9 Essential Domain Tips
by Bernd Hansen
Finding the prefect domain is a bit like looking for the perfect partner – we have a tendency to spend too much, try too hard, and over complicate things along the way. But the reality is that there’s simply not enough easy-to-read resources that help make this process a lot less painful. So here’s 6 tips that are my best attempt at solving this a bit.
1. Use the K.I.S.S. Principle
“keep it simple stupid” works great for figuring out domain choices. Part of this includes:
- 2 words max if possible, 3 if needed. Eg. applecafe.ca is better than halifaxapplecafe.ca. Shorter is usually easier to remember, and less likely to generate typos when a user types it into their browser.
- There’s no requirement that your domain be exactly like your business name. Eg., farmersmortgage.ca is better than farmersmortgageltd.ca
- Use smaller words when possible. Eg., dfgwidgets.ca is easier to say and spell than dfgmanufacturing.ca
- Avoid using initials unless they really work. Eg., IOUloans.ca works, but DFGloans.ca doesn’t.
- Try it out on friends and family. If you need to say a domain name more than twice for most people to “get it” or remember it, you should probably ditch it.
2. Don’t get Hung Up on Needing a .com Extension
When the internet was young, .com’s were THE standard, and .net was its poor cousin. When .biz was introduced as another alternative, it was viewed as an even more unwanted orphan.
That was then, and this is now. So many of the “good” .com domains have been registered by squatters, who make a living reselling them at hugely inflated prices, for those that love chasing after shiny objects. So chances are, as you do searching for the .com domain you want, someone else already owns it, and wants you to pay through the nose the get it from them.
To a lesser extent, that’s also true of many “popular” domains ending in .biz, .net, and other available extensions. So the trick is finding a domain name with an acceptable extension, that works but is still available.
Find an Experienced Webmaster
If you don’t get lucky finding the magical solution on your own, the next best thing is to find a webmaster who has solid experience in helping clients find good domain names. On second thought, having someone like that is a good idea period. A great consultant will be familiar with the specialty tld (top level domain) options, such as .shop, .life, .tech, etc. For example, we could have registered cedarlake.software, instead of cedarlakesoftware.ca.
3. Don’t Register a Bunch of Alternatives
There’s still some in the industry who believe you should “protect” yourself from having others register competing domains. For eg., it’s very tempting – if you have halifaxusedcars.ca – to register usedcarshalifax.ca, plus a whole bunch of other variations. Save your money. If someone wants to build a business by trying to copy you – instead of using their own ingenuity – they don’t have a lot of business savvy, so they’ll be out of business soon enough anyway.
4. If You’re in Canada, Use a .ca Extension
When a search engine lets people filter their search results by country, having a .ca extension automatically identifies you as Canadian. It also helps SEO. If your domain has a .com version available, it’s worthwhile to register the .com one, and set it to redirect to your .ca one. But otherwise, having just the .ca one is fine. The other advantage is that many more prime domains are still available in the .ca segment, that are otherwise snapped up in the .com equivalent world.
5. Register Some Short “Marketing” Domains
One of the challenges in having good marketing strategies is being able to track visits to the website from offline sources, such as brochures, newspaper ads, etc. One effective technique is to have “short” marketing domains, which are used to specifically help measure traffic types. For eg., a company with the domain franksdiner.ca could register gotofranks.ca, dineatfranks.ca, etc. to use in their brochures and print ads, respectively. The website’s server logs would contain records of which domain was used for each visit, providing an effective way to tally the number of website visitors the brochures and print ads were generating.
6. Don’t Overpay
Before Godaddy came on the scene, most registrars were charging $35 to $45 per year for domains. Godaddy’s steep discounts shook up the industry, but established registrars such as Network Solutions, Register.com, and others continued to use $35/year as their main domain price. Clients that had enough domains often got much better bulk pricing. While many higher price registers try to justify their fees by claiming they have superior support, a general rule of thumb is that you should be able to get .com’s at close to $10/year, and .ca’s at $15, if you don’t need a lot of hand holding. Note: specialty tlds – such as .life, .tech, etc. – have unique pricing structures, and run from $20/year to $500 or more, depending on the extension.
7. Use Shorter Renewal Periods at First
Unless a domain registrar is offering fantastic discounts for multi-year registrations, try to avoid registration periods of more than 2 years. You never know what the future holds, and usually there’s little downside to the shorter terms, especially if you institute solid auto-renewal practices. I’ve had lots of domains I thought I’d need for the long haul, but ended up dropping as plans changed.
8. Make ABSOLUTELY Sure You’re the Owner
This applies to anyone who has their webmaster handle the domain registration. All too often, the webmaster will register the ownership in THEIR name, leaving you high and dry if a bus accidentally strikes them, or if you have a disagreement and they decide to hold your domain ransom.
9. Put Solid Expiry Protection in Place
The web highways are littered with the horror stories of legally hijacked domains, which speculators and porn sites snap up after the original owner lets the domain expire and go back into the pot. Often this happens accidentally, with expiry notices going to obsolete email addresses, or being missed by staff. The simplest way to protect against this is to include relevant doublechecks in your year-end todo list, such as making sure the contact and credit card info your registrar has is correct and valid, and renewing domains if needed. For those that want an extra failsafe, registrars also sell expiry protection for domains.
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