How To Name Your Website


When choosing how to name your website, you are really choosing a domain name, also called a web address or URL. This name is linked to an IP address which represents a physical point on the Internet. When someone types your domain name into a web browser, your website displays.

It is important to choose your website name wisely.

In this article, we are going to start by looking at the 7 Fundamentals for Naming Your Website. Then we will go through 4 Popular Methods for Choosing a Website Name, each including three pros and cons to help you decide which method is best for naming your website.

7 Fundamentals for Naming Your Website

Start by brainstorming ideas

The best place to start is with a list of words and short phrases that best describe the goals for the website your are naming.

For example: If you are naming a music website then you can start with words like “riff, note, play, band, perform, teach”. Add translations of music to your list “muzika, musik, musiqi”. Use thesaurus.com to get ideas for related words like “melody, rap, soul, tune, fusion, song”.

Once you have a significant list of ideas then try combining some of the words “riffnote, musikfusion, soultune, songplay”. You will find that many of these combinations have a nice ring to them, but sadly most of them will already taken. If you keep working at it though, you will find one or two good ones that are available.

To get more ideas, blend words together or add prefixes and suffixes. You can even use made up words. Is there something that your child used to say when they were learning to talk? Do you have a nickname? The idea is to try a bunch of different ideas until you find an available name you like. Keep brainstorming until you have a list of 6 or more solid candidates that are available as domain names.

Examples of domain names that have been created this way.

Word Combinations

  • Netflix.com
  • YouTube.com
  • Paypal.com
  • Kidbee.com

Word Blends

  • Zillow.com
  • Microsoft.com
  • Comcast.com
  • WineTerra.com

Affixed Words

  • Feedly.com
  • Spotify.com
  • Hexifuel.com
  • Shopify.com

Invented Words

  • Twitter.com
  • Bevalo.com
  • Avago.com
  • Kodak.com

Check out this list of companies and how they got their names on Wikipedia.

The key takeaways are that the name needs to be easy to remember, fit your business, and is spelled as you would expect.

Exception

Misspelled Words

  • flickr.com
  • digg.com
  • kraft.com
  • tumblr.com

Generally, I do not recommend naming your website with a misspelled word. But, as you can see from the above examples, there are some notable exceptions to this rule.

If you do decide on a misspelled word, go in knowing that you will need to invest more on branding and marketing to overcome the fact that your name will be harder for your potential customers to pronounce, spell, and remember.

Make sure the name is not trademarked

If the .com domain name is available then it is very likely the name is not trademarked. To be sure there are no conflicts, go to the trademark database of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Keep the name as short as possible

As a general rule, the shorter the better because it is easier to remember and type. Short names are very brandable which makes them easier to build a marketing program around. Domain names with 8 or less characters are not easy to get. It will require lots of brainstorming and creativity to find one that works for your business and is available.

Choose a .com

Unless you are a government, educational institution, or a non-profit organization, you definitely want a .com. Your customers will automatically assume that your website is a .com because it is the most widely recognized name on the internet.

If you choose a .net or .biz domain then most likely the .com version is already taken. Making this choice will confuse your customers and likely send them to the wrong website.

To protect your company name it is not a bad idea to get the .net if you have the .com as well.

Make your name unique

If someone in a similar industry to yours is already using a particular business or organization name, you should not use it, nor should you want to. You should also avoid any name that is confusingly similar.

If your search turns up any names that are the same or similar to your proposed domain name, ask yourself these questions and make sure the answer is no:

  • Will your website offer similar competing products and services?
  • When people are searching for your website could they end out on the other domain by mistake?
  • Is the other domain name well known?
Exception

What comes to mind first when you hear the name Dove? Is it chocolate or a beauty bar? Can you guess who registered dove.com first? How about Delta, an airline or faucets manufacturer? Who will you see when you go to delta.com?

Traditionally it is ok to use a trademarked name in completely unrelated fields like soap and chocolate because consumers won’t confuse one for the other.

Avoid hyphens (-) or numbers in your domain name

Verbally telling someone your domain name when you have to say "your (hyphen) business (hyphen) name (dot) com" can be confusing. Explaining that your domain includes a number is also confusing and makes it harder for people to remember.

As far as search engines are concerned, websites that include a hyphen in their domain name are viewed as less important than names without.

If your preferred name is available without a hyphen then there really is no reason to choose the domain with a hyphen.

Seek out feedback

Once you’ve come up with a few finalists and confirmed that they are available as domain names then bounce them off your friends and family to get feedback.

Here are some tips to help you determine which name will be best

  • Write the name down and ask people how to pronounce it
  • Say it over the phone ask them how they would spell it
  • Ask people what the name means to them
  • Call people back one day after and ask them if they can remember the name

4 Popular Methods for Choosing a Website Name

Use your current business name

The best domain name for your website, hands down, is your business name. If you don’t already have your exact business name registered and it is available (e.g. yourbusinessname.com) then by all means get it. Basically drop everything you are doing and get it now. It is that important.

What if your business name is not available?

Since we have already established that the best name for your website is the exact name of your business it really depends on how committed you are to that particular name.

If you have an existing brand name that has a heritage built around it, changing your business name is probably not a favorable option. After all, you have invested a lot of time and money to establish your name.

