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Find the Perfect Domain Name

Think all the good ones are gone? These 8 steps will take the frustration out of finding a name for your internet business.

Let's face it: Finding a good domain name is tough these days. More than 100 million domains have already been registered, and from all accounts, the trend is not likely to stop soon. So what's an aspiring internet entrepreneur to do? While not a guarantee, these eight steps will go a long way toward landing that perfect domain name without breaking the bank.

1. Start the search.
The best place I've found to locate domain names is DomainTools.com (formerly WhoIs.sc). The site can tell you if a site is taken, and by whom. It also offers variations of the name that are available, the history of the domain name if it's been registered in the past, and information about the domain's current traffic. When you find a name you want, open an account at GoDaddy.com, eNom.com or any other domain registration site so that you can purchase the name affordably. It generally costs $7 to $8 to register a new domain name.

You can also search for pre-owned names at Afternic.com, Sedo.com and BuyDomains.com. Each has a large inventory of names that can be searched by category. Unlike finding an unregistered name, these names will often run in the hundreds to thousands of dollars, so determine how much you're willing to invest in a good name. Lastly, look at sites such as SnapNames.com for names that will be "dropping" or expiring soon. If you find a name you like, and you have the time to wait, you can pick up some good names from domain owners that let their names expire.

2. Get the .com extension.
This is the number-one mistake I encounter when dealing with naming disasters. In a hurry to go to market, eager entrepreneurs decide to take the available .net or a hyphenated version of their name. You'll likely regret this decision as future customers default to the .com address. You may even find your e-mails going to the .com domain address, which is even more frightening if the .com version is a competitor. This can be a costly mistake in terms of customer confusion, and you'll spend valuable time explaining the .net or hyphen to each new client you encounter. Be patient and get a name that's unique, distinguishable and memorable -- and one that's a .com.

3. Be creative.
Here's another cold, hard reality: The simple one-word domain names are either gone or tremendously expensive. So if you think the name Paradigm or Pinnacle is cool, those names were probably registered about the time Al Gore invented the internet. If you insist on using a common name, then look for an ending, such as:

  • Group
  • Inc
  • Agency
  • Systems
  • Global
  • Solutions

You can also try adding an industry-specific modifier, such as:

  • Media
  • Medical
  • Tech
  • Capital

Even if these endings are available as a .com domain name, a competitor might have used the same strategy to obtain a very similar name. Generally it's better to go one step further and create a truly unique domain name that won't show up with a slew of others.

4. Combine evergreen words.
One of the best domain-name-creation strategies I've discovered is combining simple, positive words in a unique fashion. First create a list of basic words that describe your business or industry. Then add a positive or evergreen word that will make the name stand out.

For example, one company we worked with specialized in embossing and promotional goods. We took the basic word "boss" and combined it with the evergreen word "mark." The result was BossMark.com, a name that resonated well and was available as a .com domain. Other examples we have found using this method are KoreOne.com, TeamLogicIT.com and BrightHire.com. Some good evergreen words include:

  • Star
  • Mark
  • Point
  • First

Not only will this open up possibilities, it will also allow you to track your company's success online, since you'll have a unique name that won't bring up thousands of unrelated matches in a Google search.

5. Consider using a phrase.
In a rush to come up with short domain names, memorable phrases get overlooked. An example of this was an online jewelry company we named SeaOfDiamonds.com. By using the metaphor of an ocean, we created a 13-letter domain name that's easy to say and recall. This approach does require a lot of thinking and digging. But if you hit on the right name, it's worth it. Another client, Harbour House Crabs, found the phrase ILoveCrabs.com and secured the domain as their primary e-commerce site.

6. Invent new names.
Another method is to invent names; but be careful. Totally invented names, such as Xerox or Kodak, start off with no inherent meaning. So if you invent a domain name, try to use familiar parts of speech that contain some sense of feeling or emotion you can build your brand on. For instance, we named an all-natural bug spray company Skedattle.com. A web-based IT company we branded Graynium.com to underscore its intelligence and insights. Make sure the name you invent can only be spelled one way. Or at least capture all possible misspellings of the name and redirect them to the main domain name.

7. Run a legal search.
Once you locate an available domain name, find out if you can trademark it. The best place to start is www.uspto.gov, which has a database of trademarks you can search. But just because your name doesn't show up, doesn't mean you're in the clear. There might be a business that operates on a state or local level that doesn't appear in the database. So do a Google search as well. This will generally provide a good indication if someone is using the name or something similar. To make sure you have a clear name, check it with your attorney or an online trademark company such as TMExpress.com.

8. Hire a specialist.
If your time is valuable or you can only find domain names with huge price tags, consider hiring a naming firm. They can help create a name often for less than the cost of purchasing a mediocre domain name. Instead of just a domain name, a specialist can create an entire brand identity that includes a matching tagline and logo artwork. Granted, not everyone can afford this type of help, but for those looking to build a substantial internet presence, the expense is often well worth it.

In the end, it simply comes down to a choice. And to move forward in business you have to make choices. Review the steps above and ask the opinions of those you trust. Your name has to be one that you believe in and feel passionate about. Once you find the perfect domain name, all that's left is making a name for yourself.

Phillip Davis is founder and president of Tungsten Marketing, a branding firm specializing in naming new businesses, products and websites. He resides at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Brevard, NC. His work can be viewed atPureTungsten.com.

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