So you’ve decided that you want to do business online. The first thing you need is a home for your website on the World Wide Web so you will need to register a domain name. A domain name gives your website an Internet address.
Under the Domain Name System (DNS), domain names are composed of four elements; a server prefix, a domain name, a domain suffix (or extension), and a country code (the only optional element). For instance, www.susanward.com is an example of a domain name where “www” is the server prefix, “susanward” is the domain name and “com” is the domain suffix.
“Dot-com” is a example of a Top Level Domain. There are both generic top level domains (gTLDs) and country code top level domains (ccTLDs). Currently there are 239 country code top level domains. Canada’s ccTLD is dot-ca.
Important Points About Domain Names for Businesses
1. You need to register a domain name of your own.
Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and Web Hosts offer free or cut-rate domain services that essentially make your domain name an extension of theirs. For instance, if my ISP is the fictitious “youneedweserve”, my resulting domain name could be www.youneedweserve/susanward/index.html.
As a business, you need to register your own domain name. An extension name such as the one in my example makes you look like an amateur and will lose you business. Also, with an extension domain name, every time you change your ISP or Web Host, you will have to redo all your business cards and promotion materials.
2. Domain names matter.
Just as when you originally named your business, names on the ‘Net matter. (For more on how to create a winning business name, see 5 Rules for Choosing a Business Name.) You need a domain name that not only identifies your business but is easy to remember, as so many people type names or partial names into search engines to find the site they’re looking for.
Remember my example of www.susanward.com? It’s actually a poor choice unless I’m famous or have established a brand or product under that name. For instance, if I’m a well-known designer of “Susan Ward” clothing, then this domain name is fine. But if my online business consists of selling gift baskets and I’m not well-known, I would do better to choose a domain name such as www.giftbaskets.com.
The problem, of course, is that so many of the best or most obvious names are taken. I may need to use a name such as www.susanward.giftbaskets.com for my new online business. Or even something such as www.giftbasketsbysusan.com. You may need to think deeply and explore many different possibilities to come up with a good domain name, unless you are already running an established company off-line and are just giving your established business an online home. (In that case, the name of your established company is your best choice of domain name for your online business – if it’s not already taken.)
Continue on to the next page to read more about the factors you need to consider when you're choosing a domain name for your online business and how to register a domain name.