Small Business BC

How to Choose and Register an Effective Domain Name

What's in a name? Plenty, especially if you are marketing or selling online. A domain name provides an online identity and contact point for your business or organization. Marketers are so aware of the monetary value attached to names and their use on the Internet, domain name buying and selling has become a business in itself; some coveted domain names have been sold for more than a million dollars.

In fact, domain name squatting or hijacking that is, registering a brand-recognized internet address with the sole intent of selling it to the highest bidder has been the focus of many lawsuits.

It's not surprising, since domain names help build brand recognition in the same way that a business name or product name can. And, considering how people use the Internet often guessing an address based on a company name or product, a well-chosen domain address can increase an organization's website traffic and in turn, impact their bottom line.

That said, choosing an appropriate yet available name is no easy task in a saturated market - world-wide, registered domain names near five billion and counting.

Therefore, choosing the right domain name means balancing availability with brand recognition and user appeal.

Below, are some tips on how to choose and register an effective domain name for your website.

Choose a Memorable Domain Name

On the Internet, short, easy to remember names that relate to your core business work best. Nevertheless, simple, very short domains are often unavailable so, unless your company or product name is unique, you may have to create a two-word combination.

When choosing a name, keep in mind that you are not restricted to your registered business name. Therefore, although you may want to choose a name that contains all or part of your company name, alternately you may want to use the name of a product or service that you offer.

Research an Effective Domain Name

List all the keywords that relate to your business.

Consider not only your company name but also your industry, products, services, audiences, and key differentiating factors.

Brainstorm word combinations.

Chances are that each of the keywords you've listed has already been taken separately. But, you can utilize your list to form two-word combinations. Try to choose words that are not easy to misspell, or are not easily confused with others. Consider combinations with and without hyphens.

Also consider choosing a name that says what it is that you do. For example, if your business name is "My Name and Associates", but your service is accounting, you may want to choose a domain name which incorporates keywords related to accounting: accountants, tax return, tax filing etc. Choosing a keyword-rich domain name will not only make your address easy to remember but it will also help your website rank higher in Internet search engines.

Check Your Domain Name Availability

To see if your name is available, you can go to the web page of any accredited registrar (there are hundreds out there) and type the name you want into the search box on their site. The program will tell you right away if your name is available. Check all of your top name choices, and minor variations of them. If the name you've chosen is easily misspelled, you may also want to consider checking and registering misspellings of the name and pointing those additional domains to the same website. You may also want to consider checking and registering hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions of the same name.

Choose a Domain Extension

At this point you'll have a range of domain name extensions to choose from. A domain name extension is the letter combination to the right of the domain name itself after the period. Below, is a list of the more popular extensions and what they mean. com Short for "commercial" - designed for commercial enterprises world-wide.

  • .com is the most popular and important extension for those selling on the Internet, yet it is also the least available
  • .ca Short for "Canada" also available, .uk (United Kingdom), .nl (Netherlands) etc. These are country specific extensions
  • .biz Short for "business" – created as a supplement to .com addresses
  • .org Short for "organization" – designed for use by non-profit making organizations such as charities and clubs
  • .net Short for "network" – originally designed for use by Internet Service Providers
  • .edu Short for "education" – designed for educational organizations
  • .gov Short for "government" – designed for use by government
  • .info Short for "information" – unrestricted use

You will have to decide which extensions are most important to your business. This will depend on your audience, the nature of your business and the image you want to promote. Keep in mind, you can choose more than one extension in fact, choosing all applicable extensions is recommended to ensure maximum exposure and minimize mistaken identity.

If you are promoting or selling a commercial product or service and have to choose between a .com and another extension, consider registering a .com extension first, even if it means choosing an alternate domain name. The reason for this is that .com extensions are still the most popular and most likely to be typed in by a user guessing at or trying to remember a domain name. Second, as a Canadian organization a .ca should also be considered then, .biz and others.

Register Your Domain Name

Buying an Available Domain Name

Once you have chosen your domain name and checked its availability, registering your name is easy.

For a list of registration authorities, visit the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

When choosing a registrar:

  • Avoid organizations that charge too much. Anything above $50 CAD for a .ca is too high.
  • Choose an organization that offers timely telephone and email customer service, comprehensive FAQs, and an easy to use website.
  • Choose an organization that offers features you may want to take advantage of, now or in the future, such as Domain Forwarding or Domain Gripping.

The cost of a domain name varies depending on the extension you choose, and the features offered by the registrar such as Domain Forwarding or Gripping, but averages between $30 and $50 CAD per year.

In most cases, you are required to register and pay for your domain name online using a credit card, although some registrars will accept cheques.

Keep in mind, when you register your domain name, you are not buying it outright. Think of your domain name like a phone number you are paying for the right to use it for a period of time. You can register a domain name for one year, two years, five years etc. After that time you will be given the option of renewing for another period.

Buying Already Owned Domain Names

If you have your heart set on a particular name that has been taken, online registrars also offer the ability to view purchaser contact information and, if you are willing to negotiate price you may be able to purchase the domain from another.

Want to Find Out More?

Attend Small Business BC's Getting Online seminar series to find out how to get your business online, measure your success and use social media to promote it.

Alternatively contact ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) or CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority). 

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