There are three ways to get a great URL. The first is with magical inspiration: that perfect and available name comes to you in the shower. The second is with a ton of money, by buying an existing domain. The third (if inspiration and money are lacking) is with the process outlined below, which may yield a workable name. These days, you start with the URL and then check that some variation of the company name is available (for registration purposes). That part is relatively easy.
Relax (But Avoid Really Horrible Ones)
URLs matter a lot less than it would seem when you are starting out. One can think of plenty of terrible names that did great and vice versa. We are now moving away from destination sites. Search engines and browser capabilities, such as Firefox's awesome bar, will help people find you.
If you are relying on a great name to build traffic... don't. Unless you have a lot of money to buy an existing domain -- and that is probably not a good use of your cash -- there are cheaper ways to build traffic.
So then, "okay" is good enough. Don't obsess over the URL. Save your obsessing for usability design. But avoid the real stinkers, the names that make people laugh at you and then ignore you. We live in a global world, too, so do check that your great URL does not mean "Your mother is a mangy dog" in Chinese, French, or whatever.
Process for Getting a Great URL
Here is the three-step process:
- Go for a run (or whatever exercise you enjoy doing).
- Have a double espresso.
- Do something totally relaxing, like petting your cat, to clear your mind and let inspiration set in.
Did that do the trick?
No? Try the longer process:
- Choose some "themes" that relate to your biz.
- Brainstorm with some pals to come up with a really long list of words that vaguely relate to those themes.
- Use bulk registration to test a lot of them. Make a shorter list of what is available with .com.
- Check that shorter list against:
- a trademark search on uspto.gov,
- some people who will give you an honest response,
- a few major languages for the "mangy dog" test.
- If that cut leaves you short, go back to some of the names you like and try them out with .net. In some cases .net is okay, particularly if the .com name is owned by someone small and non-competitive whom you can buy out later.
- Still coming up short? Try country extensions. For example, if you want rabbit.com, try rabb.it (Italy). This is risky. It sounds clever and occasionally works, but mostly confuses people.
- Once you get a viable list of three that check out, buy all three and then test, test, test. And test with as broad a community as you can get. Use Twitter, your blog, whatever connects you to your network quickly. And go outside your network.
- If all three fall short of this last hurdle, start from the top: go for a run, double espresso, etc. Allow time for this. The best ideas come at the oddest times and usually when you are thinking of something else.
- When you find your chosen one:
- Register the trademark at uspto.gov.
- Protect major country extensions, .net, .info, and other extensions that a squatter or competitor may try to take if they see you get traction.
- Create a logo that works.
- Ensure the company name is available. In the worst case, CoolSite.com could be run by Boring Company LLC doing business as (DBA) CoolSite.com.
- Go, baby, go!