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11 tips to pick the right (domain) name for your startup

Sticky. Short. Simple. Spellable? Words that describe a good (domain) name for your startup.

Sticky. Short. Simple. Spellable? Words that describe a good (domain) name for your startup. It may seem like a small, somewhat insignificant detail in the grand scheme of everything you need to do and think about during Startup Weekend Groningen 2018. But your domain name should not be overlooked.

There’s already a lot to think about in the days leading up to your Startup Weekend experience. Am I going to give a pitch? What am I going to pitch? Who will be in my team? Will the coaches be nice? What’s going to be for dinner? And now we’re mentioning the importance of picking a great name and website domain. It is, after all, the front door to your startup – how people ‘enter’ your website. It’s what people will search for or type into their browser to find you. So it’s not something to be taken lightly.

If only there was a website that spits out great startup domain names. Surely it would prevent a lot of discussion and headaches for entrepreneurs trying to set up their business. Unfortunately, a website like that doesn’t exist (we’ve Googled). That’s why we – the Dataprovider team – have written down 11 tips for picking the perfect name for your startup and website. So take the five minutes to read this post and you’ll be well prepared when crunch-time comes around.

“https://findgreatstartupnames.com” <- This does not exist, you are on your own

What’s in a name? Quite a lot! So here’s some tips for choosing the right one. If you don’t have a name for your startup yet, these tips may help you choose one. If you already have a name you’re happy with, these tips should help you convert your business name into a fitting domain name for your website.

1) Make it sticky

A great name is unique and memorable. You want your customers to remember it and tell their friends and colleagues about it. Don’t forget that our name is the first thing to come out of our mouths when we introduce ourselves, things will be the same when you pitch your startup. Never underestimate how many choices consumers have. Stand out. It can all start with your company name, which people will be typing and clicking (or tapping) on every day.

The name of your startup – and by extension your domain name – has to be sticky. People shouldn’t forget it once they’ve heard it. And to make sure they don’t forget what your startup is all about, you want it to trigger an emotional response. No one will remember a name and a company that they are indifferent about.

2) Make it short, but not too short

Shorter is better. If you can’t get your domain name down to one memorable word, then consider adding one or at most two more words. Combinations of two words have worked great for websites like LifeHacker.com or GeekSquad.com. However, don’t make it too short and use an acronym.
People will never remember the letters unless it’s a highly catchy name.

Domainr is a great tool for finding ways to shorten your amazing, but slightly long, company name into a great domain name.

3) Make it spellable

If you have to spell out your domain name more than once for it to be understood, then it won’t work. Keep the name simple to remember and easy to enter in an address bar or search field. Why is simplicity important? Because you don’t want your future visitors to incorrectly type your name
and be directed to a different site. A classic example is the popular photo sharing website, Flickr.com. Four years after its inception in 2005, the company had to acquire Flicker.com for a large sum of money in order to redirect the many visitors who misspelled the website’s name.

If you’re determined to have an oddly spelled name, make sure common misspellings are also available so you can register them and redirect visitors to your actual website. Also, make sure three times over that your name does not allow for unfortunate misspellings or misreadings.

We’re sure that the owner of Penisland.net did not mean for the website to be the butt of the www.penisland.net joke. Then again, their tagline is: “We Specialize In Wood”

(Image: screenshot taken from Penisland.net, 01/11/2018)

4) Brainstorm (and ask your friends)

Now that you know some rules your name should follow, it’s time to crunch the letters. There are a lot of (free!) online tools that make your brainstorming session easier:

● VisualThesaurus.com (gives you a visual around a keyword)
● NameMesh.com (provides a startup company name generator)
● Naminum.com (allows you to generate names based on a theme)

If you end up with a few domain names you really like, that’s nothing to worry about. You can register these domains too and have them redirect to your main website. That way you get ahead of copycats that snatch unclaimed domains of businesses once they take off, saving costs in the long run.

5) Ask your fellow start-uppers

When you have narrowed down the domain names to a few you really like, conduct a simple A/B test to see which name resonates more with your colleagues at the Startup Weekend. The test is very simple: record their response to your chosen domain names. Ask questions that tell you how they feel about the name, like: ‘what do you like most about this name?’, ‘how does reading this name make you feel?’ and ‘what images do you associate with this name?’ The most important thing to record is the emotional response to the name. Remember: it has to be sticky, and for a name to last you want to make sure it resonates with your audience.

If you have someone in your group who is tech-savvy or great at drawing, consider creating a landing page or a logo to see the response to that.

