Choosing a great name for your new business requires a lot of brainstorming, research, and planning.
You need a name that’s easy to remember, describes what your business does, and isn’t too similar to the name of another business, especially one in the same area or industry. If you’re willing to do some research, your business name can also set your business apart from your competition in search results.
Ready to get started? This guide will take you through the steps from business idea to business name.
1. Decide What Needs to Be in Your Business Name
First, understand where your business fits in its ecosystem.
Let’s say you’re launching a personal training business aimed at adults over 55, with in-person and online coaching options. There are two other personal trainers working in your area—let’s say you’re in Dallas—and you know of three personal trainers who offer online coaching for the 55+ market. You can plug each of their domain names into a competitive analysis tool like SEMrush to see their top organic (search) keywords.
Once you have the top 5 or so keywords for each competitor, you’ll have a sense of which keywords matter most. Let’s say that for the local trainers, the top keyword phrase is “Dallas personal trainer,” and for the online trainers it’s “online personal training.” Do any of your competitors use these keywords in their business or domain names? If not, you’ve got some opportunities and options.
As you think up possible business names that include some combination of “Dallas,” “personal trainer” “online” and “seniors,” keep in mind that your name needs to be short enough to remember and to key in as a URL. You don’t have to cram every keyword into your name ideas. It’s fine to have a name like “SeniorFit Personal Training” with a tagline like “Serving Clients in Dallas and Online.”
Try to come up with half a dozen or more business-name ideas that show what you do, show who your customers are, and include at least some of the keywords people use to find your competitors.
2. Find Out Which Names Are Available
After you come up with a list of business name options, you’ll need to see which ones are available. Besides confusing potential customers, choosing the same name as another business can create legal trouble if the name is trademarked.
Avoid that potential problem by running your list of names through the trademark database search tool at the US Patent and Trademark Office. Names that are already registered as trademarks should come off your list.
Next, check to see if the remaining names are available as domains. If a name is already registered as a domain, you can either strike it from your list and move on, try to buy that domain name from its current owner, or come up with alternative domain names that are “close enough” without being confusing.
Do you still have names on your list after checking trademarks and domains? Good. Check the social media platforms you plan to use to see if your surviving names are available as handles. If they’re taken, are there close-enough alternatives you can use?
By now, your list of possible names may be a lot shorter than when you began, but we’re not done checking things just yet.
Are you incorporating your business? Some states won’t let you register a corporate business name if it’s identical or too close to another in-state corporation, to prevent record-keeping problems. Contact the secretary of state’s office where you live to check the availability of the names you’re considering. Finally, do a Google search for the names that have made the cut so far, plus the type of business you’re planning, to make sure you’re not using the same name as a similar small business in another state.
Whichever name(s) have made it all the way from the initial list to the finish line are your options. If nothing on your list made it through with domain and social media names available, you can either start the name-brainstorming process again or choose a name from the ones that aren’t trademarked or used by another business and then get as close as you can with domain names and social media handles.
3. Claim Your New Business Name
When you’ve decided on your new business name, it’s time to make it official.
The first step is to register the domain name for your business. Do this first, even if you know it will be awhile before you can set up your website, so that no one else claims the domain name in the meantime.
Signing up for web hosting when you register your domain name can save you time, because you won’t have to transfer your domain to a hosting service later on. Getting hosting right away also gives you the ability to put up a “coming soon” notice until your site is ready. It’s a good idea to opt in to domain privacy when you register your domain name, unless you want your phone number and email address on WHOIS for anyone in the world to see.
After you have your URL, go ahead and sign up for the social media accounts you’ll use to market your business. Claim those social media handles, add your URL, and let people know your new business is launching soon.
Next, you’ll need to make your business official with your local and state governments and with the IRS. Depending on the rules where you live, you may need to file a DBA (“doing business as”) form with your county or city government, apply for a business permit, and register your business with your state’s tax office. Once you have your DBA, you can apply online for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You’ll need both your DBA and EIN to open a business account at your bank or credit union.
Time to Launch Your Business
Once you’ve got your business paperwork, your domain name and social media accounts, and your web hosting, you can build your business website so your customers can find you.
Ready to get started? Register your domain name now.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.