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Domaining / Passive Income

How To Pick A Domain Name For A Start Up

These guys really like their domain hunting.

These guys really like their domain hunting.

So just to be up front I ended up using a domain I already had in my account instead of buying a new one.    I have a couple hundred domains sitting around from working online for the past 15 years,  I figured instead of buying one, to dig in there first and see what I had bought back in the day, it’s actually how I decided to sell the product I’m selling.   I have to say there are a lot of bad domains in there in hindsight, it’s pretty funny to see them all in there.  A lot of them you think are some killer great name, but then looking at them now I wonder WTF was I thinking.

So I’m a die hard .com fan, thats probably being an old fart tech wise, but I’ve always used the big TLDs like .com/.net.  I know there are all sorts of extensions out there these days and I’m sure at some point in the future .com will be obsolete.   SEO (Search Engine Optimization) wise I’ve heard things all over the place and to be honest as fast as things are going, I have a feeling the new TLDs that are out there are probably fine.

That being said I’d still stick with a .com for right now.  People, especially older people, are now accustomed to typing in .com after everything.  So if you’re trying to brand a name the path of least resistance is grabbing a .com name.  The last thing you want to do is be pick the domain and lose a chunk of your hard earned traffic to your competitor over at

Next!  Keep it short!  I try to keep a max of 15 characters in the name and a max of 3 words, but always try for 2 words or less.  No crazy spellings of words like carz instead of cars; no dashes; no numbers.  Keep it as simple as possible.  A good rule of thumb is to verbally tell 10 friends your potential domain name and ask them to spell it, if more than 9 of them have a problem spelling it then move onto another one.

I personally like to keep the name descriptive as possible and stay away from any funky names that are hard to brand.  Brandable names like Google, Yahoo, Bing are great for people who have a budget to brand that name.  Plus its pretty much impossible to snag a good one word brandable name any more.  For a passive income or something like we’re doing I like just grabbing something with my company or product in the name.  It’s much easier for advertising as people who might click on your name have a good idea of what they’ll find there.   If you were looking for web hosting and saw the list of 3 names, chances are you’d click right to the 2nd one since you know what it is.

It may seem like every possible domain name out there is taken, but if you get creative you can usually come up with something good.   Throw the words like My, Your, Great, Easy, Fast, whatever else in front of what you’re selling and see if it works.   I always jump over to and play around with a ton of adjectives and variations until something clicks.  Or go to google and search for “domain name ideas”; there are a ton of little sites out there that help you randomly generate names.    Don’t stress yourself out too much trying to find that PERFECT name, just go with your best fit, there’s a lot more stuff to worry about than the domain.   There are some huge sites out there with terrible names, so a domain isn’t everything, it’s your follow through.

If you have a little bit of cash check out, there are a ton of domains on there for sale.  If you find one you like make sure you offer a lower price than it’s listed for.  A lot of those domains are over priced and the owenrs will actually accept quite a bit lower than the price you see.

Lastly feel free to hit up any taken domains owner directly.  If you goto a whois service like Whois.Net you can see who the registered owner of the domain is.   I always shoot them a quick email from a non-descript google account just asking if the names for sale.    Usually it’s a quick message like “Hi there, I was just wondering if your site is for sale?  It’d be a good fit for a project I’m working on.  Thanks!” .  The reasoning behind the gmail account is so that if you have a web presence the person can’t google you to see more info about you.  If a search of your email comes back with a CraigsList post to your vacation home you’re renting out, then the domain owner is going to see some dollar signs and make you pay a premium for the name.  If they reply just try to get them to make an offer first; you don’t want to come in and offer $5,000 if in reality they’d sell it for $200.   If they want you to make an offer first just shoot low, like 50% of your total budget and see what happens.

I actually picked up the domain I’m using as a dropped domain at auction.  If anyone is interested in how you buy dropped / expiring domains at auctions just post in the comments.  I’m partially addicted to buying dropped domains and would be more than happy to crank out an article of how I go about doing it.

Looks like I paid $320 for this name, ouch!   But you can buy a new domain for around 10 bucks.  All the registrars are about the same.  I personally use Moniker alot, but GoDaddy or any of them will do, just make sure you put the name on Auto-Renew!  Learned that one the hard way before.

So here’s where I currently stand financially on the project:
Samples From Alibaba:  -$130.00
Domain Name:  -$320.00 (Usually will be only $10 – I just overpaid at dropped domain auction)
Total Income:  -$450.00

That domain name really pushed me back a bit, going to be a little bit of extra digging to get out the hole!

1 Comment How To Pick A Domain Name For A Start Up

  1. Launch Lingo

    Lots of great advice Dave. For those that are having trouble finding a great domain please check us out at

    We have over 500 unique startup domain names at prices that won’t break the bank. Check us out when you get a chance. I am sure we have a name that you will absolutely love.


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