How to name a business using domain names

Jason Shaw | May 24th, 2021

Wondering how to name a business with something catchy and unique? My first piece of advice – don’t use a brand name generator to find your LLC name! It’s going to take more effort than that.

As a small business owner, coming up with a creative business name for your limited liability company (LLC) sounds like a straightforward task. However, finding the perfect name can be quite a challenge when you consider the millions of domain name options.

Finding a creative brand name can be a frustrating endeavor. You may have asked friends and family. Perhaps you’ve even tried one of those online brand name generators.

How to name a business

In most cases, finding a unique LLC name with a matching domain name is tricky. This is why I’m such an advocate of starting your LLC name search using domain names.

Let’s walk through how to come up with a brand name for your business entity without using a company name generator.

Why avoid using a brand name generator for LLC names?

Because everyone has the same idea!

Those online business name generators will typically recycle ideas and by the time you’ve discovered a good one, it’s probably gone.

Using a URL search is a much better way of quickly narrowing down some of your early business name ideas. Preferably, this should be done before starting a business entity.

This may sound strange because there are literally millions of URL options (and LLC names) for you to choose from.

Even so, finding something that will serve your branding objectives is a very nuanced task. After all, who wants “sidb38924.com” as their domain name? Or something that’s confusingly similar to another business?

Why and how to name a business by searching for URLs

1) It accelerates the process of elimination

You should exclude business name options where the domain names are currently owned by someone else.

Whether those domain names are actually being used is another matter.
There is a huge market for second-hand domains. Some companies even specialize in reselling domain names.

Basically, they swoop in and grab expired domain names and crank up the price if they believe the URL is marketable. The hallmarks of a good domain name are that it’s short, simple, easy to spell and easy to pronounce.

Some of the more egregious website domain name resellers are known as “domain name squatters”. They should be fully researched and vetted before doing business with them. Some may even have a business relationship with a brand name generator service.

The cost of second-hand domain names can range from a few hundred dollars right up to several million. For instance, “0123.com” sold for over $250,000.

2) You can quickly evaluate domain name “crowding”

It’s a great feeling to discover that your dream “.com” name is available. The temptation is to purchase the domain right away.

Take a moment!

Do some digging and find out whether the same domain name with a different suffix is already owned by someone else. Technically speaking, the suffix is called the Top-Level Domain (TLD) and is easily recognizable as either “.net”, “.io”, “.info”, etc.

If a similar domain name leads to a website being used for immoral purposes the entire brand name and/or LLC name is effectively hijacked.
There’s virtually nothing you can do to control this. Be prepared upfront and secure the most popular domain name TLD’s as soon as you can.

3) It helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In terms of SEO, very similar domain names are somewhat of a branding disaster. For example, if a customer searches for your business – “Billy Shoes” – they might be presented with similar competing results like “BillyShoes.info” and “BillyShoes.net”.

Which one should potential customers click on? It’s confusing for everyone and something that should be avoided if at all possible.

The best approach is to snap-up the most popular TLD’s when you purchase a domain name. Typically, this means grabbing the .com, net, info, io, and .biz names.

It’s also worth buying country-based TLD’s if that’s appropriate for your business – such as .co.uk, .de, etc.

This would signify the primary geographic location of the business. Granted, this costs you more in terms of domain name registration, but is necessary to build a brand.

Is it easy to come up with a great business name?

No. It’s frustrating, time consuming and annoying. But, wouldn’t you rather have this information before embarking on an expensive branding exercise for your business? This is why I’m such a huge advocate of basing your business naming ideas on URL research.

The process of searching for domain names can help you generate other good ideas.

Thinking laterally and creatively is the key. Technology can also help you out.

For example, let’s say that your dream name “BillyShoes.com” is taken. Some domain name search tools (like Name Mesh) will suggest other names that are in the same ballpark. Just make sure that your brand story still works.

Other factors look out for when choosing a name

Not all domain names are created equal. There are a few general rules for selecting that perfect domain name.

TL;DR: Download this handy infographic.

Your domain name should match the business/LLC name

For example, buying “mygreatwebsite.com” or “302bdkj.com” for a business called “Smith’s Cafe” is a no-no because will confuse your target audience. A brand name generator could never figure this out for you.

It should be short as possible.

The whittling-down process looks something like this:

  • MikesLemonadeStand.com
  • MikesLemonade.com
  • MikesLemons.com
  • Lemonade.com
  • Lemons.com

Remember, though, shorter domain names are highly desirable and are therefore rarely available. They are also generally more expensive to purchase on the second-hand market.

Leave out the punctuation, please!

There are several reasons for this. First, it’s visually unappealing to see punctuation (like hyphens) in a domain name. In my view, it tends to appear spammy.

Second, it’s slow to type into a web browser or email message.

Third, it’s difficult to spell in-person or over the phone.

Trademarks

Remember to search the USPTO website for existing trademarks that may create issues for your business later on.

Speaking to a legal expert is the best way to navigate through the trademark process, form an LLC, discover how to file a DBA (if required) and other key tasks.

Worldwide competition

Let’s say your domain name and trademark research came up with a sure winner. You should still perform some due diligence on Google and social media. Search for mentions of the name including slight variations, misspellings and translations to be 100% sure that it’s unique.

This is all to avoid brand confusion later on.

Social handles

Similar to above, remember to research your business name on social media.
More specifically, you should check whether someone has already registered your name as a social media handle. Also investigate whether it’s being used as a hashtag, campaign, or some other activity.

You might be surprised to find that your name is already being used. This is good to know before you register your business!

If so, choosing a sensible name variation is the solution. For example, instead of @decodist as a Twitter handle I went with @decodistNY.

Domain name history

All domain names have an expiry date which is typically one to three years from the date of purchase.

Domain names can change hands many times over the years. It’s important to do some research if you believe your domain name has previously been owned by someone else.

The first question is: Why is it no longer being used?

In most cases, the answer to this question may be enough for you to look elsewhere.

  • Was it previously used by a business that went under?
  • Was it previously used for illegal or immoral purposes?
  • Did it appear in news media for all the wrong reasons?
  • Did they send spam or host malware using that domain name?
  • Is the domain blacklisted by Google or your internet provider?

Search Engine Optimization

Any Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert will tell you that your domain name matters when it comes to ranking on Google. There’s a good reason for this – Google matches people’s search terms with key elements of a web page. This includes the title, description and also the domain name.

Your domain name will be more “SEO-friendly” if it includes common word(s) used to describe your business niche.

For example, if you own a pottery business, then a domain name like LocalPottery.com would stand a better chance of being discovered by customers. This is because it includes the common term “pottery”. The term “local” may also help.

Can’t find a good business name or domain name?

This is a very common situation and you have options!

Make up a fictitious name

Let’s face it, short and memorable domain names are scarce. Businesses frequently opt to create a completely fictitious name simply so they can lock-down the domain name space. This is actually one of the reasons Decodist came into existence.

Coming back to the pottery business example, considering a made-up name like Potterly.com (or even Potter.ly) could be a good option. It’s short, unique, memorable and marketable! It’s taken, too.

Make an offer to buy your dream domain name from the current owner

It’s a long shot, but an email to the domain name’s current owner could be worthwhile. It may open up a negotiation. Who knows, you might get lucky!

Have more questions?

I’d be happy to speak with you about your online business goals and create a tailored strategy.