Trying to understand how your small business can become online friendly? Our “Creating a Brand Online” series is designed to provide straightforward advice for your small business as you create your online brand.
Many companies and individuals serious about their brand decide to register a domain name – typically in the form of “yourname.com”. This domain name can be used to point to a website, and used at the end of email addresses. Basically, a great domain name can be memorable and create a unified brand identity.
For those of you new to domains, we don’t say “buy” a domain name because you can’t buy a domain name outright, but rather rent it by paying a recurring fee to a domain registrar. However, while you have your domain registered, it’s essentially yours. But if you forget to re-register your domain when its registration expires or you fall behind on your payments, someone else could register your domain.
Now that this is out of the way, let’s explore some of ways of finding and registering a great domain name, starting with perhaps the biggest challenge:
A Lot of the Good Ones are Taken
Because there’s only a fixed number of domains and a lot of domains are already registered, you might find that the name you want is already taken.
The sad truth is that a staggering number of desirable domains are already taken – including most dictionary words, and every three-letter possibilities and four-letter words on .com.
Use Your Company Name or a Variation
If you can, it’s best to choose a domain that matches the name of your company or what people generally call your company. For instance, if your company is called Toronto Widgets Ltd., you may consider the domains “torontowidgetsltd.com”, “torontowidgetslimited.com”, and “torontowidgets.com”.
If people know your business by these different variations on your company name, you could consider registering all of these domains if they’re available.
If the domain you want is taken, you can sometimes negotiate an offer with the owner of the domain (do a WHOIS search to find the owner’s contact information if it’s listed). There are domain auction sites like SEDO that you can use to bid on a desirable domain.
You can also add a descriptive word to a domain. For instance, a casting firm known by the letters LSG, can use the domain “lsgcasting.com”. Furthermore, having a keyword in the website address can help search engines associate a site with this topic.
.Com Domains are Usually Best, But Not the Only Option
Dot-com is the first domain extension (or “top-level domain”) that comes to mind for many internet users. As the data shown on the chart below shows, 62.8% of the world’s top 10,000 websites have .com domains. But there are others like .net and .org, as well as country-specific domains
Maybe your dream .com might be out of the question, but you have some options.
The Advantages of Using Another Generic Domain
Domains ending in .net, .biz and .info may be, in general, less memorable and brandable than .com. But they may offer more naming options. For instance, with “americanapparel.com” already taken, clothing company American Apparel used the .net domain “americanapparel.net”.
And non-profits and other organizations can use a .org domain extension to identify as an organization.
Get Local with a Country Domain
There are domains assigned to specific countries (ie. Canada has .ca, Switzerland has .ch, etc.). These domain registrars may have their own rules and requirements like having to be a citizen to register a domain. For instance, Finland’s .FI domain names are reserved for companies registered in Finland or individuals who live in Finland.
If your company is Canadian, it can be beneficial to use a .ca domain if being Canadian is something that will appeal to your target audience. For instance, Canadian outdoor store Mountain Equipment Co-op (known by the acronym MEC) has the domain mec.ca, which flags it as Canadian.
There are also instances where you may want to use a country’s domain but not because of the country. For instance, the .to domain is for the island kingdom of Tonga, but could be used by a Toronto business (ie. a Toronto Vespa dealership could use the domain “scooters.to”).
Get Creative with Domain Hacks
If the name you’re looking for is taken, you can get creative by substituting the last letters of a desired domain with a domain extension or sub-folder. For instance, if you want beluga.com, but it’s taken, you can try belu.ga, b.lu..ga, or even bl.ug/a).
One of the disadvantages of a domain hack is that if could be hard for people to remember and type.
Also, search engines typically don’t recognize words and names in a domain that are separated by a dot. For instance, the domain “pron.to” doesn’t register in a search as the word “pronto”, but rather just as “pron”.
Keep New Domain Extensions in Mind… But Don’t Count on Them
You might have heard about domains extensions being open up to new terms such as “.travel” and to brands such as “.nike”. And while this is on the horizon, no new application of this kind has been completely approved or accredited by the organization that oversees domains yet.
For more information on these new generic domain names, see Name.com’s guide.
A Motto Can be a Strong Domain Name
A powerful motto or phrase can capture the essence of what a brand’s all about. For instance, sportswear company Nike has the domain “justdoit.com” redirect to their website. If your corporate motto is on-brand and succinct like Nike’s, this could be a great domain for a website.
If you need help finding the perfect domain for your business, give us a shout! We can help you find a domain that’s memorable can build your brand.