Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Life by Sam Huleatt

NameStorming a Business or Blog When Domain Options are Few

If you’re someone currently on a quest to name a business or blog, you are well aware of how time consuming, difficult and frustrating this process is. This difficulty is a direct result of modern society’s self-imposed obstacle: domain names ending in .com. Sure you can be creative, settle for a .net or a hyphen, but facts are facts: the naming landscape sucks.

With a rise of new naming conventions (think web 2.0 names) we must take into account differences such as generations and demographics. For example, “Nu” in French is nude and is popular among French porn-site SEO. Also older folks are much less likely to support a company they see as ‘playful.’ Names like wis.dm while cool, can be a nightmare to find or remember.

Industry trends play a huge role. Recently I had a debate with a friend about web 2.0 names. Our discussion centered on whether web 2.0 names are silly trends that companies will regret later, or whether these names are a trend, but rather the harsh byproduct of the new domain name reality: being forced to innovate.

However, some things everyone agrees on: short names are good, as are names that role off the tongue. If you can ‘own’ a name (Kleenex, Google) you’re in. Certain terms like ‘X’ or ‘terminal’ should be avoided for sounding harsh and/or having negative connotations. Also, incorporating some context of ‘what your company does’ into the name is a huge benefit over something completely vague like, Flickr. Here is a good list. Here is a good blog.

Here are my thoughts/strategies/approaches for ‘namestorming’ in 2007
-One preferred method is the use of a made-up word. Flickr, Ning and Plaxo are all great examples. I think this can be a great method because users/clients can give personal meaning to your product or business. However, success is largely proportionate to the amount of marketing dollars you can afford. Not that cash- strapped startups shouldn’t opt for this approach, but with limited marketing funds, it’s more difficult to pull off.

-Use of ‘Verbs.’ If your product or web business has some action associated with it, then finding a cool sounding verb can be great. Jam, Joost, Snap, Pop, Twist, and Jive your way to success.

-Compounds with colors, animals and others. Maybe you have a phrase you love but the domain is already taken. Placing an ambiguously neutral word in front can be great — colors work well. Other ambiguous words (similar to the verbs but not connotating action) can also work such as plus,

-Doing something Funky. Del.icio.us or Planyp.us are good examples here. However, I am not a big fan of not owning a .com. Another more abstract take is a company called IwantSandy.com for a secretarial services company. The trick here is that something too funky is difficult to remember and, if your SEO sucks, nearly impossible to find. Imagine trying to find Del.icio.us without periods before Yahoo paid millions for delicious.com

-Iconical. I think there is great opportunity here. You use an ambiguous but very well know image or icon. Think the company Grand Central who recently sold to Google. Why not something off Paris, Tokyo, or Trump?

-Metaphorical. Like the icon approach, but find something that can serve as a great metaphor for you business and then build the name around the metaphor. PBWiki is the best I can think of. Wikis are sticky, they bring people together and the image of a peanut butter sandwich is killer.

-Plays on Words. Instead of ‘all of’ try ‘olive.’ Instead of a word ending in ‘ate’ try 8. Creativity is key. Instead of something ending in ‘er’ just use ‘r’. Here is a fun web 2.0 name generator.

-Negotiate and Buy What You Want. Of course it depends on what you’e trying to score but I’d say your average domain name (6-8+ characters) where maybe only the .com and .net are taken will cost you anywhere from $1000-$6000. More popular keywords can be $6,000 to $6,000,000. Still names do matter so spending $2,000 for the right name is worth it – if you know what the right name is. Mint recently did it. Sean Parker insisted TheFacebook did it.
-Try a service. Sometimes it helps to let someone unfamiliar with the brand take a crack. One Hundred Monkeys, Picky Domains, and Bust a Name are such services.

Other suggestions’

  • http://www.istrategylabs.com Peter Corbett

    I’m really into using alternative top level domains these days.

    Best example: del.icio.us and elbo.ws

    but you’re right, SEO is a big concern.

    In general I use http://www.psychicwhois.com to vet names, as it’s an ajax based domain name system that returns domain availability on the fly.

  • http://planyp.us Yan

    Hey thanks for the mention! Both delicious and planypus own the .com version of our names too :-)

  • http://www.leveragingideas.com Sam

    Pater: Ah yes, psychic whois is a great resource – forgot about that one!

    Yan: No problem; hope you guys are killing it!

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