Please Don’t Make Me Choose A Website Name Again

By Mat

You’re business plan has just been written, you’ve gone through your launch checklist and you’re almost ready to go live. There is 1 problem though: you haven’t thought of a name for your website. I personally think that choosing a domain name is one of, if not the most difficult parts of starting a new website. Dan and I had this exact same problem last year when we were thinking of a name for this blog. We obviously landed on Sofa Moolah, but how did we get there? What do you do when all of your favourite names are taken by existing businesses? Let me give you some tips. Quick note, I apologise for the terrible formatting in this post.

We started thinking of names back in September 2010 and we didn’t really get off to a good start. I actually have the chat history of the exact day we started thinking of names and landing on Sofa Moolah. To avoid quoting the chat, I’m going to post the full, raw, unedited version of the chat below. This could be embarrassing but you’ll get the idea:

Dan: name ideas

Mat: i wonder if money.com is available +*

Dan: try it

Mat: +*+*+*+*++*+*+

Dan: awww it’s taken

Mat: who knew

Dan: CNN

Mat: its available

Dan: lies, what about avoiding the generic MAKE MONEY LOLZ

Mat: i hate fidning names

Dan: like “milking the net” etc, obv that sucks but you get the idea

Mat: yaa, searching now. rolling in it .com is taken :(

Dan: lol. dollar chasers

Mat: do we want something that tells people what the site is about

Dan: penny wise pound smart. Idk. Lol. the money tree

Mat: themoneytree isn’t available :(

Dan: money from trees. Hmm. the word online would be good. living online etc. armchair millionaire. sofa king rich. lol

Mat: haha. Hmm. if we cant find a name, we could always go with something like matanddan, danandmat .com

Dan: true

Mat: i reckon names would be better

Dan: really?. kind of eliminates resale. lol

Mat: true. i found 1 that’s available, dunno what it means though www.moneyoath.com

Dan: oath means idiot. Lol. no, that’s oaf

Mat: oh

Dan: but still

Matpresidentofmoney.com. lolcakes

Dan: lol

Mat: anything else?

Dan: hmmm. I like the idea of armchair _ or sofa _

Mat: if we could change that to something you’d sit on while on the computer so that we can say shit like, we’ll teach you how to make money online while you’re sitting on your ___i guess sofa could work…

Dan: sofa ….millionaire, entrepreneur, earner, marketer, cash, money from the sofa

Matsofamoolah.com

Dan: I like it

And just like that Sofa Moolah was born. Since last year when this conversation took place I’ve adopted my own little set of 3 rules when choosing a domain name for a website. Check them out below and feel free to let us know your own rules in the comments section below:

Avoid Potential Spelling Mistakes

A classic example of a bad domain spelling related mistake was when Flickr was born. Launched in 2004, then owners Ludicorp decided on spelling Flickr without the e. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but that little omission cost the site shit loads of traffic, potential revenue, new users etc with many people visiting Flicker.com instead of Flickr.com. Flicker ended up publishing statistics back in the day with traffic numbers which were 3,600,000 unique visitors a year. Yep, 3.6 million people misspelt the sites URL. Yahoo (who purchased Flickr) ended up offering the owner $600,000 for the domain which he refused. Yahoo eventually took him to court and they settled outside. Tsk tsk.

For The Love of God, Don’t Use Hyphens

Unless it’s absolutely critical, avoid hyphens at all costs. I’ve lost count of the amount of people I know who have lost traffic and gained confused users from telling them at conferences, public events etc. that they own Website-Name.com and users end up visiting WebsiteName.com. If your business name does include a hyphen, try and register both the hyphenated and unhyphenated names and do a simple 301 redirect on one of those URL’s.

When Possible, Acquire The .com and The ccTLD

I first noticed this issue when I was running ZOR. I had told a few people at school about the website and many were going to zor.com instead of my zor.com.au domain. Like everything above, you could be missing out on lost visitors and potential revenue. I would of purchased the domain, however I’m sure the guy would ask for 5-6 figures as it’s a pronounceable 3 letter domain.

So you’ve read the above guidelines and are ready to start doing some research. You land on the perfect name only to find that the domain is taken. Keyboard smashing ensues. This isn’t the be all and end all. Let’s assume the domain is registered for years to come and we’ll take a look at a few things you can do in the meantime:

 Offer The Owner Some Moolah

They say everyone has a price. Get in touch with the owner and see if they’re willing to sell. Use your superior haggling skills to bring the price down to a reasonable amount. If the price is reasonable, get out your cheque book. Remember though, do your due diligence before you write down a figure.

Got A Trademark? Lawyer Up!

If you’ve got a legally registered trademark on the business name or product, you may be able to take the domain by force. Just because someone owns a domain name doesn’t mean they have a right to it. Simply speak to a lawyer if you think you’ve got a case.

If All Else Fails, Get Creative

When web-based file hosting service Dropbox launched in September 2008 they didn’t own the Dropbox.com domain. Instead they registered GetDropbox.com as the alternative to purchasing the domain from the squatter. Granted they did lose a fair bit of traffic from people visiting the Dropbox.com domain but they didn’t need to make any changes to their name. Eventually in ’09 Dropbox acquired the Dropbox.com domain. Next time you get stuck with your name being taken, use Dropbox as an inspiration and get creative.

Have you got any tips or interesting stories relating to website or domain names? Tell us in the comments!



8 Responses to Please Don’t Make Me Choose A Website Name Again

  1. Ian Wright says:

    Finding good .com domain names is getting more difficult all the time. There are so many squatters who want ridiculous sums of money for terrible domain names. And at $10 or year or less for domain names they can own huge numbers for a relatively small annual cost.

    You’re examples of Dropbox and Flickr are interesting. While I agree you can in theory get started without owning the domain you want you will drive up the price of the ideal domain as your service grows. Flicker.com become a whole lot more valuable once Flickr got big same with Dropbox.com or Delicious.com. Thus, if possible it may be worth paying the money up front because what could cost thousands today might cost millions a year or two from now.

  2. Design 311 says:

    After only 33 lines (yes I counted them) you already found the name?! And you guys hate it? That’s so incredible fast! I must have been thinking about a name for weeks, it took ages to came up with a decent name that wasn’t already taken, didn’t use hyphens and couldn’t be misspelled.

    Anyway, good job! Next time when I need a name for a website I’ll give you two a shout: “Hey Dan & Mat, name ideas!”

  3. Shane says:

    I remember facebook.com used to be thefacebook.com…oh back in the day.

  4. Houbos says:

    It will be harder and harder to obtain pronounceable domain names for acceptable price. In 5 years, $10 registration fees will be completely irrelevant. Domain squatters are hoarding all expired domains, even those without traffic. They obviously use automatized systems to catch all domains (both expiring and new) and even register related Twitter usernames etc. It’s strange, quite often there is no way to contact domain owner (not even in whois records).

    Since HackerNews featured your inspiring ZOR story 2 months ago, I still remember your weird domain name. I had no idea what moolah meant until I looked it up in dictionary (it’s not even there). English is obviously not my native language :). Hmm, who wold guess you can get into 6 figures by selling inferior Chinese crap. :D No offence. Prices of storage were ridiculously high back then.

  5. Jeremy Hollen says:

    Thanks for the tips. I bookmarked this page so when I have to choose a domain again I’ll have a starting point. :)

  6. I wrack my brains over names of characters, URLs, businesses &c. I tend to be easily creative with the stuff that doesn’t matter, like folders on your computer, but for some reason I spend the longer, drawn-out time with the “unnamed that matter”.

    But that works for me. I usually get better stuff that way.

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