I’m thinking of starting a but am getting stuck on coming up with a good name… what should I do?
I’ve seen some form of this question asked in a variety of online and in face-to-face conversations. Whether it’s posted to a Facebook group or online forum or being discussed at a WordPress Toledo or Toledo Business Mastermind Meetup or some other startup or techy type gathering, my answer is the usually the following…
Slow your roll. You are getting WAY ahead of yourself.
The very first thing you need to do is see if your name is available as a domain, ideally with .com as the Top Level Domain (TLD). Yes it’s 2017 and yes there are a heap of other domain extensions other than .com available for websites to use. But .com is still king, and if your name is available with .com at the end, I will kick you in the shin if you don’t grab it.
And while I’m going to save the particulars of the other steps involved in doing Domain Name Research for another blog post, I do need to stop us right now…
Stop and Search
DO NOT conduct a domain name search on a site that sells domains or web hosting. You know the big one I’m talking about, but that’s not the only one to be weary of. See what happens is that you spend an hour or two typing in different domain name ideas and searching up a storm. Once you’re ready to take the leap and commit to that one special domain name that sets your heart a flutter (or has social media names available for it), you type the domain name that was available mere minutes or hours earlier but has since been snatched. Jinkies! 🙁
This is referred Domain Name Front Running and far too many companies have been accused of doing it or other nasty things like it. Yes this is really a thing and you can learn more about it here: http://www.domainsherpa.com/prevent-domain-name-front-running/
Instead, the less risky way to do a domain search is to remove the middlemen and go to ICANN’s website to conduct the search for domain names you’re interested in using their search bar tool at the following link: https://whois.icann.org/en/lookup
Alternatively, if you’re in the US, I would also trust doing a search on Google Domains. Though I’m a Google fan girl, so take that for what you will. But I haven’t heard any horror stories about Google Domains, at least not yet.
Domain Name Combinations To Consider:
OK, let’s run through a few case study examples…
Jennifer Reed Gilliland, Dietitian & diabetes educator
My conversation with Jennifer was the initial spark for this whole article. She’s starting her first blog and like lots of folks at this stage, she was kind of stuck. The quest for “the perfect” name had become this giant stone in her path. Effectively blocking her from the most important thing, which is just to get started. See, everyone has to get started somewhere, and taking those first steps to start writing content, sharing it on social media, growing an audience, getting feedback from Google Analytics on website traffic metrics (like which pages are people reading the most, etc.). This is the soul of what your website can do for you and your business or pet project. And thinking about the perfect name feels like action but it’s not.
My advice to her, and to you, is that in the beginning, most people are going be interested in your website because they know you already. Make it easy for them to find you by using your name as the domain name.
Lucky for Jennifer, she has a rather unique name and plenty of choices in how to concatenate it as a domain name. Her unique considerations where:
- First Name + Maiden Last Name + Married Last Name + TLD (.com)
- First Name + Married Last Name + TLD (.com)
- First Name + Married Last Name + Industry Keyword (Dietitian, Etc.) + TLD (.com)
- First Name + Married Last Name + Industry Specific TLD (.education or .fitness or .life … etc.)
Ultimately she decided on JenniferGilliland.com which I think will serve her well. And over time, as this blossoms, she can acquire additional domains as needed.
Sarah Collins, Web Design & Small Business Digital Consultant
Unfortunately I was not blessed with a unique name. “Sarah” ranks pretty high in most popular first names for girls. And “Collins” is in the 50th range for most common last names in the US. This combination has served me well in providing digital anonymity for most of my life, but not so much when trying to finally establish an online presence for myself professionally.
When I started thinking about doing creating websites for other people as a business, I was already using SarahECollins.com for a resume website. I picked up SarahCollinsWebDesign.com and SarahCollinsWebDesigns.com because I’d seen both with and without the s verions used by other people on their site. But upon further research, web design wins hands down. It has a Google Trends Average (GTA) of 70. Where as “web designs” only has a GTA of 2.
In the end, I decided to use SarahCollinsWeb.Design as my domain name for two reasons. It was a little shorter to type out and I really liked the look of not having anything extra in the URL. It’s clean and simple, which is part of my message as a consultant.
I have my other domains forwarding traffic to SarahCollinsWeb.Design and in the future, if I decide to rebrand my business, I can forward this domain just as easily.
Other Factors To Consider:
- Birth name / Legal name Vs. Nickname(s)
- Alternative Spelling(s) & Common Misspelling(s)
- Married Name Vs Maiden Name
- Brand Reputation / Revenge Domain Name Prevention
Start with the most important. Then expand your domain name real estate holdings as your business grows. But when in doubt and obviously within what your budget can afford, GET THEM ALL.
Domain names are not Pokémon.
You are not collecting these things for the thrill of it. This is a matter of getting your branding locked down. The last thing you want as a professional person is someone doing a search for your name to find your serial killer namemate / namegänger / dopplenamer / you get what I’m trying to say here.
Another awkward situation, and this has really happened, let’s say you decide to run for a government office or other high publicity type thing but you forget to get your name as a domain name before someone else buys it and uses your literal good name to shell their message or cause. Not good.
It’s important to think these things through now. Also, even though you might not have any evil namemates out there right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t at some point in the future. You’ll want to set up relevant Google Alerts to help you know about potential headaches before others do. [HOW TO ARTICLE ON THIS COMING SOON ]
Your Name Is Important
OK, I digress. The point I’m trying to make here is this: Your name is important and your first domain name acquisition(s) needs to reflect this. If you’re new at this, your business or blog niche may pivot several times before you finally settle down on the products, services or topics your audience wants to hear about from you. So instead of re-branding every-time you pivot, your domain name should stay the same while you and your site finds it’s focus.
The end result being, even if you don’t end up using it forever, you can keep your name domains and redirect / forward them to whatever domain you end up going with long term.
ProTip: Have kids? Pick up their domain name now! They’ll thank you later. The max registration time span is 10 years, so you’ll need to renew every decade, but if the human race is still around in 20 – 30 years, they’ll thank you for it.
Which domain registrars do I use &/or recommend?
I’ve had an excellent experience with using NameCheap (Affiliate Link) as my primary domain name registrar. But I’ve recently started to try out Google Domains as well, I’ll write a review when I feel comfortable recommending them to clients.
Thank for Reading!
Please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments section below. And if you’d like to talk about working together on a project, please check out my Contact page for contact info and form.