How to Search and Choose Your Business Name in All 50 States

One of the most difficult parts of starting a business is finding the perfect name. You need to find the right balance of functionality and appeal — letting your customers know what you do with a business name that’s memorable and builds trust. You’ll also need to conduct a corporation/LLC name search with your state to make sure it isn’t already in use before you can officially register your business.  Read on for our advice on choosing the perfect name and how to run a business entity search in your state so you can get your business up and running.

Why the Right Business Name Matters

Before you start thinking about a good name for your business, let’s explore its importance:

  • The name will help you build your branding, including logos, taglines, product names and promotional materials.
  • A good business name can help you stand out from the crowd and can attract repeat buyers.
  • The right business name can represent what your business offers and be associated with your products and services.

Your business name is your organization’s public identity, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

 

Questions to Ask When Creating a Business Name

Rather than creating the right business name from nowhere, it’s worth considering a few questions to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • Who is the main audience for your business products and services, and what sort of name would appeal to them?
  • How will your customers find you — will it mainly be online, through advertising, passing on the street or something else?
  • Do you want a name that functionally describes what your business does or something a little more abstract?
  • What elements do you really want to include in your business name?
  • What do you want the name to accomplish?

business name brainstorming lightbulb

Brainstorm Business Name Ideas

Now that you know what you want your business name to do, it’s time to start creating ideas:

  • Ask your friends and family for suggestions on a good business name.
  • Carry a notebook around with you, as inspiration can strike anywhere.
  • Look into the names of competitor businesses, and see if there’s a theme.
  • See what keywords are associated with the traits you want to bring out in your business.
  • Try out some business name generators like Shopify, BNG, Oberlo, Namelix or Squadhelp.

We’ve also published three guides you may find helpful:

Once you have a few names, go down this list of questions for each one to help you build a list:

  • How easy would it be to incorporate your business name into a logo or other branding?
  • Is your business name easy to spell and pronounce?
  • Is your business name easy to remember?
  • Does the name you want match the intended tone, approach and image of your business?
  • Does the name represent the products and services you sell?
  • Is the website address available for your proposed business name?
  • Are social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) available for the proposed business name?
  • Have you searched for the name to check it’s not already in use?

Rules for Business Names

There are some rules about naming your business, which are common across all states:

  • The name must be unique and not used by another business entity.
  • The name must be distinctive from the name of another business entity.
  • You cannot use things like definite articles (“a,” “and,” “an,” “&,” “the,” etc.), symbols, abbreviations, pluralization, fonts and similar to say your name is distinct from another business.
  • If you think your name is confusable with another existing business name, you shouldn’t use it.
  • The name will need to include certain words, depending on the type of business you’re creating.

Additionally, most states will not allow you to form businesses with names that:

  • Are very similar to the name of a federal or state agency or organization (e.g., FBI, FDA, Department of Revenue, Police, Treasury, etc.)
  • Suggest affiliation with a federal or state agency or organization
  • Use the term “Olympic” or any terms that are trademarks of the Olympic organization
  • Imply a purpose that would be illegal for your business to carry out

Conducting an LLC Name Search

Businesses, whether they’re an LLC or corporation, are formed at the state level, and every state requires that business names are unique. This means you must search for your business name to check that another entity in your state isn’t using it. You have a couple of ways to do this:

      1. Use the Incfile Business Name Search and Lookup Tool.
      2. Go to the website of the business formation agency in your state and do a search there. Look for the option to conduct a “business entity search,” “llc name search,” or “corporation/LLC search,” since the terminology may differ depending on the state.
        follow the naming rules

Using Incfile’s Business Name Search makes the process quick and easy, and you can even choose to form your business immediately if the name you want is available.

Deciding on Your Final Business Name

Now that you have a short list of names that are unique and not used by another business in your state, you can decide on your favorite. For each name on your list, go through the questions again and make sure the name fits with your intent for your business. Talk to the people you know, speak with potential customers and get feedback on the name. Then, you can make the final decision and get your business started.

Don’t forget that Incfile makes it easy to start your business. If you use our Business Name Search tool, you can choose to form your business with us once you’ve settled on a name. Incfile provides unmatched customer service and has formed well over 250,000 companies. Our experience provides us with vast knowledge and experience in filing business entities, and we are familiar with the nuances of each of the 50 states.

Business Name Searches in all 50 States

Incfile’s business entity search tool is super easy to use, but you can also search directly with your state’s business formation agency.

 

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Paul Maplesden

Paul is a freelance writer, small business owner, and British expat exploring the U.S. When he’s not politely apologizing, he enjoys hats, hockey, Earl Grey Tea, mountains, and dogs.
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