Finding the perfect name for your project, company and website is not as easy as it seems. Here’s an effective method to get it done without pulling your hair out.
- Here is the program:
- What are the characteristics of successful names?
- Why isn’t it that easy?
- The right questions to ask yourself before getting started
- The most popular domain extensions
- The efficient method to find the ideal business name
- What to do if the domain name is not available?
- A quick case Study
- Some tools that can help you
Google, Apple, Nike, IKEA… there is a multitude of brands whose names are engraved in our memory. Reaching even a fraction of this notoriety is the dream of every young businessman.
Of course, the huge communication work of the marketing teams, as well as the colossal budgets allocated for advertising campaigns that submerged the world for decades, have largely contributed to this. It is also true that the name these companies chose was sometimes a determining factor in their success.
Business name and domain name
Throughout this article, I will talk about domain name, business name, company name, project name, etc. There are of course notable differences, but they are closely related, and that is why I will not distinguish between them. For the sake of simplicity, I will assume that you will use the same one for both. Just keep in mind the following:
- Business name: This is the legal (in the eyes of the law) name you will give your business, product or service. Even if it is still in project form, you will probably need to formalize it at some point.
- Domain name: This one will be used as an address or link to your website (e.g., mycompany.com, greatproject.co.uk).
What are the characteristics of successful names?
Let’s take a look at some of the distinctive signs common to certain brand names. Even if there are no strict rules in this area, identifying these signs can be useful to understand the mechanism and logic used by those who found them.
Short: Cette première caractéristique semble évidente. Les noms longs et célèbres ne sont pas nombreux. Ce sont souvent des noms de famille ou plusieurs mots mis bout à bout. Mais l’idéal est que plus c’est court et plus ce sera facile à retenir.
Facile à lire: The other important feature is that it must be easy to read so that it can be easily memorized. It is therefore a matter of finding a name that “slides” over the tongue and is pleasant to the ear. A name containing two or three syllables seems optimal to me.
Also, avoid using too many consonants or vowels. Balance here is preferable (but not imperative). A name that is too complex to spell will not only be difficult to remember, but may also disrupt the powerful word-of-mouth effect.
Evocative: You can choose an evocative name, containing one or two words indicating the type of product or service your company offers. For example, you can easily guess that Burger King does not sell anti-aging creams and that T-mobile is not a manufacturer of bowling balls.
Be careful, however, if you have the ambition to diversify your activities in the near or distant future, as you may end up with a name that will no longer have anything to do with the products/services you offer. This is why many brands are not doing so. Did you know, for example, that in their early days Samsung was exporting dried fish, that Nintendo was selling playing cards or that Lamborghini was only building… tractors?
Telling a story: This name can also be simply linked to your personal story or the story of the company you created. Probably the most emblematic example is Apple (according to legend, the apple was Steve Jobs’s favorite fruit). In any case, whether true or pure urban legend, people love stories, especially those with a happy ending.
Why isn’t it that easy?
In the past, finding the name for a company was often quite simple. We would think about it for a few minutes and the name would suddenly appear in our minds, as a self-evident choice. But things have changed since the appearance of the Internet, and especially of domainers (or domain investors), those professionals who massively buy domain names in order to resell them with a sometimes very important profit.
As a result, most common names and their variants and combinations will only be available to you if you can afford them. Prices vary according to different factors (niche popularity, potential…), and generally start from a few hundred dollars to several tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Personal message to domainers passing by 😉
A little anecdote
When the idea for this site popped to my mind, the first name that came to me was MakeMoney.com. So I went to check out a domain name registration site. Not being naive, I suspected that this name would either already be taken or put-on sale for an exorbitant price.
And that’s when, after falling out of my head, my jaw made the sound of broken dishes as it hit the floor. Ten… million… dollars… $10,000,007.85 to be precise (but the annual renewal costs only $11.49 👍😂). Well, this is an extreme case, but if you were going to open an online clothing store and call it clotheshop.com, you might as well be prepared for the shock ($4,500, I went and checked it out).
You will also need to make sure that the name you choose is not already registered and therefore does not belong to someone else. There are simple search tools such as uspto.gov or tmdn.org. I strongly advise you to check because in case of usurpation, the sanctions can be very heavy.
