Five Ways to Create Great, Free Domain Names
Every company needs an Internet presence. With over 111 million (and counting!) .coms already taken, finding a .com that exactly matches your name is not easy.
Sometimes that’s not a big deal. I believe that it’s more important to have a great name than a great domain. For many companies, you can safely modify the perfect name with a descriptor to secure a .com. But if your website is your product, you really do need a clean domain. GoogleSearch.com would not have cut it.
Here are some creative techniques and tools that have enabled me to present scads of great, available domains to my clients. Give them a try the next time you need a clean domain.
This technique relies on creatively combining words that may have never been combined before (if they had been, the .com would probably not be available). Creativity is, at its essence, combining novelly, so this technique is really about good creativity.
Here’s how to do it:
Create two columns of words relevant to the new brand. List functional and descriptive words in one column, and attributes in another. Or relevant nouns in one column and relevant verbs in a second.
Then use a tool like CombineWords.com to combine column A and B in a “brute force” method. This will compel you to consider two-word names that your brain might not put together. Try swapping the first and second columns to double your productive output. Sometimes, with some words, this reversed syntax works better.
Another combinatorial technique relies on mixing adjectives and nouns to create vivid, picturable names. Make a column of colors or sizes and another column of shapes or concrete nouns. Mix and match using Combine Words or another word permutation tool.
You’ll find that some words work better than others. Refine your lists and combine them with other ideas to create longer, better lists of name candidates. This recursive technique will easily net you hundreds of candidates.
Once you have a good list, run it through a batch domain search tool to see what’s free.
These are names I have created that had free and clear .com domains using this technique:
This technique is suitable when your name really does need to match your .com, like for a search engine, video site, photo sharing site, etc.
Don’t Use .com
Back in 2009, I predicted that .coms would be like 800-numbers. That is, companies would begin using non-.com domains and then .com would lose its exclusivity and cachet, much as people got used to seeing 866 and 877 toll-free numbers. That’s happened to some extent.
Top-level domains other than .com have gained some traction. For example, there are scads of names ending in .ly, like bit.ly and live.ly (Nancy Friedman has amassed an impressive collection on her Pinterest board). Some companies have used .net (slideshare.net) and .us (del.icio.us, before they bought delicious.com). ICANN has also blessed the issuance of new domains like .coach and .design. You could create one of your own, but it’ll set you back over $100,000.
My opinion is if the top-level domain name is a natural suffix, like –ly, or separate word, like it or me, you can get away with a non-.com name. For example, visual.ly, flip.it and about.me, but not letsfea.st (hat tip for examples from this article). It does not work so well if the non-.com domain is just hanging out there like a meatball, like secureserver.net. (Non-commercial domains, like .org and .edu, don’t suffer the same restriction because we expect non-profits and educational sites to end with .org and .edu.)
The challenge with creating great names using this non-.com technique is that there are only so many TLDs that exist, and precious few are also English suffixes or words, and fewer still are also available for all to use regardless of where your company is. Here’s my list of viable top-level domains that fit the bill:
This link will take you to registrars for these TLDs, and from there you can search for domain candidates. The world could use a new bulk search engine that will let you search against the TLDs cited above. Geeky entrepreneurs, are you listening?
I have proposed alternatives to .coms to my clients when the .com is unavailable, but they have opted for an available .com based on a name+descriptor.
This technique is the most difficult to get right. Some online names (Flickr and Scribd and Tumblr) found their domain by ditching a vowel. Others by adding a letter (Pinterest). Others by adding a novel suffix (Spotify). Other have substituted one letter for another (Cingular, Embarq).
Here are come light coining techniques, each illustrated by a domain I’ve created:
Technique: add an –r or –er to a verb to create an agent, or try another suffix)
Technique: create a portmanteau, throw in some letter substitution
Technique: letter substitution
Technique: clipping (from exact to xact) and letter substitution (using z for x)
Technique: clipping (from optimism to optism) and letter addition. Poptism.com forwards to Poptism.org since it’s a nonprofit.
Other coining techniques can be found here.
You can find a list of sites dedicated to neologisms here.
My other postings about coined names can be found here.
The following are two techniques you can use when it’s OK for your company name and domain to differ slightly:
Add a Descriptor
OK, let’s say you’ve found the perfect real word that’s available as a trademark for your client. Naturally, the name.com will be taken, since all real, single English words are. Just add a business descriptor, a technique that is suitable for most companies.
Domains I’ve created like this include:
The following names are creative leaps, but they still required appending a descriptor to get the .com:
Make a Call to Action or Tagline
I have never created a domain name that is also a call to action, but it is a viable technique. My naming colleague, Alexandra Watkins, has touted the benefits of domains like EnjoyCoke.com.
I hope these techniques prove useful for your domain naming projects.