Follow these rules and you won't have a choice but to get a great name. After reading this you'll know why we changed our name from "ImagEngineering.com" (note the shared E in the middle) to "AcornCreative.com".  When Acorn Creative closed its doors we transitioned to yet another name – this time, Flock Marketing.

Here are the rules:

1. Clarity
2. Clarity
3. Clarity
4. Clarity
5. Clarity

Have I made my point? Let's say you tell your name to a little old lady (who's never used the Internet) in a grocery store. When she gets home (2 hours later), she'll STILL remember your name. It should be THAT clear!!! If you have to explain ANYTHING at all in any way, shape or form, don't use it.  This also excludes the use of funky characters; hypens, underscores, periods (subdomains), template website domains, free hosting domains, getting a cute name (like Imagengineering), etc.

6. Make it visual

Things that are easy to visualize are easy to remember for most people.

7. Easy to spell

This one's obvious. However, I have had one person ask how to spell Acorn.

8. Keep it short

You're allowed up to 57 characters before the ".com" but you should try to keep it to 12 to 14 (or fewer). You can go longer if you don't think you're breaking the first five rules.

9. Get a one or two word name (if possible)

Three word names need to be REALLY clear and obvious to be considered "good". Four word domains rarely work.

10. Don't use hype or superlatives.

Domains with "mega", "super", "A1", "Best", "All", etc., lose credibility before the person even clicks.

11. Don't make up a name by tacking on words.

Taking a great name and adding another word rarely results in another great domain. For example, don't take "GreatDomain.com" and create "GreatDomainWizard.com". You can see scads of these suggested by DirectNIC.com when you do a search .... just scroll down a bit after they show the availability of your current search. There's a reason why all those names are available.

12. ALWAYS try to go with a .com!!!

If you haven't found the perfect ".com" (you'll know it when you you find it) then DON'T just settle for the .net just because you're tired of lookin' at your registrars site (been there, done that). This is THE most important thing that you can do to ensure your Web site's success ... if it takes two whole days to find the perfect name, then it's time well spent.

On this rule, we're relaxing the emphasis.  With the new release of hundreds of new TLDs we're all going to start seeing strange and exciting new domain names with endings like ".coffee", ".hiphop", and, my favorite, ".unicorn".  As soon as people start to get used to the fact that there could be just about anything after that dot, we'll be able to be more creative and eventually take this rule off the list.

13. Don't pick a name that's too generic.

Imagine naming your company "Bookkeeping Services."  Okay, that's direct. It says exactly what you do.  It's a no frills approach to naming your company.  One terrible thing about this approach is it's simply devoid of any brand emotion.  Worse yet, it's a name that will be virtually impossible to get decent rankings with in the search engines.  Even with a location slapped onto the search term, the person scouring the web for your services will be swamped with competitors and large, non-local websites competing for this generic phrase.  By coming up with something more unique, you make your future SEO opportunities much, much brighter.

14. Don't pick a name that's too long.

Akin to #11 above, this one becomes a matter of convenience to your customers.  There are several reasons to avoid a long name:

  • It's a mouthful.  A great name flows off the tongue.
  • It's hard to remember.  Recall rules #1-#5.
  • It will often need to be shortened ... leading to more problems with clarity.
  • It makes for a terrible email address.  Picture it: Beverly@BestBookkeepingServicesOfBoise.com. Ugh.

15. Don't use an Acronym.

Here we are, referring back to rules #1-#5 again.  It just can't be emphasized enough! If you EVER have to explain your name, it's likely not a good one.  And don't bring up IBM as an example.  It took many decades and many hundreds of millions of dollars for the three letters I B and M to become iconic all on their own.

16. Start it with a number or a letter early in the alphabet.

Note: If you choose something like 1stadvantageAAAblah.com then you'd have to explain that it's "the number 1 and then ST" rather than "F.I.R.S.T." (breaking rule #1). Also note that "AYadaYadaBlaBlah.com" or "AnYadaYadaBlaBlah.com" are usually put under the Ys as "YadaBlahblah, A". Note: This rule can be broken IF all the other rules apply.

17. Secure your name with a reputable domain name registrar.

All the above rules apply for domains that you would buy immediately through domain name registrars like DirectNIC.com, GoDaddy.com or Register.com. If you're paying more than $10 per year for the name, you've probably picked the wrong registrar.

15. Consider buying from a Domain Name Auction site.

Another option is to check out auction sites. You'll find names in these sites that are being sold for between $500 and $50,000+. Personally, I'd rather pay $500 to someone for a killer name than spend two days on a registrar site, searching and searching and searching. Here are some domain name auction sites to check out:

• http://www.sedo.com
• http://www.afternic.com
• http://www.greatdomains.com

18. Check the Big Social Media Sites and check the other TLDs (Top Level Domains):

If you pick a name like WildAndCrazyWidgets.com (even though you broke several rules), you'll want to check to make sure the following are available:

  • Twitter.com/wildandcrazywidgets
  • Facebook.com/wildandcrazywidgets
  • YouTube.com/wildandcrazywidgets
  • Linked Groups using "Wild and Crazy Widgets"
  • Pinterest.com/wildandcrazywidgets
  • Check for Google+ short URLs
  • Instagram.com/wildandcrazywidgets
  • etc., etc.,etc.

Top level domains are those funky little extensions like .net, .edu, .gov, etc.  You'll want to make sure that you don't have a direct competitor using one of the other main extensions. That would be a sure way to get yourself into a trademark dispute.

19. Check in at USPTO.gov and do a quick check of their Trademark database.

Although this is NOT a replacement for retaining an intellectual property attorney to perform a comprehensive "clearance check," it is a fast way to find out if you should skip a name and move along.  If you find ANY trademark that uses your exact name, AND, especially, if that company is in your same industry/space, then don't marry yourself to the name! Dump it from your list of possibles and move along to the next one.
Of course, once you do find the perfect name that follows all the above rules, still don't marry yourself to it until your IP attorney gives you the official "green light."

20. Check out our blog category called "The Name Game"

The name game applies to product names, service names, company names AND domain names.  This was a series of blog posts I wrote several years ago to get clients to think more creatively and productively about the names they were brainstorming on their own.

Hope this helps and happy hunting.

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