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How to name your startup and get a good domain name for it?

Hi guys, one of the first things we struggle with when starting out is naming our startup/business.

With this (quite) long and extensive post I'll help you name your startup and find the perfect domain name.

A name is the first thing we notice. It doesn't actually matter whether it's a person, a renowned company or a startup, the name comes first.

And with the rising need to build a brand, it's important that you should name your startup properly. Its importance becomes even higher for tech startups. In fact, that's what the end-user types or clicks before visiting your startup website.

Bad names can affect your brand negatively or even worse, it could land you in legal trouble (if you didn't conduct proper research about existing brands).

Some may suggest "name anything now, you can rebrand later". While it's true that you can name your startup anything now and rebrand later, it's not advisable.

Rebranding is expensive.

You'll have to change your branding and the brand assets associated with it, find a newly available domain, notify your affiliate partners (if any), notify your existing customers and userbase prior to avoid confusion, migrate data, some infrastructure service providers attach data to a domain making it impossible to change the domain, revamp your website to reflect the changes, publish announcements on various channels that you/your business is active... I have done it, the more mature the brand is the harder it becomes to rebrand.

Do it once and get it right the first time ✅

I'll share the same process I go through while registering a name and also share some tips that I follow.


If you're building an online business, it is best to start with the domain and this is what we're going to do too. You'll waste hours of your time brainstorming names only to later find their respective domain names are taken. Remember that domain names are unique and two different businesses/individuals cannot own the same domain.

A great startup name consists of three elements:

  • Easy to spell and pronounce
  • Memorable or catchy
  • Descriptive (to some extent)

Other factors to note:

  • Availability (again important)
  • Ideally short
  • Legal research
  • And choose non-confusing names

This post will mostly circle around domain names — because it's safe to conclude that if you have the best domain name, you can call your startup by that name. It doesn't work the other way around. For that reason, here's are a few do's and don't when it comes to domains.

--- Domain do

The shorter the better

It should be pronounceable - Call your friends/colleagues and say you're registering [this] domain name. If they're like "what", say it again. If many of your friends are like what for more than two times then move on. You're missing valuable word of mouth here. Some squatter will register your typo if you become famous and make money out of it.

Some relevance is appreciated - Even if you're trying to register a brandable domain some relevance will help. Like how Zomato is similar to Tomato as they operate in the food industry.

Understand your audience - If you're going to teach the French language for beginners then don't be like "I'll register an unpopular french word with .fr extension so that my audience will understand how deep we go into teaching". Your audience will never understand that. Most likely they're from somewhere in the world and never heard of .fr

Plan scalability - if you plan to break into different countries later then check out the local meanings of the name for example.

Use .com only - It's globally known and popular. There are no cons to using it. On the other hand, if you plan to rank higher within your country then use your country level domain, they rank higher in their respective country. Example: .us .in .so

--- Domain do not

Avoid uncommon domains or new trends like (.so) - The more popular your domain extension is, the more safe your brand is. Extensions like .so are blocked by many workplaces for some reason. Also, it's unlikely the trends will last.

No numbers - 862898.com such domains sell well in China. Global? Not so much.

No hyphens - Developers wouldn't mind typing in css-tricks or nginx-hackers-forum.com but the general audience will not remember your domain 5 minutes after exiting your site (don't hope they'll bookmark, don't use hyphens).

Don't have confusing names - names like dherxes are great but sound almost like therces.

Don't be too generic - It's hard to file trademarks later if your startup name is too generic

With these factors in mind, let's start:

1. DRAW THE BIGGER PICTURE
Take a moment and think deeply about your startup idea. This will also help you find the best one that aligns with your audience strategy. These are the people who'll actually type, bookmark or visit your startup sites and businesses. Write them down like this:

Startup idea
AI Fb ads manager

One-line Purpose
Automated ad campaign management for brands

Brief Description
Setting up, running and monitoring ad campaigns take time. But the AI helps brands to manage their campaigns automatically and efficiently

Audience you serve
Mature brands (3+ years) that are already running/regularly running PPC or Fb ad campaigns and marketing agencies

2. WRITE DOWN RELEVANT AND IRRELEVANT NAMES THAT POP UP
Now that you have the most important information about your startup, it's time to start brainstorming names. Sit down and relax for a while and jot down the names that you can think of like this:

Specific
AdAI AdsAI AdsManager CampaignAI AdMonitor AdCampaigns

Related
AIapp ArtificialAds AdsApp CampaignMaker AIAdMaker AdCreator

Remotely related
SocialAI Adzapp AIcial Adger

Unrelated
Anything else

By doing this, you'll get a clear picture of what names are best associated with your startup idea.

3. PRIORITIZE AND FIND AVAILABILITY OF DOMAIN NAMES
Pick names and prioritize the ones you like and list them one more time based on that priority i.e. the name you like a lot at the top and the names you least like at the bottom. This will help you narrow your list further and if some of them are taken you can alter a word or two and see if that interests you.

Go to your domain registrar now and search for availability from your priority list. I use Porkbun, it supports bulk searching domain names. You can use GoDaddy or anything that works for you as well.


Now. Again.

A clear piece of advice.

If the .com of the name you want is taken, do not settle for other extensions!

A dot com is your safest bet.

I'm currently working on an exclusive .com domain/brand name market but let me tell you I'm not biased. I've always encouraged founders to choose only .com domains for a long time now here on IndieHackers.

