How to choose a good name for your business

How to choose a good name for your business
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation

Posted: Wed 23rd Nov 2016

Coming up with a good name is an essential part of creating a new business but many great ideas have been sunk by a name that jars. Nick Leech from 123 Reg shows you how to find one that's unique, easy to remember and easy to understand.

So you want to start a business? That's great. You've probably got a good idea of what you want to do, and you may have even started working out the basics of how you're going to go about doing it. But have you thought of a name yet?

Coming up with a good name for your business can be surprisingly tough. It's hard to find something that's distinctive, memorable and isn't already being used by another business.

So let's take a look at some of the decisions you'll face while trying to come up with a name for your new business. By considering your options and the pros and cons of each choice, you should find it easier to come up with a business name that works for you.

Descriptive names vs abstract names

First, you need to decide which of these two broad groups is going to work best for your business. Let's look at each choice in depth.

Descriptive names used to be all the rage for online business. By descriptive I mean names that describe exactly what a business does, so something like 'Online Printer Cartridges'. The advantage of a descriptive name is that what you do is abundantly clear to newcomers. They require no investment in the brand to help describe to visitors what you're good at. And historically these names were easier to rank highly on Google for relevant searches. The downside is that it can be a bit plain and unimaginative.

Abstract names are less straightforward and don't really tell you what a business does. At first glance this kind of name can appear nonsensical, but it usually has the benefit of being memorable. And if your abstract name can be explained, if it has a story about why it is what it is, it can be a nice payoff for customers who know the inside story. Think 'Google'. Nevertheless, if you are going for an abstract name then you will have to invest in marketing that brand and making clear to potential customers what you do. This is going to require more time and money.

Of course it's possible to mix the two. The name 'Flickr', for example, doesn't describe that it's a photo storage and sharing website, but it does hint that images are involved.

At this stage, it's a good idea to draw up some potential business names. They don't have to be great. In fact, you may not end up using any of them. But it's helpful to have some potential names to refine as we move through the rest of this guide.

Try to think of five descriptive names for your business and five abstract names.

Now, let's start to refine that list. Just a note. You may find that at points during this guide, your list becomes completely exhausted or you narrow things down to a name that you just don't like. But there's no need to stick to that initial set of ten names. Feel free to add more any time you like. As long as you end up with at least one name that meets all the criteria below, that all that counts.

Does your potential name stand out enough?

Could any of your potential names be confused with an existing business or website? Could you be risking trademark infringement by using the name?

Try searching on Google with your names and see what show up. Reject all those that look too similar to other brands or sites you find. And certainly don't consider anything that is simply the plural, hyphenated or misspelled version of an already established domain. You'll spend years seeing your hard work in marketing send traffic to those other domains!

I'd also recommend searching on 123 Reg to see if names you're considering are already registered. That way, you'll be able to see if someone has registered a domain even if they haven't yet created a website that's listed in Google yet.

Last of all check the trademark section of to see if that name is an existing trademark. Trying to launch your business with a name that is similar to a trademark could end up costing you thousands in legal fees. We'll link to the place where you can do that below.

Is your potential name easy to type?

Your name and domain needs to be easy to type. If it requires a lot of attention because of its spelling or the use of un-memorable words, you've got an uphill battle on your hands.

Remember, a significant proportion of your new business is likely to come from word of mouth.

If people can't type in your domain or search for it accurately online, based on what they've heard, you're going to miss out on a chunk of visitors.

There are a few things to watch out for here. Here are some examples in action.

  • Too long:

  • Hard to pronounce:

  • Hard to spell:

  • Easily confused: Vs

  • (If you don't have both of the above, you'll lose customers to the other one.)

  • Looks like it could mean something else:

The real test here is that someone can spell your business name correctly after hearing it spoken out loud. Remove any name that doesn't pass this test from your list.

Other things to bear in mind

Here are some other factors that are usually shared by good business names. Try and make sure your final name includes as many of these as possible, and ideally all of them.

Is easy to remember

Much of your new business should come from word-of-mouth. Even those people who read about you online, or even click links and visit your website, may forget how they first discovered you.

Therefore your business name needs to be easy to remember. There's no point in having an awesome site if people can't remember your name.

Is as short as possible

For both memorability and easy of typing, your name should be as short as possible.

Short names are also easier to share on social media where character limits exist.

And whenever your name is listed either on the search engine results page, on an email, or even in print, a short name gives you the advantage of space.

Rejects hyphens and numbers

I strongly suggest you avoid numbers and hyphens in your name. And this is coming from a business with both!

Speaking from the heart, it creates lots of hassle if you have to explain that the number in your domain is a numeral rather than a word.

And the word 'hyphen' when passed verbally doubles the size of the domain.

Avoids the latest trends

One thing to be aware of are trends. As names are in limited supply, misspells or linguistic twists on regular words have become commonplace. Think 'flickr' or ''. It's even become trendy for tech companies to use an 'io' domain.

Consider carefully if you believe this will be a long term trend or will mark out your brand as from a particular era, one which fashion may move on from over time.

Settling on a domain name

By now, you've probably done a lot of brainstorming and been through a few lists of potential names. Hopefully there's a couple, if not more, that have pass the above rules. Now it's time to settle on a final domain name.

Remember, even if you don't plan on launching your business online straightaway, it always makes sense to secure your domain name(s) as early as possible. If you don't, you run the risk of letting someone getting them before you.

Taking the plunge

Once you've settled on a name you like and have identified the domain extension(s) you'll be using, make sure you buy all the different variations as quickly as possible. In fact, if you've narrowed things down to a short list of two or three potential names and are struggling to decide which to go with, I'd recommend buying domains for all of them. That way, you won't run the risk of missing out on the one you eventually decide you like the most.

Ask the audience

Last of all, once you've made your choice be sure to test it by asking friends or potential customers if they like and understand your brand name.

Try to gather honest feedback about what appeals and what could be improved. It doesn't mean that you need to change your choice but you might want to emphasis particular benefits in your early marketing efforts, if the name in itself doesn't communicate them clearly.

Summing up

So that's it. My top tips to help you choose a business name. Hopefully they've helped guide you towards making the right choice.

There's just one last thing to mention. One of the reasons it can feel so hard to choose a good business name is that there's no way of predicting the future. Clearly, in 2016 "Amazon" sounds like a great name for an online retailer, because of all the success the company has had. But it might not have felt that way to everyone when it was first chosen back in 1995.

In fact, Amazon was actually the third name used by founder Jeff Bezos. The first was 'Cadabra' but that was rejected when someone misheard it as 'Cadaver'. He then went for Relentless, before changing his mind again when friends told him it sounded a bit sinister.

So it just goes to show, following the guidelines we've looked at above is your best shot at ending up with the right name for your business.

Whether you're just starting out or you've been online for years, 123 Reg's free online courses will help you create your website, engage with your customers, and increase your visitors. Find out more here.

This article is part of Enterprise Nation's Grow and Grow Online campaign, helping you build a better business on the web. Access content, offers and events here.

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Enterprise Nation
Enterprise Nation has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses. Led by founder, Emma Jones CBE, Enterprise Nation connects you to the resources and expertise to help you succeed.

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