Whether it’s your product, company or rock band, choosing a name is inevitably the hardest part. Hunched over the screen typing URL after URL into GoDaddy, you cross your fingers that your 700th attempt will finally unlock that magical, unclaimed word that fits your new startup.
Instead of repeatedly bashing your head against the wall, here’s a simple approach to naming things that uses a score of free online services to make the process a bit less painful. (We've left out the auto-refreshing random word generators.)
1. Start with related words
Finding the right name begins by harvesting your natural materials: all the words that are in any way related to your product, company or death metal band. The journey always starts with a thesaurus — or the internet-on-steroids option, Wordnik.com. Type in any word you can think of, pore over the results and capture any other related words that inspire or seem like a good fit. Search, scribble, rinse, repeat until you have a crop of 50 to 100 words that will be your foundation. You can also use Thesaurus.com or the iPad app Wordflex. For options off the beaten path, try using The Free Dictionary’s Idiom Search. Playing with idioms can generate some unique and powerful results.
2. Play with your words
Once you’ve got a healthy crop of words related to your company, product or intramural basket-weaving team, it's time to start pushing those words places where they’ll start to suggest names. Puns are a good place to start. Used socially they might provoke groans and eyerolls, but often they work quite well as names. PunGenerator.org serves you dozens of puns for every search term you enter, and a couple of gems usually surface after a while.
Often when naming things, your best friend is the portmanteau. It sounds fancy, but portmanteau just means smooshing two words together to come up with a clever name. From Groupon and Comcast to Bennifer and Brangelina, some of the catchiest names are well-constructed portmanteaus. To score a few h3 ones, head to WerdMerge.com and take the time to enter most or all of your related words into it. While good portmanteaus can be rare, the right one is often the home run you’ve desperately been trying to hit.
Another option is attaching rhyming words to one of your original terms — a tactic we see with brands like StubHub, FitBit and 7-Eleven. Wikirhymer.com generates a slew of rhymes, near rhymes and even mosaic rhymes for every term you enter. While the grand majority of these will make you shake your head, there’s always a chance that the winning name is buried somewhere in the list.
3. Hedge your bets with h3 search words
Setting up your account is easy and can be done in three steps:
To add some science into your naming efforts, why not attempt to find a name that people are already searching for? While Google has its Keyword Search Tool, and you can spend ages experimenting with Google.com’s autocomplete function, a much faster service is UberSuggest.org. Enter in one of your original words and Ubersuggest serves up hundreds of related and popular search terms.
4. Check that your name isn’t taken
Five years ago, checking your URL was enough. Now, checking that each name is available across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Slideshare and dozens of other social platforms can take forever. Save yourself some time and head to NameChk.com. Type in your name and a push of a button is all it takes to make sure that it’s available on every major social platform, and dozens of minor ones.
5. Test it out before committing
Now that you’ve got a spiffy new name, it’s time to parade it up and down the street a few times, making sure that other people think it’s half as clever as you do. Pitch your new company or product’s name to friends, frenemies, family and colleagues. Watch their reactions, and ask for their honest input.
Finally, make sure the name passes the T-shirt test — would your friend wear a shirt with your new brand’s name on it?
This post originally appeared on OPEN Forum, an online community providing small business owners with information and advice to help them do more business.
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Senior Strategist & Copywriter, Big Spaceship.