The right questions to ask yourself before getting started
Which language?: English seems to be the obvious choice, not only because it is the most spoken (and best understood) language in the world, but also because it is the language of international communication by excellence. However, this does not mean that it is the best in your case. Some languages have a real influence on the perception we have of a brand.
For example, L’Oréal, Cartier, Gucci or Armani have most certainly intentionally chosen a very French or Italian name since these countries symbolize luxury and elegance in the collective imagination. Others, such as Honda, Toyota, Bosch or Siemens, will evoke the robustness, reliability and manufacturing quality that have made the reputation of everything produced made in Japan and Germany.
Finally, in a more pragmatic way, you may choose a name in a language other than English because you want to address only those who speak that language. It will be more efficient for an office cleaning company to be called nettoyage-bureau.fr, if it only operates in Poitiers, France, rather than clean-office.com, for example. If your target is very localized and speaks only one language, it is probably not worth trying to internationalize it.
But beyond the language, it is above all the use of the Latin alphabet that is recommended. There are various reasons for this, especially because this alphabet offers great clarity both in spelling and pronunciation, but also because it exudes a certain intemporal elegance. Even Asian brands latinize their names (Alibaba, Yamaha, Samsung…). The use of an alphabet other than Latin is possible, but could be penalizing at the SEO level.
Which domain extension?: The choice here seems quite obvious. If your project is commercial or has an international scope, you can opt for .com. Otherwise, .fr, .es, .de or any other domain extension related to your beloved homeland will be fine.
However, I would strongly advise you to take both. Be sure that as soon as your website .co.uk, .us or whatever begins to get a little notoriety, a smart guy will hasten to take the .com, either to try to do the same as you, or to resell it to you much more expensive the day you finally realize that you need it. For a cost between 10 and 20 dollars a year, it is not worth taking this risk. The same applies if you plan to propose your website in other languages later on. Do it while there is still time.
SEO (short for search engine optimization) can be a very important element in the choice of a business name. Being a rather vast subject that I can’t cover in detail here, you should know that if you manage to slip one or two keywords in the name of your business, it can boost your position on Google, Bing or Yahoo, for example.
Be careful, however, not to be too specific if you plan to expand your business later, as I explained earlier. For example, if you have chosen purebeef.com as your domain name, it will be quite complicated for you to offer vegan products at a later point.
The most popular domain extensions
.com: This is the Holy Grail of extensions, the one that is the most massively used throughout the world. Originally attributed to commercial companies, it has become almost a must-have for all projects with a minimum of ambition.
.net: Originally intended exclusively for Internet providers or network infrastructures, it has become an alternative to .com, evoking domains such as Internet-related technologies and services.
.org: This extension is aimed at non-profit organizations, NGOs, political parties and diverse communities.
.uk, .au, ca, .de, .pt, .nl, etc.: : These are specific to each country in the world. There are more than 200 (yes, more than the number of countries recognized by the United Nations).
.io, .ly, .me, .us, .is, etc.: Also related to countries, these are used in particular by many start-ups to add a creative effect to their domain name.
The efficient method to find the ideal business name
Here is the method I use when I need to find a business name. It happens in 3 phases and is not very complicated. It’s child’s play, as you will see.
1Define a list of words related to your project, company, product or service and add adjectives, colors, onomatopoeia or other short words with positive connotations. Indicate everything that comes to mind and give yourself a few days to write this list. There is no need to rush. Hopefully, this name will be the element that will define your business for centuries to come. So take all the time you need.
2This is definitely the most fun part. You will select one or two words and try to play with them, a bit like you do with LEGOs. The goal is to mix, manipulate, combine, nest and recompose all this to get a 2 or 3 syllable word, which I will call the base word, and which will then be used as the basis for the next step.
3In this section, we will use some tricks to make this basic word really unique. But if you have already found the perfect name in step 2, you can go directly to the last one.
Use prefixes and suffixes: This first trick consists of adding between one and four letters before or after the base word. Here are a few examples of letters or syllables, but you can add anything that is short and sounds good to the ear:
b – be – go – get – u – you – hi – neo – new – my – me – ez – fly – top – pro – free – io – is – eo – ea – oo – ix – ia – me – ify – eus – etis – ize – ly – sy – it – ie – ora – ero – ium – bl – ous – ing – ee – py – r -now – zilla – lo
Examples : Spotify, Pinterest, GoDaddy, Deliveroo, Fiverr.
If you want more, this site lists nearly 5,000 of them!
Ditch a letter: Simply removing a letter from the base word can sometimes reveal an interesting name. Delete a vowel preferably, but it might be worth trying with a consonant as well.
Some famous and nice-sounding examples: Flickr, Scribd, Tumblr, Xtreme…
Substitute one letter for another: This fairly simple technique consists of replacing one letter with another with a similar sound. For example, replace the word key with ki, kii, kee or ky, but it also works with the letters C/S/Z or C/K/Q…
Examples : Cingular, Embarq.
Playing with domain extensions: I already told you about domain extensions such as .io, .ly, .me, .us, .is, etc. An original way to find your company name is to play with words that match them perfectly.
Some examples: join.us, meet.me, cigar.io, love.ly or sush.is.
4Now that you have found a name you like, all you have to do is check if it is not already registered and that the domain extension you want is available. And if it is not, don’t lose courage and go back to step 2.
What to do if the domain name is not available?
In this case, my advice is simple: find another one. Even if it is available locally (.uk, .dk, .it, etc.) but not in .com, or the opposite, change it. I can imagine your disappointment, you’ve probably spent hours finding it and it seems so perfect… I’ve been through this and it’s sometimes very frustrating.
There are several reasons why I advise you to forget it. First, because it is possible that this domain name leads to an active site and in this case, you take several risks such as: those who are looking for you land on the other website (the opposite is also true), to be accused of plagiarism, to suffer from the possible bad reputation of the other site, to be penalized at the referencing on the different search engines, etc.
Then, even if this address doesn’t lead anywhere, you don’t know anything about its past. Maybe it was blacklisted because it was used to spread spam or viruses? And if so, it will be very difficult to position yourself properly on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.
Forget about adding periods, dashes, underscores or even changing to a secondary extension such as .net or .info. You risk losing an important part of your traffic to the other site. No, seriously, launching a new project is not easy today, if you want to put all the chances on your side, I strongly recommend you to take the name.com + the local extension you need (ex: name.co.uk). You don’t necessarily have to use them all, but at least they will belong to you.
So that’s my advice. Now, feel free not to follow it, of course. And if you want to get in touch with the owner of the domain name you want, you can try a search on who.is. I just wanted to give you all the necessary information so that you can make an informed decision.
A quick case Study
In order to illustrate the method, I have just explained, let me quickly show you how I proceeded to find the name of this site. I’ll summarize it quickly because it actually took me days.
So, first of all, I established a list of keywords related to the concept of the site: money – idea – energy – switch – switcher – search – seek – seeker – make – makemoney – shift – shifter
I created another list with a few short words that I found pleasant and could be complementary to the first one: easy – zen – cool – keen – fine – true – super – wise – good – on – sweet – energy
I liked the way the word sweet resonated and especially the symbolism of the word switch, which evokes change (moving on to something else).
Sweet, seek, switch… Sweekr is therefore the search for smooth change 😊. The letter R at the end is just to underline the intentionality (ER as traveler, switcher, teacher, etc.).
Some tools that can help you
There are a lot of free tools on the Web that will help you find the right name. Here is a list of my favorite ones:
panabee.com: Panabee is really a great site. Give it two of the words on your list and it will suggest a series of names using the tips I just spoke to you about. You should try it without wasting any more time.
nameboy.com: You submit two keywords and it will show you a list of names and their availability in .com.
wordoid.com: : Another great tool! It works the same way except that you will have here several useful options such as the choice of language, the number of letters contained in the name, the choice of a combination of letters contained in the name, etc.
Voilà, you are now ready to find a fantastic name for your not less fantastic project! All you have to do now is put your mind to it. Start from a list of keywords related to your business, play with it like with LEGO, use the tricks I spoke to you about, find a short name (2 or 3 syllables max), and make sure it is not already registered and that the domain name is available in .com or other.
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