Short, catchy and memorable is ideal of course, but getting a good web address is just as important when it comes to naming a company.
What should you name your company? It’s a big decision, and it can easily go wrong. Jeff Bezos originally incorporated his business under the name “Cadabra”, as in “Abracadabra”, presumably. But the website eventually went live as “Amazon”, because Bezos realized his first name sounded a lot like the word “cadaver”.
Many of the good names have been taken since Bezos started his little empire, and this matters a great deal in the internet age. Almost half (49%) of small business owners are not satisfied with their web domain name, according to a study by Wakefield Research, and even more (55%) believe that settling on a subpar domain name has resulted in lost business.
The good news is that the door is now wide open on generic top level domains (gTLDs). So if the dot-com isn’t available, you have other options beyond just coming up with something else altogether. While quality web pages rank higher, search engines don’t discriminate based on your domain name alone, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s dot.tv or dot.com. And often, a fancy TLD is being used deliberately; for example, Lady Gaga’s non-profit organisation ‘Born This Way Foundation’ used to be at bornthiswayfoundation.org, but it’s now at bornthisway.foundation, making for a shorter and more memorable web address.
Novelty TLDs can also be used to carry an extra message about the brand: General Motors recently launched generalmotors.green, which exists in parallel to its primary domain, gm.com. The idea is to highlight GM’s sustainability initiatives.
But you still have to name the company in the first place, and the name has to be short, catchy and memorable. Following trends too closely can easily date the company: Flickr and Tumblr were great names, but they were part of a distinctive trend of company names ending in -r or -er. In 2013 came the next naming trend: there were 161 startups whose names ended with -ly, -li, or -lee: Knowly, Hurdly, Singly … it went on. “I think sometimes people just want to have something goofy because that’s what startup companies are supposed to do,” Laurel Sutton, naming consultant at Catchword Brand Name Development, told The Atlantic. “They want to show that they’re creative and different and they’re breaking away from the pack – they are all these things that regular big businesses aren’t.”.
A more cynical interpretation to these kooky names could be that it doesn’t matter what they’re called – they’re here to be acquired, not to grow into big companies. Or, a more benign interpretation could be that they were responses to an increasingly tricky URL climate. Today though, with the wider choice of domain names up for grabs, there are more ways around this. LeanDomainSearch.com is a good place to start as it enables you to check whether there are any good combinations of your domain words available for registration. But where it gets really interesting is Domai.nr – this site will let you generate clever abbreviations, really taking advantage of the various gTLDs. There’s also Wordoid.com, which will generate fictitious words based on your initial idea.
Whatever you end up with, take it around the block a few times to avoid a Jeff Bezos (almost) situation. The emotional response to a name is equally important to the literal meaning, or whatever clever Latin root may have inspired it. Make sure the name feels good to say, that it fits with the company’s services and values, and that no one will be embarrassed to put it on their business card.
If all else fails, there are plenty of startup name generators on the internet, like this one, and this one – the latter being pretty sophisticated, seemingly creating a whole brand identity for the fake name. Considering what passes for startup names out there, you’d be forgiven for being fooled.
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