If you’ve started building your website, or even if you have one up and running, you’ve probably heard about the importance of choosing a domain name that gives you the best chance of being found, one that speaks to the services your business provides. The right domain name can let you be found more easily by search engines, and ideally will be easily remembered by regular customers and potential buyers alike.
The most important question you’ll initially face about your domain name will be whether to use your brand name or a generic name that includes a keyword relevant to your business. If your brand name is short and easy to remember, or has a keyword in it, such as www.joesconstruction.com, then branding is likely a good choice. If your name is not descriptive of what you do, a keyword-rich domain name may be a better option.
Why What’s After the Last Dot Matters
In addition to choosing your domain name, you will also need to choose what top-level domain you will use. TLDs, as they are commonly known, are the part of the domain names that come after the last period in the name, for example “.com”, “.ca”, or “.gov.” There are many types of top-level domains available, and they are separated into different types such as generic categories, country codes, and internationalized domain names. The .com TLD is the most common and easily recognized, but often the most difficult to obtain, as many names have already been taken. Other options include country-code top level domains such as .ca or .uk, which can be of benefit if your business operates in or ships to another country. In some cases, such as the .ca TLD, you will need to confirm that your company does in fact reside in or ships to Canada. Other options for TLDs include .org, which is intended for organizations of any type, or .net, which is commonly used for business that deal in network or Internet applications.
Why More TLDs Are Better
Just buying the .com version of your chosen domain name often won’t be enough to corner the market space. While this is the most common TLD on the market, if you leave other popular domains unclaimed, it is possible for another business or individual to take all of them and register them using your brand name or keyword. In the case of a branded, trademarked name, you may have a copyright case if another domain name chooses to mimic your own, but this will depend on the country in which the domain was purchased – some systems of law do not include copyright or trademark protection. If your budget allows, buy up as many TLDs that match your chosen domain name as possible, and then redirect all of the domains to your chosen main page TLD.
The Use of IDNs for SMBs
IDNs or “internationalized domain names” are those that contain more than simply the ASCII characters used by the Domain Name System. An approved IDN contains non-ASCII characters such as those in another language or those made up of symbols, which are then translated into an ASCII format. If your business operates in a country that uses non-ASCII characters as language, an IDN can help to ensure that local Internet users will be able to easily find your Web page without having to memorize any domain names which are not in their native language.
What to Do If Your Name Is Taken
Especially for .com TLDs, many of the best names are already taken. This means that even if you have an incredibly clever and unique idea for your domain name, you may not be able to register it because another business or individual arrived before you. In some cases, simply using a different TLD will solve the problem, but if you need the .com version, the option does exist to buy out the domain name from the holder. Services are now available online that will attempt to contact the owner and ask if they are willing to sell the domain name, and for what price. There is no law concerning a maximum or minimum price for domain name sales, so there is no guarantee of success.
The right domain name and TLD can help your SMB make a name for itself online by being easily search-able, relevant, and simple to remember.