1. Decide the goals of your name and branding.
Of course you have already decided what the company or blog will do, how you will go about it, and perhaps even a mission statement. This is the time to write down what the personality of the brand will be. Serious? Technical? Goofy? It's all up to you and what you want to convey.
2. Write a "persona" for your customers or website users.
This is a back story for who you are trying to reach. Depending on your business, this could be quite in-depth, or it could be just a few sentences with demographics and characteristics.
3. Do your research.
What do other blogs in your category typically call themselves? Is there a trend in companies that carry your products? Make a spreadsheet of your competitors and colleagues - this will not only help you choose a name but also learn the landscape.
4. Brainstorm. Like crazy.
We used to fill a gigantic white board with every possible crazy idea every person in the room ever had. No shutting down of anything. Make up words. Combine words and letters. Look words up in the thesaurus. See what words are in different languages. Every thing you ever thought of, and can think of - put it down.
5. Kill Your Darlings.
Look at your list and, taking numbers 1-3 into account, and start narrowing it down. Hard to pronounce? Kill. Too common? Kill. Doesn't match your goals? Kill.
6. Research some more.
Take your favorite names and search, search, search. Log out of Google (so you are disconnected from your social networks) and search again. Search on TESS, the US Patent Office's database of alive and dead trademarks. Search on sites like Knowem, to see if the URL is available and if you can get the name on the major social networks. Search on Twitter to see how people are using the words of your branding in tweets and hashtags. The web is a powerful market research tool, use it!
7. Focus group your pick.
Again, depending on your industry and budget, this could be done on a large scale with moderated focus groups, online surveys... or also just even a simple email among trusted friends to get their opinion. But ask for honesty - and be prepared to get it. You may not like what you hear, but much better at this stage than after you have launched your website.
8. Grab that name!
Once you are confident you have a winner, buy the URL in at least the .com - but I recommend getting the .net and .org as well. You have zeroed in on this name and you want to OWN it everywhere. Purchase it for at least two years to show the search engines longevity. Add email to your .com and use that email to register on all the major social networks. And I mean all. Don't think you will use Pinterest? That's fine, but grab your name there anyway. GET. THEM. ALL.
9. If needed, trademark the name.
I can't tell you if you need to trademark or not, but I can tell you it is easier than you think it is. Go to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and follow their steps. It costs around $300.
And there you have it!
See? Not as hard as you thought.
What are you up to in the new year?