We had a vision for a website that would help anyone — from an Internet novice to the most advanced domainer — learn everything they need to know about domain names. We wrote a mission statement that we could work to attain: We are the unbiased, authoritative source for information to help you discover, acquire, manage, monetize and sell domain names. We want to bring transparency to an industry that is sometimes opaque.
Domain Name Requirements
When we went to select a domain name for this new media company, there were many factors we had to take into account:
- Representative of our mission
- Authoritative, recognized for excellence
- Inclusive of keywords, such as “domain” and/or “domain name”
- Relatively short and memorable
- Social media friendly (i.e., usernames available on Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
- Not sound like a service provider (e.g., registrar, auctioneer, etc.)
- Cost (hopefully $8 for a new registration; not more than $500 if already registered)
Brainstorming Domain Names
The first step in our process was taking our requirements (above) and conducting a brainstorming session. For those of you who have never been a part of a brainstorming session, the keys are to a) identify your outcome (domain name options), b) DO NOT evaluate suggestions, and d) get as many ideas on paper as possible.
In our brainstorming session, we came up with the following 98 potential names for our website:
Narrowing the Domain Name Options
After brainstorming and coming up with as many options as possible, the task at hand was to narrow the options. This is the point that we began to evaluate options — if we had evaluated when we were doing the brainstorming, we might have missed out on a great name that someone came up with while thinking about a domain name that wasn’t as great. There’s no need to inhibit the creative process.
We then discussed the possible domain names, clarified word definitions, and organized the list. Then we employed a voting process called N/3 (called “N over 3″). The purpose of N/3 is to reduce a large number of ideas to a smaller number of “best ideas.”
In N/3, we count the number of items on the list (N) and divide by three. This is the number of votes each person has. Each person can only vote on an idea two times maximum (you can set your own rules), and once everyone has voted you can look at the top vote-getters.
The Final Three
The output of our narrowing process was producing a list of three domain names that we loved:
Evaluating the Options
At this point we needed to do two things:
- Verify that the domain names were available for registration or were not being actively used (available for offer/negotiation)
- Determine the social media username availability
To do both of these things, we used a site called namecheck.com, a service of United Domains. The NameCheck service is described as “a free search report to reveal if your brand has been taken as a domain name, social media username or trademark,” but it’s just as useful when searching for a new name for exploring your potential company. It provides details on social media usernames, general domain names, country domain names and trademarks.
Using the service provides an easy way to visually determine availability. Below are three images using NameCheck on the three domain name finalists.
(Click to enlarge screenshots of DomainBrain, DomainSherpa and DomainZone on Namecheck.com)
As you can see, DomainSherpa afforded availability of all of the social media usernames, all of the general domain names — except domainsherpa.com, which was already reserved — all of the country domain names, and didn’t produce any issues with established trademarks. Alternatively, DomainBrain and DomainZone had multiple domain names and social media usernames taken. Trying to negotiate the purchase of all of those usernames and domain names would be a waste of time and probably end-up unsuccessful.
The only major hurdle we had to get over was the purchase of domainsherpa.com, which was already registered by an individual. So I performed a WHOIS lookup to learn who the owner was. In doing so, I found that the domain name was for sale on Sedo.com but the minimum specified by the seller was not visible. So I placed an offer for $50. It was immediately rejected.
In the rejection, however, I found that I could purchase it for $500 (inclusive of escrow through Sedo.com). I had to think hard about whether the domain name was worth $500. On one hand, it met all of my requirements (listed above in this article). On the other hand, if I repeated this process I might be able to find a domain name that was available for registration for $8. In the end, I decided that DomainSherpa brand represented exactly what we’re trying to achieve with this publishing and social network website and completed the purchase for $500. I then immediately registered all the usernames and miscellaneous associated domain names and was off to write this article.
There should be a process for evaluating domain names to purchase for your business or organization. Your evaluation process should include the following activities:
- Writing down your mission statement
- Brainstorming possible names
- Voting to narrow down the options
- Evaluating available social media usernames and domain names
- Trademark search
- Purchase of the domain names and registration of social media usernames
Which domain name did you like best, if not DomainSherpa? Tell us in the comments!