One of the first steps that many people take when they’re starting a business is to create an identity for the business. There are numerous ways that people generate a name, it could be through the use of a business name generator or by asking friends and family for their ideas. However, there is a risk in just using that name without due diligence. Therefore, one of the most important steps in naming a business is to conduct a business name search.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of the business name search and how it can be done for any new business venture that you might need.

Why is a Business Name Search Critical?

Numerous individuals create a business in the hope that their idea will be a complete success. However, there are many challenges along the journey to a successful business. The branding of your business is one such challenge.

business name search

Consumers will only buy from brands that they trust. The name you use can become part of that equation as to whether you build that trust.

However, coming up with a good business name can be very challenging when you have certain limitations. For example, most states don’t allow you to use names that have government agency names, or certain words and there are legal steps to prevent two companies from using the same name.

There are many reasons why you don’t want to use a name that is already in use, such as the following reasons.

1. Confusing the Audience

One of the biggest problems for your business is that you might confuse your audience. Consider if two businesses were known as The Business Agency. If that name was just mentioned in passing from one customer to a peer, how would the peer know which business with that name the other person is talking about?

A quick Google search won’t provide that information. Only if more information is passed on from one party to another that the actual identity can be rectified. However, that is often not provided.

While some might assume that this can be just as beneficial to you as it would be to the other business and therefore be canceled out, the truth is the opposite. In these scenarios the lesser-known business is often the one that is at a disadvantage and very little traffic is directed from the more established business to the new business.

Therefore, when you’ve done well with one customer and they want to share, it is so vital for you to get that word of mouth to you. Therefore, you will lose out.

2. Google Prefers More Established Businesses

business name search

More established businesses have several advantages with search engines. Google has, as part of the search algorithm, aspects that respect longer-established businesses better. There is even a new domain penalty that will hinder your search position for the first three to six months of your domain registration.

Therefore, when you’re establishing your business, you’re already disadvantaged. Then there are other problems that you might not realize. Your business reviews are very important and a more established business is likely to have more reviews than you.

So unless you can quickly bring in new customers and get them to give you Google reviews, then you’re going to struggle to compete on Google against the more established business.

And while some people think that they can survive without Google, this is a bad option. Research has shown nearly half of the sales can start on Google. And most of the top-performing brands online have more than 70% of their traffic generated by search engines.

Getting your website ranked on Google is vital and while it starts with good keywords, 42% of all searches are branded searches. A branded search is when a consumer enters a company or product name into the search bar and that is their query. This provides a good indicator that customers already know what they want and are using Google to get there directly.

3. Legal Issues With Those Who Have Paid to Register a Business Name

Local governments won’t allow you to use a name that has already been registered. Some laws and regulations prevent this. While there are some tax reasons for this, there are also practical reasons such as keeping a clean database.

As this is the law, there are also protections in place for brands that have paid to register a business. These brands will take your infringement on their branding very seriously and you could find your brand in the courts for use of a name that is deemed too similar to their name.

In many cases, you will be asked to change your business’ operating name. Rebranding your business is going to be expensive and you might find that you lose customers as some won’t have heard about your business change of brand and they might go to the other brand.

And the legal costs to defend or represent yourself in court can be very expensive as well. Lawyers can charge a lot and you might have to pay court fees, compensation, and more.

4. Limit Access to Social Media

Another factor is that you’re going to limit your access to social media. The other brand is going to have accounts registered with the same name on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. That means that if you use the same name you’re going to be limiting the number of people getting to your social media account as those platforms will showcase the one with the best followers and engagement, which is hard to do on a brand new account.

Social media, while not a huge selling tool, is important for several marketing activities. So it should be made very important.

There are also problems as there are some platforms that won’t allow two brands to use the same username on the platform. Therefore, you’ve got problems for your brand if the other brand has already taken up the username, even if they don’t use it.

5. Waste of Time

The other factor is that the above points make choosing a name that has already been taken a complete waste of your time. Time is one of the most valuable and unexpendable resources that we have. Wasting time is something that you can never really recover from.

It is better to spend more time now checking for business name availability and finding out that your business name is not possible than to find out later on.

