Finding a good domain name for a startup is very difficult. If you make a mistake with your domain name or brand it’s a crucial mistake that is hard to recover from. It’s important to spend time on this process and to research all the possible alternatives and then select the best alternative.
For Staff.com we have an interesting case study for how we selected a domain name and brand name. I think other startups might find it valuable to look at how we approached the issues.
Stage 1: Brainstorming and Research
The first stage of the process was brainstorming and researching. How did we do this research? We followed every possible angle in looking for names.
Domain sale websites – We searched particularly on sedo.com and afternic.com for domains that are for sale.
Keyword combination – We researched names using a keyword combination method where you combine together various words that might be relevant to your business. For example we took the main keywords related to our business of: staff, staffing, recruit, hire, job and then combined them with many other words such as me, your, my, site etc. It’s pretty easy to come up with a domain name this way that is not already taken, but in almost all cases the very good names are already taken.
Alliteration – If your name has alliteration it will be easier to remember. The could be that the first letter of the two words are the same or that the ending of the words sounds the same. You can use this crossword puzzle tool for finding the matching words. Some examples of these types of names are: staffingsite.com and recruitingrobot.com.
Crowd sourcing sites – You can use a site like Crowdspring.com and set up a project for other people to brainstorm possible names for you. The great thing about this type of project is that you often don’t need to pay if you decide not to use any of their suggestions. You get hundreds of suggestions from several different people.
List of top tier names – If you have a low budget you probably won’t be able to afford a top tier name. However if you can afford it this is a great move as the very best names are going to be expensive, but in the long term they are worth it for the brand value in your business. Some examples of top tier names in our industry are: recruit.com jobs.com staff.com. Think big and try to get one of these names. Even if you can’t afford to pay cash you may be able to trade the name for equity in your business for example.
Web 2.0 names – Asana.com Google.com Quora.com for example. These types of names are actually quite difficult to find if you want the dot com version of the name. You need to make sure that they are easy to spell and that there are not multiple variations of the same name when you try and spell the name. You can try looking for these on domain sale websites for example by searching for names that have 6 characters or less that are for sale.
Naming specialist companies – There are some specialist companies and if you have the budget you can try one of these. We did this with Mystaff.com. They did not come up with the winning name, but they had some great suggestions.
Generally the important thing is not to leave any stone unturned when researching potential domain names. It is very difficult to find a great name, so you need to spend a lot of time and focus on this process.
Stage 2: Initial short-list and reviewing within your budget
After brainstorming a complete list of names, you will want to start narrowing it down to just your top 10-15 favorites. Look for names that are easy to remember, easy to spell and where you like the idea and feeling conveyed by the name.
Contact all the names that are not free to register and ask them how much it is to buy the name. In your email to them you probably want to say that you are willing to make a serious offer. Domain name owners get offers ALL the time. For example I owned athlete.com and used to get offers for $1000 for the name, even though the name was worth far more and sold for $124k.
At this stage if you find one that you really love and it’s available, just grab it in case someone else takes it. You’re lucky if you manage to find a great name that is freely available!
Stage 3: Selection
After creating a huge list of potential names, we went though as a group and narrowed down the list to the names that we liked and hated. Then we evaluated how much each name was going to cost and eliminated most of the names that were not within our budget (although we left some in for comparison).
What’s the most important factor in selecting a domain name?
Being easy-to-remember and spell is in my opinion the most important factor. Most names are forgettable. Other names might be remembered but difficult to spell. The easier to remember the better. There are several factors that contribute to how easy it is to remember a name. How do you determine if a domain is easy to remember? We had an interesting way to test this.
After developing a shortlist of 15 names I uploaded a video to YouTube where I read out all of the names one after the other 3 times in a row (I mixed up the order each time). I also put a name that I was not really considering at the beginning and the end of the list so as not to distort the results of the test (it’s easy to remember things if they are at the beginning or end of the list).
So then I didn’t ask people which name they “liked” as that type of feedback is very subjective. I really wanted to know which domain they remembered. You can ask them straight away or actually better is to ask the person 1 day later which domain they remember from the list.
You need to do this with a lot of people to get statistically significant results. I would say at least 40-50 people, preferably more. One way to do it easily is to go to microworkers.com and pay people 25 cents each to watch the video and tell you what they remember. With this method you can only ask them what they remember immediately after the video, so it’s not testing long term memory, but it is testing which domain stands out from the list and short term memory.
It’s important to read out the names on video or audio and then ask them to write down the names they remember. This tests their ability to spell the domain name correctly – also a very important test. You might be shocked at what some people remember and spell.
Our shortlist of names to test was:
Skills.com, Staff.com, Talented.com, Mystaff.com, Recruit.com, Hired.com, Staffstreet.com, StaffStar.com, StaffSpace.com
We surveyed 148 people and this table shows you how many people remembered each of the names:
|Name||Number of people who remembered|
Staff.com we initially thought was too expensive, and Skills.com didn’t seem quite right and was also quite expensive. So MyStaff.com was the intial winner.
WorkHQ.com was initially on top of our list of potential names, however this test showed that it was very difficult for people to remember.
It’s also interesting to see some of the names that people remembered that were not on the list at all including: betalent.com, vtalent.com, mystar.com, star.com
Staff.com came about because we wanted the site to be iconic in the recruitment space, and after negotiation over more than 1 year we decided to buy it. Actually it was a very difficult choice as mystaff.com is a great name, but we thought that the long term value of the brand was worth the extra expense. This is very hard call to make and I think for most startups the opportunity to buy the one word equivalent name is just not available.
Let us know if you have any comments or any additional suggestions on how to find and select great domain names.
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