Starting a business is exciting. Regardless of your field — landscaping, tax accounting or printing — there’s so much to learn once you decide to open your own place. In addition to creating and delivering a product or service, you might need to rent space, hire staff, possibly line up subcontractors or suppliers, promote and bill for that product or service as well. Don’t forget to add business domain names to your list — without one, it’ll be awfully hard to succeed in any business.
Why you need a domain name
- Want to have a website.
- Want a custom email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
HumbleMechanic.com is owned and used by Charles Sanville, a GoDaddy customer and mechanic extraordinaire out of North Carolina. As long as Charles continues to pay the registration fee for this domain, no one else can use HumbleMechanic.com. It’s his and his alone.
HumbleMechanic.com is now a business asset, one Charles could sell, should he ever choose to sell his business.
Charles has been producing YouTube videos for six years. In that time, “The Humble Mechanic” has become synonymous with free, reliable auto advice. In fact, his podcast is listed on Feedspot’s “Top 100 Auto Blogs Every Car Enthusiast Must Read.”
Tips on finding great business domain names
Not all that long ago, if you said “google” to a random stranger, they’d likely think you were speaking Klingon. A play on the mathematical expression for the number 1 followed by 100 zeros, Google.com is now one of the most famous of all business domain names. Like kleenex and xerox, the word “google” has even reached that most hallowed of all branding milestones: it’s widely used as a generic term for searching the web. As in “Would you google that for me please?”
It takes years for even the savviest business owner to reach Google’s level of brand domination, but you should be aiming for this level when you choose your business domain name. Below are a few tips.
If you haven’t chosen a name for your business yet
This is the best approach to business naming, since the zippiest, most unforgettable business name in the world is useless if someone else already owns the matching domain name and social media handles (search available handles here).
For example, I have a freelance writing service called Lastword Productions that I registered with the Linn County Recorder back in 1992. Sadly, someone else beat me to registering lastword.com. Now lastword.com is listed as for sale at $50,000. Sigh. Live and learn.
Follow these tips as you explore options for your business name:
- Keep it short and don’t use numbers or hyphens (just trust me).
- Think about what benefit you offer clients, listing words that describe it.
- Do some keyword research and include a keyword in your domain name.
- If you cater to a local audience, consider including your city in your domain name.
- Get creative and use a word from mythology, art or philosophy for your name.
- Combine parts of two or more words to make a business name.
- Use a naming tool to generate ideas.
Pro tip: Once you have a short list of names you like, do a Basic Word Mark Search of the U.S. Patent Office database to make sure no other company currently holds the trademark on any of the names you’re considering (click the button for “live” before searching). Cross off the names on your list that are already registered.
If you have chosen a business name
For some startups, the business name is a given. Perhaps you’ve inherited a family business and are just now putting it online. If your company has been in business for a while and has name recognition, it would be a mistake to change the name just to get a cool web address. All that name recognition would suddenly disappear overnight — even long-time customers would be confused. You don’t want this.
In cases like these, your best bet is to first check and see if the exact spelling of your business name is available as a domain. It only takes a couple of seconds to check. If the domain you want is already registered to someone else, you have several options:
- Find out who owns it by entering the domain name in the WhoIs database search box, and then ask that person if they’d be willing to sell it.
- Hire a broker with a domain buy service to reach out to the owner and negotiate a sale if possible.
Can’t find your business name in .com?
There’s no denying that .com is the most popular and widely recognized domain extension in the world. No wonder so many startups begin their naming process here.
What happens if someone already has the .com you want and isn’t willing to sell it — or is asking an outrageous price for it?
We’ve got you covered. Over the past few years, your naming options have exploded. Now you have many more options than before. Work in real estate? Try registering your business name with the .properties extension. Opening a nail studio? Check out .salon. There are literally hundreds of domain extensions to choose from. Many are still fairly new and haven’t been picked over yet.
Just in case you missed that day in class, here are some answers to basic questions about business domain names.
Who can register a domain name?
Anyone in the world can register a .com domain name, assuming it hasn’t already been registered by someone else.
To find out if the domain you want is available to you, enter it in the box below:
Some domain extensions, like .edu and .gov for example, are restricted. The first may only be used by U.S. colleges and universities, while .gov is reserved for U.S. governmental agencies. Still others have different requirements. In order to register .eu, for example, applicants must live or work in a country belonging to the European Union.
How much do they cost?
Domain names range in price from 99 cents to thousands of dollars per year. Generally speaking, the more valuable they are, the higher the price.
How long can you own them?
The minimum registration is one year, although some domains can be registered for as many as 10 years at a time.
Starting a business? Do this first
Years from now, you’ll remember the moment you decided to start your own business. Take a moment to savor it. But before you consult an attorney or rent space — before you even settle on a business name, take my advice and search for a business domain name. Ask around, do your homework and then register a name that will stand the test of time. Welcome to the 21st-century workforce!