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When Naming Your Business, Include a Domain Availability Check

When naming your business, be sure to check social media and domain availability

Everyone is on the internet these days. If you don’t have a website or at least be on a Yelp review, you’re likely losing business. And most businesses have a domain name and social media handles similar to their business name. This is why, when you’re looking for a name for your new business, you need to check domain availability. And don’t forget to check social media handles too.

This article is Part 3 of our three-part series on How to Find the Right Name for Your New Business. In Part 1, we talked about how to find a name for your business by using some common-sense marketing principles and basic trademark law. In Part 2, we showed a few ways to make sure the name you like isn’t already taken by another business.

This article discusses why checking domain availability is an important step in naming your business. We’ll talk about how to pick the right domain name and the best place to buy one. We also talk about the importance of social media handles too.

So let’s start with domain names.

Don’t Forget to Check for Domain Availability Before Deciding on a Business Name

Before you pick your business name, it’s a good idea to also check to see if the domain is available. Even if you don’t plan to build a website, it’s still good to know if someone else already owns the domain name.

Knowing if someone already owns the business name domain, you can make an intelligent decision on whether or not you should pick another name. Even if you don’t want a website right now, you might change your mind later. You’d be in a bind if the domain name isn’t available.

Owning the domain name corresponding to your business name also means you can have a business email styled This helps you look more like a “real business” in the eyes of clients or customers.

Domain name availability is different from trademark availability. Maybe another company is using a similar name, but they sell dog biscuits while you sell t-shirts. This usually means it’s OK for both of you to use the same word(s) as a trademark.

But, having a domain name that corresponds to your business name usually makes marketing a product or service to consumers much easier. So, if the dog biscuits company already owns the domain name, then you still might want to pick another name.

How to Search for Domain Availability

To search for domain name availability, just type the name into your browser and see what comes up. However, sometimes, people hold domain names without using them. Those will not come up in a search.

So, you should also check the WHOIS database maintained by ICANN. This is the definitive database on domain availability.

Domain names are exact. If your exact name is taken, try slight variations of the name or only use a portion of your company’s name.

Pretty much everywhere you can buy domain names will auto-generate similar names that are still available. Google has one. So, if your preferred domain is taken, go down the list of available domains to see which variation might be acceptable.

If You Interface with the General Consumer, Try to Get a .com Address

Of the top level domains (TLD) such as .com, .net, .org, and others, .com is still the preferred extension. Depending on what you wish to do with your website, sometimes .net can be OK.

For instance, if you want to sell widgets to the public, then .com is definitely preferred. If, however, you provide professional services and you just want a website that shows your resume and contact information, then a .net address is usually OK.

A long time ago, the .org extension was reserved for non-profits. Now, anyone can buy a .org domain. Still, the general public might continue to vaguely associate .org with non-profits. So, unless you are one, you might want to stay away from .org.

As to all the other extensions such as .biz, it’s up to you if you wish to use them. Just know that .com is considered better.

If the Domain Name is Available, Buy It Right Away

Buying domain names can be tricky. Sometimes, everyone is after a particular name. Other times, nobody wants the domain and the .com extension can be available for a long time.

When it comes to naming your business, the safest approach is to buy the domain as soon as you find it’s available. You’d be in a bind if you wait for your business formation paperwork to be approved and then find out that someone else had taken the domain in the week or two in between.

Domain registrations typically last for a year. So, if later you decide that you don’t want the domain, just don’t renew.

Consider Buying Other Extensions Too

If you find a domain name with a .com extension, consider buying at least the .net and .org extensions too. This is an easy way to prevent latecomers from infringing your trademark. Many large companies do this as standard practice.

It’s much cheaper to buy and keep the domains than having to hire lawyers to stop others from using your trademark.

How Much Do Domain Names Cost?

Domain names of popular extensions cost from $0 to about $20 per year. Prices vary for domain names with less common extensions, but they tend to cost more than the popular extensions.

On the $0 or $1 deals, these are typically web hosting companies trying to get you to sign up for hosting. They increase the price after the first year. The price usually jumps to the higher end of the spectrum.

Where Can I Buy a Domain Name?

You can buy a domain name from domain registrars or from basically any company that provides hosting services. You have to be careful with most of these companies, though. Some charge extra for services that other registrars provide for free. Here’s our review of domain name registrars:

So you won’t have to read through the whole article, here’s our pick of the best domain name registrar:

Google charges $12/year for most of the popular extensions and includes privacy and security protections for free. They don’t play pricing games like some of the others, so what you see is what you get. We highly recommend Google Domains.

If I Buy a Domain Name from One Registrar, Am I Stuck with the Registrar Forever?

A domain name must be “stored” with a registrar, so you’ll always have to have one. But you can change registrars.

Let’s say you bought a low-priced domain for $0 or $1 as a package deal with a hosting company. You can change registrars before the end of the first year, but you’ll usually have to basically pay back the discount by paying the full domain registration price. You can change registrars after the first year, of course. The move will disrupt access to your website for some hours, so it’s not ideal.

It’s considered good practice to have a registrar different from your hosting company. This way, you can change hosting services quickly and easily, if you become dissatisfied with the hosting company. You’ll have less service disruption when you change hosting services than changing domain registrars.

If You Plan to Sell Only at an Online Marketplace, Think Carefully Before You Ignore Domain Availability

If you plan to sell only through online marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy,, Google Play, Apple App Store, or similar, you can probably get by without a dedicated domain. But, you must be very sure with this decision. Settling on a name and then going back to look for an available domain can be painful.

Of course, if you forego getting a domain, change your mind later, and find that someone else owns the domain, you’re still not dead in the water. You can sell under another trademark or trade name and get a domain name based on that.

Don’t Forget to Check Social Media Handles

Social media has evolved into an important aspect of advertising, so being able to get your business name as your unique handle is important.

Check whether your proposed name is available on popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and similar. Just type the name into the search bar to search for users, and see what comes up.

You probably don’t need to check the social media channel you don’t plan to use. Taking care of social media accounts can be time-consuming, so you should focus on just a few. It’s up to you if you wish to reserve but not use social media handles on popular platforms.

If your preferred name is unavailable, don’t forget to check various ways to shorten your business name. One of them might be available.

Picking a Company Name is Important, but Pick and Move On. You Can Always Rebrand Later.

The secret to starting a business—or to anything, really—is to make a decision and move on. Most decisions aren’t final, and bad decisions can often be fixed.

If you find later you can’t use your company name, you can operate under an assumed name. Or you can rebrand and change your company name altogether. So, spend some time and think of a good name for your business, but don’t dither.

It’s more important for you to open for business and bring in revenue than to think up a perfect company name.

Interested in starting and running a small business? Here’s the beginning of our step-by-step guide: What to do right after getting that great business idea.

Questions? Comments?