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Zeroing on a name is one of the more difficult parts of starting a business. You want something appealing but functional. It should be easy to remember yet unique enough to strike a chord with your target audience.
When shortlisting potential business names, you’ll also need to do an LLC name search with your state to ensure it isn’t already in use before officially registering it for your business.
Why Doing an LLC Name Search Is Worth It
A good business name is worth its weight in gold.
Not only does it build your branding (think product names, promotional materials, logos, and taglines), but it’ll also help your target customers distinguish your company from your competitors. What’s more, a good business name helps you attract repeat buyers—provided it represents what your business offers and is relevant to what you sell.
The whole idea behind doing an LLC name search isn’t just to get a unique name—it’s also to comply with a state’s LLC naming guidelines.
All 50 U.S. states require LLC owners to select a name that isn’t already taken by another business operating in the same state. Each state has a dedicated web page where LLC owners can do a quick name search to check availability.
When doing a name search, you can check for URL availability as well.
Having a strong digital presence is extremely crucial today. When you select a business name that has an available URL, you can reinforce your brand and make a good impression on your customers. Experts suggest buying the URL even if you don’t plan on building a business website right away to prevent others from acquiring it.
The Investment Needed to Do an LLC Name Search
Looking up potential business names for your LLC is totally free. You don’t have to pay a single penny to access your state’s web page and perform a quick search.
Some states also provide access to information for a small fee, if you want to search for LLC names by mail or fax. But really, who searches LLC names by mail or fax in this century?
Keep in mind that only searching for an LLC name is free. You’ll still have to pay the applicable charges when registering your business or filing for a DBA (“Doing Business As”).
5 Steps to Do an LLC Name Search
Below, we’ll do a quick step-by-step rundown of how you can do an LLC name search to finalize an appropriate name for your LLC.
Before doing the actual search, you have to carry out a few extra steps to prepare a shortlist of potential names. Here’s how it’ll go:
Step 1: Define a Good Name for Your LLC
Before you start brainstorming names, you should define what a good name for your business would be like. For instance, would you want it to be quirky? Or would you prefer something more traditional?
As mentioned, when selecting a name, you want to take into account the nature of your business, your target audience, and of course, your products and services.
To get your train of thought in the right direction, consider the following questions:
- Who is the target audience for your company’s products and services? What kind of name would appeal to them the most?
- How will your customers find you? Will it be through online search engines, from your advertising efforts, when they are passing on the street—or something else?
- Do you want a name that describes what your business does functionally? Or would you prefer something more abstract?
- What elements do you want to include in your business name?
- What do you want your business name to accomplish?
Step 2: Create a List of Potential LLC Names
Next, you have to start generating ideas for your LLC name. The good news is there are many ways to effectively brainstorm good LLC names. Here are the top tactics we swear by:
- Have brainstorming sessions with your friends and family.
- Take a peek at your competitors’ names. Analyze them to see if there’s a theme.
- Keep a notebook on you. Trust us; inspiration can strike anywhere!
- Figure out what keywords are associated with the traits you want to bring out in your business.
- Use business name generators like Shopify, Business Name Generator, and Oberlo to get started on the right track.
After a brainstorming session and using a business name generator tool, you should have a list of potential business names. To finally select a name from your list, consider the following list of questions:
- How easily can you incorporate your business name into a logo or other branding?
- Is your business name easy to remember?
- Is the business name easy to spell and pronounce?
- Does the business name match the intended tone, approach, and image you envision for your LLC?
- Does the business name represent the products and services you want to sell?
- Does the business name have an available URL?
- Are social media profiles and handles on popular social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter available for the business name?
The above list will help you narrow down potential names that suit your business and brand.
Step 3: Check Your State’s Naming Guidelines
Every state has some standard rules when it comes to LLE names. Here are some of those guidelines:
- LLC name must be unique and not used by another business.
- LLC name should be distinctive from the name of another business.
- LLC name must be distinguishable from other LLCs, corporations, and partnerships
- LLC name must include the phrase “limited liability company“ or one of its abbreviations (LLC or L.L.C.)
- LLC name cannot include words that could potentially confuse your company with a government agency (Treasury, FBI, State Department, etc.)
- LLC name shouldn’t use the term “Olympic“ or any terms that are trademarks of the Olympic organization.
- LLC name shouldn’t imply a purpose that’s illegal for your business to carry out.
- You cannot add definite articles (“a,” “an,” “and,” “&,” “the”), abbreviations, symbols, fonts, and pluralization to make your name distinctive from another business.
