You Name It

Act Fast

Is there still such a thing as an original idea? Once upon a time, entrepreneurs launching a new business only had to worry about someone stealing their patent or brand name. E-businesses share these concerns, plus one: If someone has usurped your first choice for a good URL, it could be a real stumbling block for the fledgling storefront.

A name isn't just a name online; it's an identity. More important, though, your domain name is your address. A bad domain name can be the equivalent of opening a brick-and-mortar business on a remote street no one can find. With more than six million domains already registered, it's increasingly difficult to find that catchy, memorable name, but it's not impossible. Before you settle for second best, consider these creative tips for finding a name that's worth more than a thousand words:

  • Don't get stuck in the ".com" mindset-".net" is perfectly respectable. And if you're doing business outside the United States, you can use a country code such as ".ca" (Canada) or ".uk" (United Kingdom). Avoid ".edu" and ".org"-these are reserved for educational institutions and nonprofit organizations, respectively.
  • Make a mad dash for the dash and dot. If "topnews.com" is taken, for example, you may have better luck with "top.news.com" or "top-news.com."
  • Mix it up with alphabet soup. The latest trend is to put an "e" or an "i" in front of a word, such as ISyndicate.com. And, of course, you can always add digits to a name.
  • Drop the dubdubdub. A domain name need not start with www. Sometimes http://yourdomain.com can land you a hard-to-find word.
  • Don't be so serious. Instead of choosing a name that describes what you do or what you sell, go with something quirky and memorable.
  • Pay for the convenience. If you've been bashing your head up against the writer's block, think about hiring a naming company to get creative for you, like Comspring.com or Nametrade.com. Give them plenty of information regarding your company.

Getting a good URL doesn't have to feel like winning the lottery-a little creative twisting opens up plenty of possibilities.

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This article was originally published in the June 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You Name It.

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