In our first article, we looked at various strategies you could consider for your website and discussed that knowing what you want your website to accomplish would help you in the planning stage of site development. This time we are going to look at what is certainly the most important part of your site and site planning: the domain name.
So what is a domain name?
If someone asked you what a domain name looked like would you respond with something like www.mycompany.com? If you did, you would have answered in the way that a lot of people do, but you would only be partially correct, as your answer would include the domain name but also some extra stuff.
A domain name usually consists of the company name (xyzcompany) and the domain extension (.com is, by far, the most popular and recognizable domain extension). The idea here is that the basic domain name is the foundation for all the services you have–be it a website ( www.xyzcompany.com), an email address (email@example.com), or any other service you may have attached to your domain (i.e ftp.xyzcompany.com). Bottom line? It all starts with the domain name.
So why do you need a domain name?
If you are running (or thinking about starting) a small business, you should have your website and email addresses attached to your domain name. The reasoning for this is pretty straightforward. As a business owner, you spend a considerable amount of time and money establishing your brand. Whether you own a local floral shop, a landscaping business or offer consulting services, your customers see your company and services as part of your brand. Having your internet-based services reflect your brand is not only a low-cost marketing expenditure but also helps you level the playing field a little bit when it comes to your larger competition.
When you buy internet service from a provider, you typically get free web space included in the deal, and while it would seem, on the surface, to make sense to take advantage of that space, there is a good reason to think twice about it, and that’s the address. Because the service is free, the web address (or URL) is often reflective of the service provider’s name.
As an example of this, let’s say Janice owns a flower shop and uses her service provider’s free web space. The address for her website will be something similar to www.igetmyinternetservicehere.com/flowersbyjanice or maybe www.flowersbyjanice.igetmyinternetservicehere.com. Now if Janice has her own domain name, her website address will be www.flowersbyjanice.com. Which do you think people will be more likely to remember? And the same holds true for email addresses, by the way. You can use firstname.lastname@example.org or you can have Janice@flowersbyjanice.com. The choice is clear.
Choosing your name
There seem to be two schools of thought for new business owners about when they should purchase a domain name. The first group starts domain shopping while they are still planning their business, while the second waits until the business is in the final stages of planning and ready to be launched. While there may be merit to both ways of doing things, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have gotten a phone call from a prospective customer who is frustrated and upset because the domain name that matches their business has already been taken by someone else. They demand that I get “their” name for them, seeing as it matches their business. Problem is I can’t.
No one can go and get a domain name from another business. Not only did they register it first (and domain names are really on a first come-first served basis), but chances are they have just as much right to the name as you do. Let’s face it, there is a good chance that somewhere in the world there is another company called Flowers by Janice, or xyzcompany, or whatever your new business is named. The moral of the story is that the sooner you put finding a domain name on your business launch to-do list, the easier it will be to tie both your business name and your domain name together.
So, if you are reading this and realize that you’re in that second group, the late buyers, what’s the answer? Should you give up and not get a domain name for your business? Of course not. There are a couple of things you can do. You can look for a variation on the name of the business (janicesflowers.com, flowersbyjanicetoronto.com, etc.) or maybe even look for a different extension (flowersbyjanice.ca…and don’t worry, we’ll discuss different extensions in the next article).
If you Google “domain registration,” you’ll find lots of providers, most of whom have some sort of suggestion engine built into their registration page. These can help you find something similar to your first choice if it’s already taken. And it doesn’t cost anything to research potential domain names, so that’s good. How many things are free in a small business startup? A piece of advice here, though: if you find something that works, don’t wait too long to register it, because there is no guarantee it will still be available when you return for it. There are more than 100,000 domain names registered every day, and that’s just for .com, .net, and .org domains.
So if you see something you like, grab it, and grab it quickly.
As you can see, having a domain name makes it easy for people to remember who you are and where to find you. In part 2, we will look at how to register a domain name, the types of names available, and some of the things to watch out for when registering a domain name.