be 10 characters.
If we consider letters, numbers and dashes with an average of 10 characters we have a potential domain name market of 4.8 million billion (4.8 x 1015) domain names. Given that, only a fraction of 1% of potential domain names have been registered. Obviously, most of those domain names will be poor combinations of letters and numbers, but you get the point.
Now, it just so happens that many of the most successful brands online appear to have brands that seem to come from made up names or unusual word combinations: Google, Uber, Facebook, Airbnb. Given that most of the world domain names have yet to be registered, it follows that there is still a vast market of potential business names that can be derived from made up words.
We recommend that you try to purchase a short name for online trading - the average is 10 characters, and as we showed above there there is a vast market of potential domain names left yet to register. However, we were only considering one Top Level Domain, .COM. There are now thousands more new Generic Top Level Domain Names (New gTLDs) on the market and that opens up even more possibilities to find a great business name.
nTLDStats.com is reporting a total of 1211 New gTLDs giving opportunities for new business names using one of the new Top Level Domain Endings (.WALES, .CYMRU, .TOP, .XYZ. LOAN, etc).
Taking ‘Accounts’ as an idea for a new business, you’d be hard pressed to find a name like ‘accounts.com’ available to use as a business name without paying a small fortune, but at the time of writing I was able to find ‘accounts.cymru’ available for sale on the Netistrar.com website for £9.99. Great if you’re setting up business in Wales.
Netistrar Search results for 'accounts'
Despite all the opportunities from the emerging markets, new gTLDs have yet to take hold, and most new businesses are sticking to established favourites when considering a name, eg. .COM for global brand presence, and a Country Code Top Level Domain Name for National brand presence (eg. .UK in the United Kingdom, .FR in France, etc.).
So, how can we make the task of finding a great name for your business easier?
Luckily, to use the system you don’t have to do anything special, it’s built into our search results, and is triggered automatically whenever you search for a name. The idea is that you get to spend more time playing with words than time taken trying to figure out the technology.
Here is our recommended process for finding a great name:
Start with obvious, start with the name you have in mind for your business. Type those ideas into the Search Box below, and look at the results. If the name is available in .COM, you maybe onto a winner. If you are based in the UK and the name is showing as available in .UK likewise, you may have your name.
Study the results and the availability in the other gTLDs (.XYZ, .NET, etc.). Is this already a popular name (ie. already taken by domainers!) or have you discovered a niche?
Unless you are looking for a totally made-up word, you will start to see the name generator kicking into play. For example, in the search results below, we find an exact match for ‘myidea’ in the .XYZ domain and some generated results for .NET and .COM. All the names are available to purchase (at time of writing).
Netistrar's Business Name Generator showing some suggestions.
The ‘alternative suggestions’ should give you inspiration for a unique name. These are ideas for you to play with. Try following the link for more suggestions. Play with different combinations, add some letters, numbers.
Think of the other Top Level Domains, a .NET name is great for a technical business, .PHOTO for a photography business. Get creative.
When you think you have a winner, type the keyword in Google and study the results. Is the online space dominated by something else? If so, another business might have a trademark for a name that’s similar to yours. Do an online trademark search to be sure that your planned business name isn’t someone else’s. If you find conflicts, start again, adjust things … your aim is to have your business name at the top of search results.
Finally, to close the loop, if you are aiming to a start a business in the UK, check your name in Companies House using Companies House business name checker. This is the easy bit - if the name has been taken, adjust it to make it unique and different to other company names. This is for your letterhead, the domain name is the thing that people will recognise when they think of your business.
Good luck with your search for a great name.
Lucien is a Founder of Netistrar. Following a successful career as an actor, he then went on to work as a security expert, engineer and marketer in the domain name industry for over 20 years.
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