If your business name is not available your next course of action is to try and buy the domain name from the current owner. Check the "whois" information (whois.com) for the domain, and contact the person listed as the Registrant Name to see if they're willing to sell it.

Assuming they are willing to sell it, they are likely to ask for a much higher fee than you'll normally get when buying new domains. Be prepared to pay in the thousands. It sounds like a lot but remember you have built your business around this name so it is a worthwhile investment.

If your exact business name is not available by either of these means, seriously consider renaming your business.

Pros

  • Easy for your customers to remember
  • Keeps your online branding consistent with your physical store
  • If a potential client sees an advertisement with your business name they can easily Google your name and be directed to your website

Cons

  • Your business name may not be immediately available
  • Acquiring your domain from another private party may require a significant investment
  • Your business name may be long

Develop website and business name together

If you're just starting out or changing your business name is an option you are willing to consider, obtain your domain name first, and then name your website (or business) after the domain that you've acquired. Refer to the 7 Fundamentals for Naming Your Website that are listed above.

So, let’s say you’ve gone through the 7 Fundamentals… and have registered the domain name "widgets.com", then name your business and website "Widgets" or "widgets.com". This may seem a bit counterintuitive but this is the reality if you want to be successful online.

Pros

  • Your website name and business name will match
  • Easy for people to remember
  • You can rest assured it is done right

Cons

  • Renaming your business will take a lot of work
  • A significant investment is involved in renaming your business
  • May cause short term confusion

Use your name

Using your name for your website is definitely a personal choice that makes more sense for some businesses over others. This method is popular for self-employed people providing professional services like lawyers, photographers, dentists, designers, etc…

For example, when I started my business as a photographer I used my name for my website URL. This method served me well for a number of years but over time decided that the cons started to outweigh the pros.

Pros

  • Easy for customers to remember
  • Personalizes your business
  • Very flexible as your business evolves over time

Cons

  • You may want to keep your name and your business name separate
  • If you decide to sell your business using your name may make it more difficult
  • Sounds like a one man shop

Use keywords in your website name

When people use a search engine to find products or services locally they will generally type in the product or service plus the nearest city they feel they can get the product or service at.

This is the number one way people look for local businesses like photographers, florists, stylists, salons, etc…By having a domain such as citynameproduct.com you may help your position in search results improve because domain names are an important factor for a site's rankings in search engine results.

At first glance, this may sound like a great way to name your website because it may help your business rank higher on search engines. The whole story is different though, this method has been known for a long time so the internet is littered with website names using this method. Also, it is never a good idea to try tricking search engines into ranking your website higher. It may work for a little while, but I think you will agree that it really is not a good long term solution.

If your website name is citynameflowers.com and your actual business is named Tom’s Flowers people won’t equate the website name with your business. The domain citynameflowers.com just sounds like an online directory or other generic website.

If your domain name is citynameflowers.com and you plan on growing your business by adding locations in other cities, it is easy to see why this trick is not a good idea.

Exception

While I generally don’t recommend it, there are circumstances when it is ok to own domain names using keywords.

  • If you already own the domain and are using it (under this circumstance I recommend getting a new domain name that matches your business name and forwarding the keyword domain to it)
  • If you don’t want your competitors to get the domain and hurt your position in search engines
  • If the keyword domain is an exact match to your business name then of course, by all means get it

Pros

  • Search engine friendly
  • Obvious what you do
  • Obvious where you are

Cons

  • Not a unique name
  • Not the same as your business name
  • You may service more than one area

Resources and Online Tools to Help You Choose a Name for Your Website

Brand Bucket

BrandBucket is a marketplace for business names that are hand-selected by entrepreneurs and branding experts. There website includes hundreds of unique, brandable names avialable for purchase.

Namerific

Namerific is another marketplace website that sells brandable domain names. Browse through hundreds of names and domains that have been pre-qualified by their branding and naming experts.

GoDaddy Auctions

The advanced search tool at GoDaddy Auctions is a great resource for finding domain names that are available for sale through their Domain Aftermarket. With this tool you can search for .com specific domain names while filtering for specific keywords and amount of characters. I have acquired some very good domains using this tool.

Litscape

Litscape includes word finder tools that are very useful when you are developing a new name for your website. You can get a pretty comprehensive list of all words in the english language organized by letter count. The way I use litscape.com is to create a list of words (3 to 6 characters long) to merge with the names found during brainstorming sessions.

Merge Words

Mergewords is an online tool that allows you to combine words. For example, enter a list of words you created in Litscape into one box, then entered a name from your brainstorming session in the next box, and click merge to output a huge list of possible website name combinations.

Bulk Domain Search

The lists of possible domain names that is output from the mergewords.com tool are quite large. Thankfully GoDaddy has a bulk domain search tool, this huge timesaver that allows you to search up to 500 domain names at a time.

Website names we helped develop using these methods, resources, and tools

  • agriflo.com
  • agvana.com
  • earthdevelopers.com
  • hotonion.com
  • kanbot.com
  • kineticindustry.com
  • landvana.com
  • lubricin.com
  • lunevia.com
  • metplex.com
  • pawterra.com
  • snapbotics.com
  • solarnos.com
  • terrababy.com
  • townbeer.com
  • windvia.com
  • zenped.com

Don’t forget we’re always here to help as a full-service marketing agency focused on sustainable marketing. Never hesitate to schedule a call or, if you’re raring to go, fill out our website questionnaire.

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