Domain name help for new business owners
This week I was asked by a contact who is starting up a new business which domains to buy. She said, “Is it important to get company.com? Or .co.uk? What about .uk? What about .london?” And on it goes… Here are my tips to register the right domains for you.
Is your business name available?
Check out any domain registrar. I particularly like 123-reg for domain registration as they have a really easy-to-use website and services to help find the best domains. If your preferred name is available, great, and if not, there are other options to consider, like checking if the domain is actually being used, or if it’s up for renewal soon, who owns it and can you bid for it? (I’ll plan to cover that in another post.)
Have you checked for similar-named competitors?
Next I would consider is anyone else or another company using the same or similar name, even with a different domain extension? If yes, where are they and what do they do? Established brands have first refusal on their domain names and you need to be sure for your own commercial advantage that you’re not going to get into a messy wrangle over branding / trademarks or customer confusion. You don’t want people going to your website when they want another and vice versa.
An example of this is when we registered EclipseChoir.com. There is an Eclipse Chorus based in Canada, and this is a small male singing ensemble, not a large mixed community choir like ours in London. Given the distance and different audiences, sounds and set up, it seemed fine to stick with the name Eclipse Choir, and it’s doing really well.
Thirdly, it’s good practice to choose a domain extension that suits your business. For example, if you’re a charity, then you need a .org or a .org.uk perhaps. If you’re a business then you’ve got a lot more choice!
Look at bagging at least one major domain. My advice is, if you can get .com, then buy it. It will be more expensive than .uk domain names, but it’s so easy to say and it’s very familiar to everyone.
Plus, if you’re in the UK and selling to the UK it makes sense also to have a .uk domain. If you get both, you can decide which one to use and forward one to another.
When choosing either .co.uk or .uk, there’s not much in it. The latter is a newer option and so, if you buy that one as a primary domain, you might want to back it up with .co.uk too, because it may be some people would type that in if they were looking you up directly. You can easily forward .co.uk to .uk if you like it that way around!
The worst thing is not to buy.
Registering a uk domain costs less than £10 for two years, so it’s not a big outlay, even if you’re unsure of your final business name. If you miss it you may miss out for a long time. I won’t ever forget the candidate on The Apprentice who got to the final interview stage with a business plan and was totally foiled when one of the interviewers announced that he had bought up the proposed company name’s domains. The candidate showed lack of thought and commitment by not buying the domain as soon as he had his great business idea.
What about newer domain extensions?
Newer domain extensions are popping up all the time. An associate of mine uses .co and .eu domains. I also have a client who’s just bought a .yoga domain. That alone makes it self-explanatory what she does, right?! I think the important thing to consider is relevance to your business and how easy is it to say and spell to others. Over time the general public will become familiar with the variety of domain extensions available and not find ‘unusual’ extensions surprising or confusing, so long as they tie in well with your offering.
What about ID Protection?
When you come to purchase your domains I’d recommend buying ID protection. A lot of people don’t know that when you register a domain to your person, or to your business, without ID protection then your contact details, including name and address, are published and available on domain registrars over the world wide web. If you don’t purchase ID protection then you will very probably receive quite a lot of email spam at least. Most of this is advertising web design or SEO services, but some of it is rather official looking, nasty scams. I’ve seen one that reads as if you will lose your website / domain name from search engines entirely unless you order their ‘Search Engine Service’. This is, of course, rubbish. Avoid spam if you can, or if you don’t want to pay the extra for ID protection, please be ready to delete delete delete.
Will it have an affect on my search engine rankings?
Google and other search engines will rank your website based on a multitude of factors, and the most important thing is creating great, relevant and fresh content that keeps your visitor engaged on your website. It takes time to build a good Google ranking, perhaps a year to get from zero to hero on competitive terms. The most important bit about your domain name is the name, not the extension.
I’ve got all these domains, so what do I do with them?
Well, you don’t have to do anything! A domain is not a website. You have registered your ownership of a domain name and that is all.
The next step is to look at what you want from a website and find help to build it. It’s only then you’ll get to the point of buying web hosting, which does not have to be from the same supplier. (And there are a few reasons why it is good to keep them separate… another topic for a later post!)
Once your business is operating and you have a website, you can easily point multiple domains to the ‘primary’ website domain with a simple redirect.
If, on the other hand, you’re a collector and you’ve got a little library of domains that you’ve bought because they *could* be great business ideas in the future, then I would probably treat them like my wardrobe. If I haven’t worn it in a couple of years, it may be time to get rid of it. Think about it carefully, if the domain doesn’t have any real value, and you don’t have a specific plan for it, then let it expire gracefully. It could be someone else’s dream 🙂