How to Find out About Business Name Availability

There are several ways that you can check for business name availability. However, there are some challenges. These are extensive processes that can be very costly, especially if you’re inefficient. Here are some of the options that are available for you.

1. Check on Google

The first, and most obvious check is that you look on Google. For many people, this is the first search that they do and then they stop. Some people assume that if you can’t find a business on Google, then they don’t exist.

This ain’t always the case. About 40% of small businesses don’t have a website and therefore aren’t ranked on Google for a website. Not every business has a Google Business account and some businesses are so small niche or local that they don’t bother online at all.

That doesn’t mean they haven’t paid to register a business name and therefore legally own their business name.

2. Check on Social Media

business name search

Some businesses work on platforms like eBay, Etsy, Amazon, UpWork, and other large eCommerce or marketplace sites but they don’t then have a website. These brands might advertise their products and services on social media. And they might have also registered their business.

Therefore, some people do search on social media to ensure that their brand name hasn’t been taken. A business name search on some of these sites can be more tricky to pull off as they don’t always have the best search algorithms. For example, Facebook doesn’t always show the best results or close results.

3. Domain Name Search

A domain name search is a good idea. It might be that someone is about to register a business name for their brand, but has already bought the domain to create the website later on. The other option is that someone has thought of the name and bought the domain in preparation. However, they never carried forward with the business idea.

A domain name search is not that reliable as there are so many problems with the option.

4. Ask for Trade Listings

business name search

Another option is to ask trade publications or other trade professionals if there is an available business. However, this is not exactly a good option as it might be that the business has never registered for them, or the trade professional body might not offer this service.

5. Business Name Search

Most states and countries will have a register of all the businesses that have registered their name. Conducting a business name search is the best option. You just need to speak to the business departments of your state or country and they can help you identify how to complete a business name search. There are also details on this website about where to find this information.

business name search

In the US, the business has to register in each state that it does business in. Therefore, you might find the name available in one state and not another state. If you plan on expanding your website into other areas, you might want to conduct additional business name searches for each state.

Some brands can help you do this like ZenBusiness and Incfile.

How Much Does a Business Name Search Cost?

The cost of completing a business name search can vary depending on your state and how many searches you do. Sometimes the search is free, but you need to pay to reserve the name. The name reservation can last for between a couple of months to a year, at which point you will need to pay for the name to be reserved again.

Do I Have to Register a Business Name?

Technically you don’t have to register a business name for your new business. You can act as a sole proprietor. However, when you register a business name, you will get LLC status. This business structure offers your wealth and assets from claims against your business. For example, if a customer sues you and they win, only business assets can be taken to pay for debts.

Therefore, there are some advantages to registering your business as an LLC in the United States.

What if Someone Steals my Business Name?

If you’ve registered your business name, then you get protection from others who’ve stolen your business name. You can take them to court to get compensation for the use of your property (business name). You can also force the other entity to change its branding to ensure that your business is the only one using the name.

While this is expensive, often you can claim back the costs from the other party. Though there are risks as you don’t always get the money back if they don’t have enough. Sometimes you might wish to start by sending them a letter showing them you are the legal owner of the name and that they need to stop using the business name to avoid legal issues with you.

Final Word: Business Name Search: How to Complete One and Why it is Important

A business name search is the only way to ensure that you can use a business name when you are establishing a business. There are numerous options once you’ve completed the business name search, and one step is to register your business name.

Depending on the state and the method you’ve submitted the business name search, it can take as little as a few minutes to a couple of weeks to complete a business name search.
If you want to do a business name search across the US, then you should speak to a third party who can do that for you quickly and easily. It will cost more money, but it will save you lots of time.
No, you shouldn’t need to repeat a business name search, unless you didn’t protect the branding and you’ve not registered a business name.
It doesn’t take too much time to register a business name, normally only a few hours to a couple of weeks. And the cost can also vary, with some being less than $100 and others costing more than $250.
Yes. You can register your business in all 50 states, as long as you have a representative in each state. You can do this by using services, each state can offer you a list of businesses that can act as a representative.