When naming your company you're naming your baby. So give your baby a name that will still be a good name when she's all grown up. Here are some tips to help you get it right.
At this point you probably have a name in mind, or a number of names, and have been searching domain registrations trying to find one that works for you. This list should help you brainstorm and find the best candidate for the long run.
1. Choose a name where you can get the matching domain name (optimal, but not always needed)
This is not always possible, given the number of registered domains. If you can't get .com, I say forget about it. For non-profit organizations, .org is a solid choice, without the need of .com. Now this never stopped del.icio.us, but even they eventually bought delicious.com. There are special cases like bit.ly, of course. If you choose .net, be prepared to tell people it's .net every time.
Dashes in your domains are good for SEO, I heard from an expert recently. But I still don't want to tell someone to go to: something dash something dash something dot com.
2. Choose an alternate domain that does NOT describe your company
There are good alternatives to the obvious name you have in mind. Let's say you specialize in repairing X-ray equipment, and you feel xrayrepair.com is the way to go, but you can't get it, you can always add another word to xrayrepair and see if that's available, or go another route. Let's say your house was on Clover street when you were growing up. How about CloverTechnology? Then when you expand to repairing more than just X-ray equipment, your name will still work. Another option is to name your company after a derivative of a Latin word, where the name still implies a meaning in English though it's not in English.
3. Use an umbrella domain
Another option is the umbrella domain. I did this with my company, ReadyPrompt. If I can't get the domain I want, I can always just make it a subdomain. If I was really sold on using the name FooberBonk, but it was taken, I can make fooberbonk.readyprompt.com (for free, no domain registration needed). And once I'm rich enough to buy FooberBonk.com from whoever owns it, I can. But if my FooberBonk never cashes in, it's still easily Googleable so people can find it.
4. Make sure the domain is unambiguous and legible in lowercase
Even if you do find the domain name that's a perfect match, it may not look right in all lowercase. Examples: expertsexchange.com (Expert's Exchange) or whorepresents.com (Who Represents) or a name with words that when read all in lowercase makes no sense, like ahidepot.com (Ahi Depot: I made this up).
5. Make it Googleable
I'm always amazed at some new project (Less CSS) or product with a completely Google-weak name. One where you put the name into Google and hope to find it, because the keywords are so common.
Let's say you start a company or have a product with a name like "Distance". It may be some tracker for your commute, golf drive, or marathons you participate in. What it does doesn't matter. The product name is not special in any way. It's a nice, simple name, but too simple for Google. You may be on page 754 of the results for the search term "distance". Users have to further narrow down by adding a keyword like golf, commute, or marathon, but even then it doesn't help. There are just too many results.
Given enough time and links to it, Google will find it and it will rise, but it's rough when you're starting out and hoping people can find you.
By the way, Less CSS is some cool technology that web developers should check out, but I wonder how long it took them to rise to the top.
6. Make it short enough and unique enough for Twitter
You're likely going to want to use the name on Twitter, and having a name that is somewhat unique lends itself to being findable through Twitter search, so you can track what people are saying about you. A short name is also great for tweets and retweets (RTs), since it gives the person tweeting about you enough space enough to write wonderful things about you.
Next post: The self-serve startup