- If your LLC name can be confused with another existing business name, you shouldn’t use it.
All the above are hard rules, meaning if your LLC name doesn’t fulfill even one of the above guidelines, you might fall in trouble with the law, which can result in hefty fines and penalties.
Step 4: Do an LLC Name Search
Since your LLC will be formed at the state level, you must meet all applicable state laws. One of these rules involves double-checking whether your business name isn’t being used by another entity.
There are a couple of ways to conduct an LLC name search:
- Use a business name search and lookup tool. For instance, IncFile’s Business Name Search tool is very user-friendly and accurate.
- Visit the website of your business formation agency (if you have one) in your state and do a quick search. Look for the option to conduct a “business entity search,” or an “LLC name search.” The terminology will differ depending on your state.
- Search directly with your state’s business formation agency.
If you decide to do a name search on your state’s website, here’s a complete list of state-wise name search links:
- Alabama: Alabama Secretary of State
- Alaska: State of Alaska Dept. of Commerce, Community and Economic Development
- Arizona: Arizona Corporation Commission
- Arkansas: Arkansas Secretary of State
- California: California Secretary of State
- Colorado: Colorado Secretary of State
- Connecticut: Connecticut Office of the Secretary of the State
- Delaware: State of Delaware Department of State Division of Corporations
- District of Columbia/Washington D.C. Business Entity Search: DC Secretary of State
- Florida: Dept. of State Division of Corporations
- Georgia: Georgia Secretary of State
- Hawaii: Business Registration Division, Dept. of Commerce & Consumer Affairs
- Idaho: Office of the Illinois Secretary of State
- Indiana: Indiana Secretary of State
- Iowa: Iowa Secretary of State
- Kansas: Office of the Secretary of the State
- Kentucky: Kentucky Secretary of State
- Louisiana: Louisiana Secretary of State
- Maine: Maine Dept. of the Secretary of State Bureau of Corporations, Elections and Commissions
- Maryland: Maryland Department of Assessments & Taxation; Maryland Business Express
- Massachusetts: Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
- Michigan: Michigan Dept. of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA)
- Minnesota: Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State
- Mississippi: Mississippi Secretary of State
- Missouri: Missouri Secretary of State
- Montana: Montana Secretary of State
- Nebraska: Nebraska Secretary of State
- Nevada: SilverFlume Nevada’s Business Portal
- New Hampshire: New Hampshire Department of State
- New Jersey: NJ Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services
- New Mexico: New Mexico Secretary of State Corporations and Business Services
- New York: New York Department of State
- North Carolina: North Carolina Secretary of State
- North Dakota: North Dakota Secretary of State
- Ohio: Ohio Secretary of State
- Oklahoma: Oklahoma Secretary of State
- Oregon: Oregon Secretary of State
- Pennsylvania: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State
- Rhode Island: Rhode Island Department of State
- South Carolina: South Carolina Secretary of State
- South Dakota: South Dakota Secretary of State
- Tennessee: Tennessee Secretary of State
- Texas: Texas Secretary of State
- Utah: Utah Dept. of Commerce Div. of Corporations and Commercial Code
- Vermont: Vermont Secretary of State
- Virginia: State Corporation Commission of the Commonwealth of Virginia
- Washington: Office of the Secretary of State, Washington Corporations and Charities Filing System
- West Virginia: West Virginia Secretary of State One-Stop Business Portal
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions
- Wyoming: Wyoming Secretary of State
Step 5: Finalize Your LLC Name
At this stage, you have a list of unique names, not used by another business in your state, and meets all legal requirements.
For each name on your list, go through the questions again to decide an option that best fits your intent for your business. Consult your friends, family, and acquaintances. You can even speak with potential customers to get their feedback.
We hope this guide helps you find the best name for your LLC.
Start your process by finding your state’s LLC name requirements. Then consider your own vision for your brand, your customers, and the products and services you sell.
If you like a particular name, you can reserve it. Some states allow business owners to reserve a name to prevent another company from registering it when filing paperwork. Of course, this involves a small fee, but considering how important a good name is for your business’s bottom line, it’s an expense worth incurring.
Another helpful next step is to buy the URL of your new LLC name, or as close to it as possible. That way no one else can try to either impersonate your business or simply get to the name you’ve worked so hard to develop before you do. Your website is the main place potential customers will find you, so making sure you have a lock on yourLLCname.com is vital.
Want to learn more about business formation and LLCs? Here are a few more Crazy Egg guides you can check out to set yourself up for success: