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Picking a domain name for your business

There are a lot of things to think about when you are starting a business. What should you use for a source of initial funds? Should you borrow money? Ask your mother? Get seed capital? What about marketing your service or product? Do you want to advertise? Where? Who do you network with? Oh, and a web site… you need one, right? One of the first things entrepreneurs do when starting a business is to come up with a great business name. After a late night or two of brainstorming with friends and colleagues, you might think you have captured the essence of your idea in a word you made up or translated into Greek or Latin. The name of a business is important, and conveys, in a word, the soul of what you do. What about the domain name? Drat! It’s taken!

It actually makes sense to come up with the name and the domain at the same time. Great ideas are often named with the availability of the domain in mind (siri.com is an example – it was selected partly because the domain was available). It makes sense to start those late night sessions with a laptop or ipad open on the table to Gandi’s site, and start typing in the words or phrases you come up with into the Domain name registration box.

type your words in

Gandi’s search engine will pull domains with the words you enter in the regions you select (click the All checkbox for the most choices possible). It will search across all the top-level domains (TLDs) Gandi offers, and give you a list. You can filter the list to see only the available domains, or see the “whois” or identifying information for those that are taken. You can sometimes buy taken domains from existing owners. If you see that the domain is not used, you might try contacting the owner using the whois information (usually an email is best).

Domain is taken

A majority of TLDs are available to everyone, but some have restrictions, such as requiring a local presence or belonging to a certain industry. Prices also vary quite a lot, especially for some of the County-Code TLDs (ccTLDs).

domain restricted

Some tricks to finding a good domain name:
  • If the one you really want is taken, try a plural form, for example if wineandcheese.com is taken, try winesandcheeses.com
  • See if a ccTLD exists that forms the last two letters of the word or phrase you want (e.g. bit.ly)
  • If the name you want is a long combination of words, go ahead and register it, but also see if the domain with the initial letters is available, and get that too. For example if you want winecheeseandmore.com, see if you can get wcam.com or wcandm.com as well. You can always direct the longer form to the same web site as the shorter one, and your customers will appreciate not having to type so many letters when emailing you.

Finally, consider timing. Get the domain names on an anniversary that makes sense for your business, and try to get them all at or near the same date. It’s not possible to change the renewal dates of domains once you register them (unless you delete them or let them expire), so it makes it much easier if you know exactly when you need to renew them all.

Choosing a business name can be tricky, and it’s sometimes hard to settle on a final choice. Getting the domain you want adds an extra criterion, and can help to narrow that choice. The important thing to remember is that names are just… names. The real soul of your business is in the quality and value of the product or service you offer to your customers.