Sham Hussain, marketing executive at digital service provider Yell, discusses the importance of selecting the most appropriate domain name for your business.
Sham Hussain, marketing executive for digital service provider Yell, discusses the importance of selecting the most appropriate domain name for your business.
As internet use has exploded, web addresses have become harder to secure and protect and domain names have become increasingly complex. A programme run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has recently made an unlimited number of domain names available to applicants. These could be anything from .football to .hotel or even .builders or .florist. The use of these will be tightly restricted, and registration will be, for most small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), prohibitively expensive – approximately £119,000 for initial registration and £16,000 annually thereafter.
Although this may be a step too far for the average SME, it is clear that domain names now require proper thought and deliberation, no matter what the size of business.
Mid-level and top-level domains
A domain name is made up of two elements: the part to the left of the final dot – the mid-level domain – and the part to the right of the final dot – the top-level domain (TLD).
In the past, many businesses focused on the mid-level domain, which describes the business name, its location, or sector as the most important element of their web address, viewing the TLD – .com, .info, .biz – as ancillary. However, this is changing and both elements of the domain name now require full consideration. For most SMEs in the UK, .co.uk and .com are the most popular TLDs, but they are not the only options.
Other common TLDs include .org, .net, .biz, .name, .info, .eu and .pro, however some of these are limited to specific types of businesses. Only professionals, such as lawyers and accountants, with appropriate credentials may use .pro domains, for example, and geographically limited TLDs such as .fr (France) and .es (Spain) are usually only available to businesses in those countries.
There is a wide choice of TLDs available to UK businesses, at a range of prices. These can indicate your organisation type, location and market sector, so careful selection is important. Ultimately, domain names must be unique, but they must also be memorable and give web users an indication of the business they represent so that it is easily searchable.
It’s also important to think about the structure and content of these as part of a search engine optimisation programme. While it might be preferable to register a domain based on your business name, this is not always possible. Consider combining descriptors such as the sector and geography of your company if the brand name is already taken, but avoid long or complicated names as these can be easily forgotten and misspelled.
Sector specific TLDs may be expensive at the moment but co-operative ownership of these domains by membership organisations could be one approach to reducing the cost and making these TLDs more accessible to SMEs.
Beware of cyber squatters
Once a business has secured a domain name, it must make sure that this is protected from ‘domain name trolls’, or ‘cyber squatters’. These are people that strategically register desirable domain names for illegitimate purposes. Desirable domains could be existing domains that are about to expire, variants of popular site names and business names as well as products and slogans that haven’t yet been registered.
Apple recently filed a complaint with the World Intellectual Property Organisation against an individual in Australia for their registration of the domain iphone5.com. That’s all well and good for a global corporation, but what can SMEs hope to do if this happens to them? Domain name trolling is not generally illegal. However, you may be able to prosecute if someone infringes your trademark, or uses your business name ‘in bad faith’, such as selling products similar to yours.
Larger businesses may choose to register as many available TLDs for their site as possible in order to protect their brand online. These could include associated phrases, slogans, and misspelled variants of their main domain, set to redirect to the real website. Facebook.com has registered, for example, common typos such as facebok, facbook and faceboo to redirect to the site.
As a smaller company, the best way to protect your business online is to be proactive and register any domain names you want to use in good time, managing these registrations carefully, and renewing them before they expire. When starting a business, or bringing it up to date, there are many decisions to be made but the importance of registering, and protecting, your website name should not be overlooked. An appropriate and well thought-out domain name could make all the difference to your business. After all, it reflects your company image and is how an increasing number of potential customers find you online.