So, quickly on the domain extensions:

Extensions like .so are blocked by many workplaces

Country domain extensions rank higher within the country and relatively lower outside the country

.xyz .biz .link etc host the most malicious, spammy, fraudulent sites (you're better off staying away from those)

Most people type and go to a dot com by default when they hear about a brand (First time I heard about Zoom Inc, I typed in Zoom.com and thankfully it was already acquired by the team)

Lastly, it's common knowledge. There are over 800+ extensions now and over 100 of them are used by many, chances are very low that someone will actually remember an extension of your startup

The domain extensions that I remember the most are .com (of course), .net .org .io .so .to .dev .in .us (not much beyond this for me)


Coming back to our process.

If the top ones from your priority list are available (good for you) - skip to STEP 6

If the ones you really want are not available read the next step

4. IF DOMAIN NAMES ARE TAKEN, TRY ADDING/REMOVING LETTERS
None of the names you wanted made it to the end - unlikely but happens.

Now's the time to add/remove letter/letters to their fronts, back and in-betweens.

If you wanted AICampaigns for example, try adding my in the front making it myAICampaigns, or removing aigns from the end making it AICamps.

These are easy hacks.

Below are some other popular prefixes and suffixes that you can try.
Prefix:
Not recommended if there's an existing brand using the original name. (if the domain name you want is squatted then not a big deal)
try get use my the

Suffix:
ly ify ster tono inor lium sumo (sumo is however associated with a popular brand, so use carefully or don't use if you plan to venture into the same industry as them)

Shopify btw has a name generator that sometimes does generate good results. You can check availability and register right away, if needed - https://www.shopify.com/tools/business-name-generator

5. STILL DOMAIN NAMES ARE TAKEN?
By now, you must have found a name for your startup. If not then you may have to repeat the steps again.

If still the domain name you wanted or came up with is taken, then the next best way is to settle for a brandable domain name. Brandable names are different from two word domain names, they're not really words. Think Canva, Crello, Envato, Zomato...

They're mostly made up but you can get pretty descriptive also.

Zomato, a food delivery company settled for their name and is clearly taken from Tomato. Suitable for any startup in the food industry.

Word scramblers and random word makers (with some level of uncertainty) are the best way to find/create brand names. If you're a creative person, then this is the time to check how creative you are.

There are a million+ variations possible here, so for sure you'll find a good one that's not taken.

In any case, I don't recommend settling for a non .com domain or the domains with hyphens and numbers.

6. WHEN YOU FINALLY FIND SOMETHING AVAILABLE, DO BASIC DOMAIN ANALYSIS
A simple quoted search of the domain name you want will return you some results. These results will help you learn about the domain name. Search like -
"domainname.com"

Domain names may be previously used by someone malicious and maybe blacklisted by several service providers. One example is the domain name is blacklisted by email service providers, therefore, rendering it impossible to send emails from it. SpamHaus helps you check just this check.spamhaus.org

Some domain names may also have a bad past, meaning they might have been associated with spam/fraud in the past. This might affect you when you're trying to build a brand. A quick fix is, run it on Web Archive and scout the recorded crawls.

7. CHECK FOR LEGAL LANDMINES
You might have found a great domain but there are chances it's left unregistered for a reason. Trademark violations happen around a lot. Sometimes you never even know you're in a violation.

I'm not a lawyer to advice on this subject. I do happen to know some facts that you can consider.

Trademark laws protect brands from trademark infringements. That happens when a competing/related product is launched in the same category, same niche and with the same/similar domain or name.

If you're making an data visualization product for shoe manufacturers at Shoely.com and there's a different brand in France making and selling shoes at Shoely.fr then you're not in a violation. You're selling a digital product for B2B businesses and the other product is selling a physical product D2C.

However, remember that globally renowned brand names will land you in legal trouble regardless of how you operate or what industry you operate in.

You can launch a Rocket business called Nikkee and still be sued by Nike for example. Another example is,

in 2011, Facebook sued a teacher-and-student site called Teachbook

To check trademarks and names with registered status, search using a global brand database like https://www3.wipo.int/branddb/en/. You can also file for a global trademark registration using their Madrid protocol, simply a way to file a global trademark, it costs less that way.

8. HINT: CHECK FOR SOCIAL MEDIA HANDLES' AVAILABILITY
Launchaco lets you search username availability for top social platforms used by most startups - https://www.launchaco.com/name

Social media used to be all about usernames but now that has changed. Social media platforms now show username search results based on relevance and popularity similar to how other search engines work.

It means you'll still be able to show on top with a username like thisisbrand or wearebrand. But it doesn't hurt to check availability, right? The less your brand's handles are taken across popular social media platforms the better.

LASTLY
To avoid getting into all this and to save time, some of you might use huge marketplaces like BrandBucket or Brandpa.

But the problem is they cost a lot (always in $1000s - $10,000).

I have had enough of this frustration and know that you might have too.

So, I'm launching a brandable domain name shop for startups and entrepreneurs at affordable rates (aka not $1000).

You can check my work at https://domains.thenetly.com/ (would really appreciate it if you check it out 🙌)

I have been working on this project for the past few days and will only sell top-quality domains. These are the same quality domains that others actually sell for multiples more.

Soon, I'll add logos and brand assets included with your purchase for the same price. Just getting a proper style guide will cost you more than $100. So by including it I think your investment will be totally worth it and not as annoying as other marketplaces.

Thanks for reading, I (really) hope you found this post useful to name better startups and to find great domain names.

If you have any questions, ask them out. If some of the information I shared is vague and needs more specifics/details, let me know and I'll edit the post to clarify.

  1. 1

    This deserves more love, great stuff @Dinakar. I'm embarking on a new startup quest and needed something like this, thanks

    1. 1

      Thanks, Gustav! Really glad that I'm right on time to help you out.

      You can also check out my project domains.thenetly.com for all things domain and naming. I'll be more than happy to assist you too.

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