Example of A/B testing for a website. By randomly serving visitors two versions of a website that differ only in the design of a single button element, the relative efficacy of the two designs can be measured.

(Image: Maxime Lorant, Wikimedia Commons)

And what about this domain-thing? There’s tips for that too!

6) Go with a ‘.com’ domain

Knowing the name of your domain name is the first step, but what about the extension? Almost 75% of all websites are ‘.com’ domains, making it the preferred extension for most customers and the one they are most likely to remember. This means that sometimes it’s better to go with your second choice if your number one name choice isn’t available as a dotcom domain, before looking elsewhere.

Some browsers accept address-only entries in their address bar. If you type just the domain name (and who knows how many of your users will just do that?) they will return, by default, to the ‘.com’ website. Another reason for registering a more well known domain is that you will already have it when your startup takes off. Remember the Flickr story from tip 3?

7) Don’t go with a ‘.com’ domain

All the reasons for choosing a ‘dotcom’ Top-level domain for your startup are also reasons to look elsewhere. With the amount of domains registered, finding the one you want is difficult and expensive.

In the Netherlands, the .nl and .com domains make up more than 95% of all Dutch websites (according to the Dataprovider.com database). Recently a large amount of other Top-level domains have become available. Including domains that may be perfect for a startup that focuses on a specific market, like: ‘.study’, ‘.app’ or ‘.ai’. With some creativity you can surely find a cheap and available Top-level domain that fits your startup.

8) Make it fit your business – in the long term

Does your startup target customers in a particular country or a particular industry? Does your name say what your company does? What about in the future? Choosing a name that fits your startup now and after it takes off is equally important. ‘Grunnegs Goud’ may be a good name for a company that is based in and focuses on Groningen. But will it do well across the borders of the province?

The same goes for giving a clear and positive image of what your company does. Can people instantly understand what your business is about when they hear the name? It may be trendy to pick a name that doesn’t really say anything. This works out great if you’re say Google or Joomla. Overall,
though, a name that relates to your business does better in search engine results and helps people remember you.

If you can’t make it clear what it is you’re doing, how can you expect your customers to trust your business?

(Image: xkcd.com comic #1293, Creative Commons)

9) Check the availability (on social networks)

Before you register your desired domain name, it’s always a good idea to check social networks for the same name. To keep your site name constant and to build your brand, you want a name that is readily available. For example: check ‘facebook.com/yourdomain’, ‘twitter.com/yourdomain’ – and secure them as well. KnowEm is a great tool to use to see if certain names are already branded on social platforms.

10) Avoid trademark infringement

Once you’ve decided on your top choices for your website name, make sure you are not violating anyone’s trademarks. To check within the US, visit uspto.gov/trademarks and conduct a search before you register the name.

For the countries in the Benelux Union you can check registered trademarks on the website of the Benelux-Bureau voor de Intellectuele Eigendom. It is always good to check for this early because it could kill a great website and business down the road.

Also, if you are going to include some big name product, such as Twitter or Facebook, review their terms and conditions. Most will not allow you to use their name in any part of your domain.

11) Make sure you love it

It sounds odd, but you have to be absolutely sure you love your domain name. Once chosen and bought, you’ll have it for years to come. And the name of your startup will be something you hear, say, write, and think about all the time. If you don’t like the name, don’t use it. Otherwise you’ll regret it, and that could impact your behavior and the way you run the business moving forward.

Example: ZZPeer

(Image: screenshot taken from zzpeer.com, 01/11/2018)

A little case study on picking the perfect name for your startup. ZZPeer is a startup from 2017 that targets freelancers in the Netherlands, known as ZZP’ers (Zelfstandige Zonder Personeel).

ZZPeer is a great name. It’s short, sticky, easy to pronounce and write in Dutch and English, the name was available on many domains and social platforms, there is the connotation of fruit and a lightbulb, I could go on…

The way they came up with their name was by brainstorming a lot of names and logos and writing them down on post-its. I remember them having about twenty names and images drawn. Then they’d let the other people at the startup bootcamp have a look and they threw out all the ones that nobody
reacted to.

After that round they had a few left, and they would ask a few more people some specific questions about what they thought of the remaining names. ZZPeer was the name people reacted to the most; giving ideas for logos and asking questions about what it meant. It was the name they ended up choosing. That year ZZPeer won the starting subsidy of 20.000 euros.

Good luck and have fun! We hope you’re all ready to start your Startup Bootcamp journey. Rumour has it that the coaches are very nice and the food will be great. Let us know what name you ended up picking for your startup and if this post was helpful in the process.

The Dataprovider team