If you have a website, than you most likely own your own domain name– your online address that most likely ends with .com, .net or .org. Internet domains are still vital online properties and your domain says a lot about your business to the general public, both online and offline. Is your current domain helping or hindering your business, and can your utilize your domain in other ways than just hosting your website?
The Importance Of A Domain
A domain name, or more technically a second-level domain, is often the first stake that a professional or business claims on the Internet. Before a website is built, before a Facebook Page is created, a domain is often chosen. Your domain is a vital part of your online presence, depending on how you use it. For some, a domain is simply a string of characters that a user types into a web browser in order to visit a website, and they often just choose the first option that is still unregistered and available. Yet if you want to build up your brand, your domain should be the singular property that defines and supports your online presence and infrastructure, which means that you should put lot of effort and resources into choosing the right domain.
Registering And Changing Domains
A domain isn’t a permanent part of your online identity, although replacing your domain can negatively affect your search engine ranking, create temporary brand confusion and make some marketing materials obsolete. You can easily register as many new domains as you choose, and there are few restrictions on what you can register outside of availability and trademark law. Domains are relatively cheap, costing pennies a day in most cases, and offer interesting rebranding and marketing opportunities. If you are unhappy with your current domain, or if it is too long, awkward or confusing, you are not under any obligation to keep it.
Keeping The Old With The New
One disadvantage of switching domains is the possibility that your previous domain will be used by a new registrant for unwanted purposes. If you abandon or allow a domain registration to lapse, anyone is free to register it themselves, and you will have no control over what material is published under that domain in the future. It may be prudent and even beneficial to continue renewing the registration of your old domain and redirecting visitors from the old domain to your new one.
Choosing The Right Domain
As with social media handles, the pool of available domain names in the common .com, .net. and .org categories are somewhat restricted. Don’t be discouraged if your first choice is unavailable – by applying a bit of creativity, you can still register a unique domain name with minimal effort.
Short And Sweet
Many of the same guidelines for choosing a social media handle apply to selecting a domain name – try to keep it short, memorable and consistent with your other branding. If the primary name of your business is unavailable, try adding a hyphen or dash. You can also try adding additional characters, such as “CO” for Colorado, or “5280” if your business is based in the Denver metro area. Adding “CO” as opposed to spelling out “Colorado” is preferable because your domain will be shorter and more memorable.
Top-Level And Second-Level Domains
With the advent of new top-level domains (the characters that come after the traditional “dotcom”) and the re-branding of many country-specific top-level domains, businesses have more opportunities to register a preferred second-level domain (the characters that come before the traditional “dotcom”) than ever before. However, using a domain outside of the common, generic top-level domains can provide branding challenges. For most websites, domains should end in .com because using a less common top-level of domain can be confusing. Also, new and country-specific top level domains can cost significantly more to register than traditional domains, increasing the hosting cost.
Purchasing Registered Domains
The option exists to purchase a domain that has previously been registered by another individual or company. Unlike social media handles, domains can be purchased or traded among third-parties. Whether or not you or your company should purchase a domain from a reseller largely depends on the resources you have available – purchasing a domain can be very expensive, but may provide a better option for branding your business online than selecting a less desirable domain that remains unregistered.
A Domain Is For More Than Just Web Hosting
Your domain can be used for much more than just hosting a website – you can use it for email, messaging and other online and offline services. Many businesses aren’t aware of Internet-based or “cloud” IT services like Google Apps for Business and Microsoft’s Outlook.com that allow domain owners to setup email addresses and other user accounts for managers and employees. Setting up email services under your own domain provides a number of advantages over free email services such as Gmail and Outlook.com. An email address that includes your domain provides significant branding advantages over a generic free email account and it can make your business appear more reputable and be more recognizable. Google Apps for Business also allows domain owners to setup other services such as cloud storage through Google Drive and Android mobile device administration, providing you with significantly more control over the devices and services within the Google ecosystem.
So whether or not you wish to use any of the extra services that are available to you once you own your own domain name, keep in mind that a consistent and easy to remember domain will help customers and potential customers easily find you online. It is also a great idea to use your domain name as your Facebook and Twitter account names, if at all possible.