While a company’s website design is extremely important, something that is often overlooked is the website’s domain name. Choosing the right domain can be just as important for getting people to your website as using best search engine practices and online advertising. If the domain name is hard to remember or difficult to type, it is highly likely that many users may never make it to the site.
.COM vs .ORG or .NET
It has become extremely hard in recent years to find domain names that are both industry-descriptive and company-specific. However, it is important for businesses to not settle for less popular TLDs or domain suffixes. TLD is short for Top-Level Domain and is the trailing portion of the domain. For example, when visiting webmarketingtoday.com, “.com” is Web Marketing Today’s TLD. It can be very dangerous to settle for a .net when the .com is already taken. Many people will instinctively type in .com and will end up at the wrong site or even a competitor’s page. The “.org” extension may be used if it is for an association or non-profit, but it should be avoided for commercial businesses or blogs.
In 2013, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) released new TLDs that they believe will open up more competition and options for users. The new TLDs have added many new industry-specific endings, like .dentist or .engineer, in addition to more generic TLDs such as .info and .global. Although these names are unique and eye catching, many users aren’t exactly clear on them and may still resort to using .com at the end. As these names become more popular, it may open other possibilities.
Local Marketing Domain Options
A domain name can be a great way to specify a local location or regional area to its potential clientele. By adding the city name or state to your industry, you may also increase some search rankings for your site. For instance, having a domain name like “neworleanslawyers.com” can help when people are searching with terms like “lawyers in new orleans.” It will also help to establish your company as a local business. If you have multiple locations with separate websites, this can also be helpful to distinguish one site from another.
How Do You Know If A Domain Is Available?
When beginning a domain name search, it is best to avoid typing in various domains and seeing what sites might load up. Although a website may not pull up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the domain name is available. It may mean the domain owner hasn’t pointed that domain name to their website yet. Use domain name service providers to start the search. These sites will inform you if the domain name is available for purchase. Many sites will also provide suggestions if your name is not available.
What if the Domain I Want Is Not Available?
If the domain name you really want isn’t available, there are options you can try to secure that name. Many domain companies offer a “backorder” option. This means that, for a fee, they will watch the name. If it ever becomes available due to expiration or cancellation, the company will buy and secure it automatically. Another more expensive option may be to enlist a domain broker to help you contact a domain’s current owner and offer to buy the name directly. Depending on the specific name you are trying to secure this could be as little as $250 dollars or into the tens of thousands. Using a broker does allow you anonymity during the negotiations and can avoid a domain owner from learning the scope or size of your business. Sometimes, if a domain owner thinks you are a large company with access to financial resources, they will try to increase the value of the domain.
Someone Else Owns My Company’s Trademarked Name
If you begin searching for your company name and find that someone already owns it, you may have some recourse for claiming rights to that domain. There are some ICANN policies, as well as the US law known as the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) , that protect businesses from companies that might try to buy and hold hostage company domain names for large profits. These people are often referred to as cybersquatters. Sadly, it is often suggested that the easiest route is usually to try to broker an acceptable deal between the business and the domain registrant, but this may not always be the case. In order to stop a squatter, a business must be the trademark owner and prove all of the following:
- the domain registrant had a malicious intent to profit from the trademark;
- the trademark was unique and known at the time the domain name was first registered;
- the domain is identical or confusingly similar to the trademark; and
- the trademark qualifies for protection under federal trademark laws, which require that the trademark is distinct and that the owner was the first to use it in a business context.
Should I Buy Multiple Domains?
Many businesses feel the need to purchase multiple domains and variations of their domains to make sure they have “secured” the domain. If your company has common misspellings or confusions, we generally suggest purchasing those variations and pointing them to the main domain name. Some companies will try to buy competitor URLs without realizing that they may be violating laws like the ACPA. There is a myth that purchasing multiple domains can aid in SEO effort. This carries very little value as search engines only find a URL useful if there is a website with matching content connected. If multiple domains only redirect to a company’s main domain, they aren’t going to see any real rankings value.
Don’t Lose Your Domain
Once a company’s domain name is secured, steps should be taken so that the names aren’t lost to expirations or scams. Most domain companies will set a domain to auto-renew after the initial term of 1 year by default. It is highly recommended that your site’s main domain should always be set to automatic renewal. This avoids any possible lapses in payment, which could cause the site to be taken down, or worse, lost to someone else. Keeping regularly updated contact and payment information on your domain provider’s site will also ensure there are no issues with renewals or confirmations.
Another danger with domains are companies that will attempt to scam or “domain slam” companies into transferring their domain to them to manage. Some companies will send what appears to be domain renewal forms to clients by mail and encourage them to renew now so they don’t have service or email interruption. Many businesses will fill out the form and submit for renewal. The document actually specifies that by signing, the company agrees to transfer their domain name to the company and start charging additional, expensive fees. By keeping your domain contact information up-to-date and current, it will also ensure that any attempt to transfer a domain will require email authorization to the email saved on the account.