What's in a name?

By Swivel
On 18 Jan., 2007

As a manager, business owner or entrepreneur, you surely know the difficulty of choosing a good name for your business, and today in many cases it is equally important to establish names and brands around individual products and services as well.

What's in a name?
Even when you do come up with that zinger of a moniker, chances are someone has already snatched up the associated domain name, right? ...Well, maybe not. Maybe the trick to it is approaching the problem by beginning not with the local business registration but with the domain name itself. You can think of it this way... The real estate adage has always been, "Location. Location. Location." The difference between a domain name and a company name is that the domain name is also a location, so much so that customers worldwide will find you by it. Domain names can be hot properties in the same way that land can be sought after depending on its positional or strategic value. Domains in recent history have been sold for millions of dollars by investors with the discernment--and timing--to search for and recognize a good name. We will not go into the minutiae of how to evaluate and choose a specific business name for your company in this article. Our goal at this time is to express the importance of domain names as part of your initial and developmental business strategy, along with some tips on why and when to register.

Beginning with a domain name search, it is possible to quickly determine whether someone else is using your desired business name. It can often be more accurate than doing a search through your regional government registrar. More on this further down. Most ingenious domain names you think of will already be taken, to be sure, however, we frequently find domain names for customers which are easy to remember and unused by other businesses, so you can have good success and greatly benefit your business if you work at it. The main requirement for acquiring great domains is a lot of creativity with an even greater measure of patience.

Remember these things for a successful domain name strategy:

1) Do not be discouraged if your initial domain choices are already registered to someone else. This is very common. It is better to find out right away if your ideas are already in use than to register your company at the local business registration office, only to discover someone in the next state over has been operating under the name for the last 30 years. One of the reasons we recommend domain registration first is that many government registrars will allow multiple unincorporated businesses with the identical business name to operate in the same state or province (e.g., "The Barber Shop" or "Corner Foods"). If you are legally to operate a company with the same name as someone else, it is imperative to have some kind of advantage so that customers think of you first, as with a unique domain name. If you call your company "Super Widgets" but your competitor has already registered SuperWidgets.com, the advantage of course may be theirs. It is absolutely possible to go for superwidgets.us or .biz and so on, provided you are not simply putting up an identical business on a slightly different domain name. However, generally speaking, we recommend against utilizing names already in use within your own industry, for obvious legal reasons. Take advantage of the domain search tool and try to find a unique name.

2) Be careful not to be overly emotional about finding an available domain, immediately proceeding to registration. Ask yourself why nobody has registered that name. It certainly could be because you were the first to think of it, or could it be that the name is not a very good one. Make a list of available domain names as you search through the registry. www.swiveldomains.com provides fast domain searches and maintains a list of domains searched while simultaneously providing alternative name options. Once you have built a list of numerous available domain names, you can select your candidates, registering the best one, or acquiring multiple good ones.

3) Once you determine the domain which will become your primary website address, it is often beneficial to buy up other top level domains (TLDs) with the same name. For instance, if you will be branding your company as, "Import Auto Company" and will use importautocompany.com as your primary address, an inexpensive way to protect that brand is to register importautocompany.net, .org, and other available extensions. This prevents later companies from using the name on the web under other popular TLDs, and may sometimes discourage copycats. The other reason to buy additional TLDs is if you foresee that you will operate under additional countries in the future, it will save you a lot of time and money later to buy the country code TLDs (ccTLDs), such as for the UK- www.name.co.uk or Israel- www.name.co.il, Italy- www.name.it, and so forth.

4) Register domain names for products and services and for search engine optimization. As a multiple registration example, Swivel owns dozens of domain names, some based on #3 above and some which are in holding for future products or services to be announced. It is critical to think ahead of where you are now and plan for future expansion. Domain names registered for products and services allows you to easily build brands as your company grows. The additional benefit of such domains is that search engines often prioritize websites where their domain names include the names or terms of the products users search for.

5) Names registered to other people may be available for sale. Should you decide there is a perfect name for your company which is taken, it does not necessarily mean you cannot acquire it. Generally this is a far more expensive option, however, sometimes it is a great option. There are thousands of domain names for sale at bargain prices, of the kind which are no longer available today, as with single word domains. Swivel has engaged in negotiations with domain name holders and won domains for the company or for a customer. This option is always available to you.

6) Have fun in the process! This is not a school project. This is for your business success. Domain name holding can be a lot of fun, and for the pricing can provide very reasonable investment opportunities with lower risk than many stock market investments. The bottom line however, is that the value of a domain name in most cases will be the value you assign to it as an address or epithet for your business. If you find domain names you believe are going to be useful in the long-term for your needs, that is the single most important determiner at the time of purchase. Do not buy domain names you cannot use or reasonably sell in the future, but enjoy the search as you look for those untapped gems.

By Mike Chalmers