In the last post, we discussed the importance of identifying the main goal of your website. Everybody accepts that they need to be online but if you don’t know why, then that could be an expensive learning experience. So assuming that you know what your website is going to do for you, it’s time to think about registering a domain for your business.
Your web domain is your “name” on the internet. For example worthyontheweb.co.uk, bbc.co.uk or worthybobs.com. It’s part of your address on the internet and an important part of your brand.
Web domains are registered with domain registrars and last for at least 12 months. Towards the end of this time you will have the opportunity to extend this.
Domain registrars are usually companies who specialise in selling domain names to businesses and members of the public. They often offer additional online services such as web hosting. Well know domain registrars include companies like 123-reg.com and UKreg.com.
The cost of web domains varies depending on which company you register them with and what kind of domain you have. worthybobs.co.uk is cheaper to register than worthybobs.com and although they are both the same name, they are separate domains and owning one doesn’t stop another company from registering the other. For example next.co.uk belongs to the well known British fashion chain Next but next.com belongs to Apple. There are lots of different domain types e.g. worthybobs.eu and worthybobs.net. The most well known types of domain for UK businesses are .co.uk and .com
If possible always own your own domain. To highlight the importance of this, I’m going to repeat that last sentence. If possible always own your own domain.
If your web domain is registered to the company who built your website, your friend who knows about computers or your soon to be ex-husband then you may have difficulties with your website in the future.
Web domains are registered for a specified period of time and if they are not renewed promptly, then your website will be unavailable and any associated email addresses will also be affected. Your website is an important part of your business and as such you should try and make sure that you are the person responsible for it. If the company who built your website goes out of business or a third party doesn’t check their email regularly, then the customers you worked so hard to get, won’t be able to get to you and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
Before you race off to your nearest domain registrar and bag yourself an awesome new web domain it’s time to stop and have another think. In order to get to your shiny new website, your potential customers need to know your web address and will have to correctly (emphasis on correctly) type into their web browser the Uniform Resource Locator or URL, as he’s known to his friends.
A web browser is the software you use to browse the internet such as Internet Explorer or Safari. There are lots of different web browsers but the most popular ones are, in no particular order, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer and Opera. When people type a correct URL into the box, the web browser shows them that webpage. If your customers type the URL incorrectly, then the web browser will not take them to the webpage you intended. They could end up with an error message, on an alternative website or given the chance to search for an alternative. None of which helps you. With this in mind think carefully about the domain you register and if possible try and make it obvious that it is you they are connecting with. I named my first business Worthybobs so I registered the domains of worthybobs.com and worthybobs.co.uk. Online retail giants Amazon did exactly the same thing. (Not because I told them to.)
Using your company name as your web domain is a good way to maintain consistency and makes it clear to your customers which business they are visiting. If your company name is long, complicated or difficult to spell then think about how your customers will remember it and consider using an alternative if you need to.
If the name of your business is made up of more than one word it’s important to make sure that this isn’t going to cause potential problems. Domain names do not have spaces, so you need to ensure that your company name is still clear without it. Choose a potential name and then try writing it down in lowercase. The purpose of this is to make sure that people looking at your domain name won’t be confused, shocked or giggling like an adolescent. Companies such as Therapist Finder and Pen Island are famous on the internet for all the wrong reasons. Pen Island are a manufacturer of custom pens, but their decision not to separate their company name with a hyphen has made their web domain a source of amusement for many people. It also means that any genuine visitors run the risk of landing on a site with adult content if they forget that Pen Island’s domain ends in .net.
Owning more than one web domain allows you to tailor your site to different visitors if you need to. Amazon have numerous web domains which allows them to produce similar content for different countries. As a large multi-national retailer Amazon also have numerous other domains including Amazon.fr, Amazon.es and Amazon.de which host their French, Spanish and German online stores, with all content written in the appropriate language for those customers and all retail transactions conducted in their local currency. Amazon.co.uk is aimed at British consumers and trades in pounds sterling, their US online store is Amazon.com and therefore trades in the US dollar. At this stage you may not be ready for world domination, but it is something to think about if you have a business which involves regular overseas dealings.
Buying a web domain is relatively easy. You visit the website of a web domain registrar and search for your required name. Large companies such as 123-reg.com will also show you the availability of other domains with the same name. These online searches show you immediately if your preferred domain name is unavailable. The results of your search will also give you the opportunity to reconsider your decision if another company has registered a domain with the same name. I own claireworthington.co.uk but claireworthington.com belongs to a textile designer who sells bedlinen online. If you need your domain name to stand out, then consider whether you should choose an alternative.
Having jumped through all these hoops, once you are happy with your choice you add it to your basket and pay for it online as you would with any other online purchase. You now have your own web domain and as long as you make sure that the domain registrars always have your contact details you and your new domain can live a long and happy life together.