…….but that’s not enough, as you will see later. Hint: Beware trademarks.
Default thinking seems to be that getting a good domain name, at anything less than a sizeable ransom, is very tough. Bollocks.
Sometimes it’s an excuse for laziness. I’ve been saying this in private for several years. But this time I’ve had to prove it. More about that later.
I really don’t think it’s as hard as perceived wisdom suggests. After five years of helping startups and dealing with a good number of naming cases, I know it can be tough. But then it’s almost guaranteed to be tough if you don’t try hard. However if you get creative, learn how to do it and persist, you’ll most likely get a good domain at a decent price. Most likely you’ll get an acceptable one for next to nothing or perhaps a very good one for a small investment.
I know what you are thinking: I’m talking about .co, .io, some other latest fad TLD or a domain hack. No, I’m not. So then, I must be talking about the now popular usage of getdomain.com or domainapp.com, as a precursor to paying a big chunk for domain.com. Nope, not that either. I’m talking about getting a very good .com.
Domain Name Tips
Trust me, you can most likely find one. But you need some help. So here is some starting with with what, are for me, the three most useful tools:
But be careful now, you might be swearing in to somebody. This can help with that:
Here are some others domain checkers and word tools. Not very useful for us, this time, but might be in other contexts. Plus you brain is wired different to mine, so they might work for you:
Now sometimes you want a simple instant check of availability. You need to be wary of these services. I’ve found domains before and then seen them bought the next day. However I’ve good reasons to trust these two services, so they are the only ones I use:
Finally three here are some other blog posts on the topic:
Now I’m not advocating you spend a huge amount of timing doing this. Almost every time I’ve done this before it’s taken less than one day and usually about four hours maximum to come up with a good domain name. Good can be good enough; it’s what you do with it that matters. Google isn’t that great. In the early days, I bet most of us would have misspelt it on first try after hearing about it verbally (Gugull, Googul, etc).
OK, so you think you’ve got your .com now, right? Sorted. Phew. Break out the champagne.
Hold on a minute, you are not home and dry yet. What about trademarks?
At some stage you need to think about getting a professional to help you with this. However there is a lot you can do as a scrappy startup. First up you’ll need to be familiar with trademark classifications. Trademarks can be the same word as long as they are in distinct classifications. For example, as far as I can see Apple have trademarked “MAC” in no less than 25 classes. But not in cosmetics, class 3, which is owned by MAC cosmetics: iLipstick would be an entertaining case! Indeed MAC cosmetics beat Apple for SEO on “Mac”! Cadbury own it for cough sweets, class 5. I could go on with others, but you get the picture. Note that in fact sub-classifications of those classes are separately protectable.
Now I used to check trademarks on the individuals services in UK, EU and USA using these links:
But now you can do a combined check on Trademarkia. Mind you, I would only use that for a first pass: Digging down is better done on the UK and EU sites; the US site sucks but you’ll have to use that too. Remember IANAL and you should take professional advice, when appropriate: There are a lot of nuances, strategies and tactics around trademarks.
How I messed up
Previously we went through this process when choosing StackBlaze.com. We checked out the trademarks and no apparent problem there. Of course, being a self-funded startup meant we were mean (not lean) about spending cash, so we didn’t file the trademark or get a professional search done thinking we could save that for later.
So it was a few weeks ago that we realised we had a big problem. Somebody on Hacker News pointed out that we were a bit too close to BackBlaze.com, who do Backup-as-a-Service. Not only that but when I did a check on trademarks, I found BackBlaze was a registered US trademark. My layman search hadn’t shown that when I searched on StackBlaze.
Oh well, we thought, not to worry. We’ll change names. Despite the fact that StackBlaze is two syllables, describes what we do and implies fast, we were never ultra keen on it. It was the best we had at the time. Frankly, and in hindsight, we hadn’t tried hard enough to find another name.
Anyway we used the tools above and brainstormed. That’s an activity best done with more than one brain. And more than one beer! One each is probably an optimum. I’m talking about beers but do use both your left and right brains for effectiveness.
We came up with a good number of .coms that are not being used: Even some of six letters and two syllables. Quite a few were more than adequate. But there was one we really liked. We liked it a lot more than StackBlaze, partly because it fitted in with our bigger vision; more about that in a future post. So we slept on it, tested it on a few people and bought a shiny new domain Boxiv.com. Five letters! Yay. Trademarkable. Yay.
Then we put it out to a vote, of our peers, expecting a positive response. Votes were 50 to 1. Wow…………in favour of StackBlaze. People were most helpful with feedback. Some we’re quite upset at the suggestion of a change:
- “Stackblaze is an amazing brand, please do not change it”
- “….such a great name, have thought so ever since i first heard it. feels established”
OK, we hear you! But we still wanted, indeed needed, to change. So we started to think again. Then shortly afterwards I had an email from the Gleb Budman, CEO of BackBlaze. He very politely pointed out that there was an issue with us using StackBlaze. I wrote straight back and said: “We actually agree with everything you say” and explained we were already committed to changing brands.
So we went back to the drawing board, had another brainstorming session, a few more beers (any excuse!) and came up with a load of new domains. We ended up with a good slew of unused six to eight letter .coms (hmmm…..perhaps we should buy them). Some of them not at all bad, some very good even. But only one really excellent for our business, we thought.
So we checked out trademarks, Googled the phrase, grabbed the Twitter handle and other placeholders and slept on it. The domain grew on us, but there was one snag: The domain was owned by a squatter and parked on GoDaddy.
This could get expensive
So do we go directly to the squatter and negotiate? Or use the GoDaddy buy domain service? A middleman to negotiate is a good thing but, cripes GoDaddy? Last year we went through a horrendous experience where GoDaddy staff allowed somebody, from outside the company, to grab StackBlaze.com off us, for a few days.
However we decided to go ahead and gave GoDaddy a price range to negotiate in. The maximum price we set was 40% of what we were comfortable paying. A few days later after we heard we could have the domain for 25% of our maximum price (so 10% of what we would have paid). GoDaddy: All is forgiven ,we love you! Well, just for a few hours anyway . That domain is now ours and we’ll be moving it elsewhere, as soon as we can.
In the meanwhile we have been getting professional conformation of the trademark position and started filing.
What’s that? I didn’t tell you the name of our shiny new .com? That will be revealed in the near future. All we wil say for now is that it’s seven letters and two syllables. I know some of you, and some of our users, won’t like it, but we do, and we very confident it will grow on you and them.
Oh yes, in case you don’t know, we cannot tell you too much but we moved to Silicon Valley. Some of you will figure what’s up. What are we up to? More about that next time, too.
Finally, thanks for reading this far. If you found it useful, please consider helping others by sharing your experiences too, in the comments or elsewhere. Have you ever struggled to get a domain name or trademark? Any horror stories? What tips and resources might you have?