Whenever I decided to create a Digital Real Estate, I will start with finding the perfect name. It’s not properly established if there is no website. So, what should I name my new business and website?

Sometimes I take days to decide. Often, longer.

I see this happening to many others. We want to be associated with a name that we can be proud of. A name that we can happily share.

Since it’s digital, we want a name that can be easily remembered because you’ll want to avoid friction between people and your website. This leads to more shares and visits.

A Digital Real Estate is a living thing that you want to thrive and succeed as if it was your own child.

💯 The perfect name

Just like your child, you will want to pick the best name. A name that represents the essence of a good person. Or it could be your best wishes for the child. Oftentimes, we see names that represent joy, strength or happiness.

We understand how a bad name can affect a person’s life. Likewise, a bad name could affect your Digital Real Estate. It could shed a bad light on the branding or the purpose of your Digital Real Estate.

A friend once registered the domain name Spunkhaus.com based on a famous German book character, Pippi Langstrumpf. ‘Spunk’ is a made-up word by Pippi who loves to immerse herself in a fantasy world. Pippi gave a shiny metallic beetle a name, Spunk.

It sounded cute and fun.

That was until a British customer reached out to her with the urban dictionary meaning of spunk (NSFW). The horror!

Despite being based in Germany, my friend felt apprehensive to carry on with the name.

🌐 All domain names are taken

When you start the domain name registration process, you will get the impression that all domain names are taken. Sometimes, I think it’s worse than naming your child. There can be many Tims in a class or a neighborhood but there can only be one, and only one, Tim.com.

Verisign, a global provider for domain name registry, reported 363.5 million domain name registrations. As someone who is thinking of registering a domain name, you need to think of something really unique. So unique that it is not already in the 363.5 million.

That’s why we sit for days, weeks, or months thinking hard about “How should I name my website?”.

💻 A consistent digital presence

Before you start searching, understand that consistency is key. You’ll want to be found everywhere with the same name.

While the domain name may be available, the name may be taken on popular social media networks. This makes finding the right name even more challenging.

Normally, this is circumvented with an additional underscore (_) or dot (.) in the screen name. If you choose this, keep it consistent across social media accounts, as part of your overall branding on the internet. 

If you’re inconsistent, you are non-existent.

I’m more particular where I like the digital presence of my Digital Real Estate to be the same everywhere. It makes it easy to find. And for esthetic purposes, it looks better. Just think about how you’re going to list all the names if they are different everywhere.

⛔ Common solutions which are not favorable

Coming up with the perfect brand name is tough. Ensuring that you have the name available across all social media platforms is even tougher.

Alternative spellings, numbers or adding hyphens

New entrepreneurs resort to alternative spellings if a brand name is taken. They think that they can somehow bend the universe at their will by making people remember obscure names.

You’ll notice this commonly among startups. Examples are technology spelled as ‘teknologie’ or amusements spelled as ‘amoozementz’. While it can work, do you seriously want to get known with that kind of name? You’ll always have to introduce your brand with a whole conversation:

“It’s amoozementz.com spelled like amusement but with a double ‘oo’, a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’ in between, and a ‘z’ at the end.”

The conversation may not end there if there are follow-up questions to confirm the spelling. Your potential customers will have probably forgotten the name three sentences later and moved on.

The same goes for adding hyphens, a popularized method in Germany. Germans love legible domain names and insist on separating words for you. Not a bad thing as such. This practice is however not usual in other parts of the world.

Therefore, you’ll always have to remind someone that there is a hyphen, or worse, several hyphens. “Visit us at my dash beautiful dash garden dash house dot de”. 

Numbers are always harder to remember compared to words. Some may be confused if it is spelled out or written in numeric form. Again, I’d prefer to not start this conversation.

Not going for the .com

The .com is a crowded space. If it’s not available, you’ll probably find the domain name available as a .net or .io, widely popular in the tech community. There are over 1300 top-level domains (TLD) as of August 2021. There must be something available.

You might want to think again if this is right. I’d like to quote Paul Graham (co-founder of Y Combinator, a startup accelerator) who made this bold statement:

The problem with not having the .com of your name is that it signals weakness. Unless you’re so big that your reputation precedes you, a marginal domain suggests you’re a marginal company.

Although this was written in 2015, this article is still highly relevant. An alternate TLD signals that you weren’t able to afford the .com or you simply didn’t want to put in the effort to think further. Maybe both.

I once read about an e-commerce store that had started with a .net because .com was not available. They went ahead with the launch of the site and a huge press conference. News was out. But, their brand was published with the .com TLD. The reporters got it wrong. The public flocked to the wrong place and the store has probably learned a costly branding lesson early.

The e-commerce site now owns the .com. They were lucky because it was available for sale. Some domains are not for sale though. Instead many assume it will be on sale.

While .io or .net are common to the tech community, most people still default to typing in the .com.

👍 The 4 rules to find a good name

You may face many issues when it’s time to name your website. Use these rules to serve as the best practices guideline. Treat your Digital Real Estate as if it was your child. You only want the best for it. 

  1. Use only .com: A website like Namecheckr (ha, spelling! 😉) saves you time to check for availability across social media platforms and domain registries. Get some ideas from free website name generators like the tool from Shopify, Namemesh and Namelix.
  2. Use simple words: Tell your parents, a friend or anyone about the name. Say it out loud. If they get it immediately, that’s a green light for you. The words must be easily pronounced and spelled. No fancy words.
  3. Avoid trademarked names: Check with your national trademark register to see if it can be used. You can use the name of the goods and services description that is not within your scope. 
    I usually check the registry in the US, UK and Europe and other countries applicable to my niche.
  4. Avoid potentially unwanted associations: Remember what happened to Spunkhaus? Something similar happened to Ernst & Young when they rebranded to a cooler short formed name, EY! in 2013. The new name happens to be the same name as a Spanish magazine featuring buff men. As a company offering accounting, legal and other professional services, the change definitely made the news. A quick Google could save time.

A good name is needed for a long-lasting brand. Just think a little harder.