The process by which you acquire a domain name is very simple. Your host company will likely have a tool where you can search for particular domain names and acquire them if they are free. Simply add to your basket, check out and pay with PayPal, bank card, etc. job done. The process may be simple but there are a number of do’s and don’ts in the world of domain registration. If you tick these boxes as you acquire domain names in the future you will begin to appreciate the dangers.
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Make sure the domain name is registered in your name
When registering domain names many people prefer to leave this to their web hosting company, marketing adviser or website management group to keep things simple. All they want to do is focus on their website, create quality content and try to build up traffic, reputation and sales. In the past some third parties took advantage of this naive approach. Notably in the area of domain name acquisitions.
Even though you pay for a domain name, there are instances where third parties registered the same domain name. Or worse yet third parties register an unsuspecting company’s name. The idea that this is “acceptable” is thrown into serious doubt. It is only at this point (when you are out of business) that many people realised the strength of a domain name. Domains are central to business. So if registered by a third party , said company has no control on how it is used. The dreaded day of trouble is a reality for far too many unsuspecting people.
Even if the third party is able to transfer the domain into your name, they will likely charge you. They know the domain is central to your business and without it quite frankly you are finished. We have seen situations where companies have been forced to buy back their own domain names for thousands of pounds. If a company goes under this can cause even more problems may arise. For instance, you would need to prove the domain name was yours and not an asset of the company.
There is a simple solution – make sure all of your domain names, both business and personal, are registered in your own name. We strongly recommend researching the process by which you register domain names – it is very easy.
Include a location or business keyword in the domain name
Over the years many brilliant brand names emerged some which can often grow to become household names. However, you need people to know exactly what you offer and perhaps where you are as they see your website URL. It may seem a little bizarre but adding a location or a business keyword to your brand name/company name could make the world of difference.
Whether this is a regional location, international location or perhaps something as simple as retailer in the domain name, it can make the world of difference. We know from research over the years that the concentration span of an Internet surfer is minute. If there is any confusion about what you do, where you are and what you have to offer, they won’t hang about. They will simply move down the list to the next one which may have a more user friendly URL that “does what it says on the tin”. Adding a location or business keyword to your URL is very simple but it can be highly effective.
Dots and dashes don’t do it
Over the years we have seen many entrepreneurs effectively working backwards when looking to acquire a standout domain name. They may choose a brand name or an amalgamation of company name, location and business type and then find it has been taken in the main top-level domain (TLD) forms. What do you do next?
Well, what you don’t do is start adding dots and dashes to secure a name you have been after. The moment you have to spell out your domain name to ensure people type in the right URL is the time to give up. Over the years we have become accustomed to leading domain names which are effectively words joined together with no dots and dashes or any other type of punctuation. Some people may argue that regular visitors to a website will save it in their favourites and simply click a link. However, why take the chance?
If you have a striking brand name and there is a URL with no dots and dashes and your URL with an array of dots and dashes, which one would you remember first? Be honest, when was the last time you typed in a website URL with dots or dashes in between words? We guess you have probably answered your own question….
Auto renew or long-term registration
When acquiring a business domain you should seriously consider a long-term expiry date. Think ahead, say anything between five years and 10 years. This ensures that in the short to medium term you won’t have to worry about renewing the domain name. This means you can really concentrate on your business. Those who have acquired domain names in the past and renewed them without problem might wonder what all the fuss is about. However, many people have fallen into the trap of letting their domain names drop by accident. Then, end up having to buy them back at exorbitantly inflated prices!
As the vast majority of domains are paid for using credit cards or bank cards this is all fairly straightforward until you change bank, account number or your card expires. It is all good and well having the auto renew facility on your domain name account. However, if the hosting/domain company are unable to debit the funds then the domain name will drop. You will likely receive an email reminding you of funding issues but very often these can be lost in the flood of emails many of us receive on a daily basis. So, either add a review of all domain names and expiry dates to your annual checklist or go for a long-term registration approach of anything up to 10 years. Those who have multiple domain names in multiple domain accounts will eventually fall victim to their own calamitous records. Don’t fall into that trap!
You can’t buy all the extensions
Entrepreneurs often become very protective of their businesses and indeed their brand names. In a bid to ensure that third parties are not able to benefit from the time, effort and investment in their business, many will chase all domain name extensions. In years gone by, when it was just the likes of .com, .co.uk and .net which were leading the way, it was fairly straightforward to buy a group of domains with the same name but different extensions. The level of protection this offers is welcoming but unfortunately those days have long gone.
There is still a relatively tight knit group of main TLDs. However, the overall list of TLDs is literally in the hundreds if not thousands. There is no way on earth you can chase every extension. How do you manage it? How can you afford it? And how is it really helping your business?
From time to time you will receive emails from “domain squatters” who may have acquired a variation of your domain name or one with a relatively small addition such as a dot or hyphen. These very “helpful” people might offer you this domain for a relatively small amount of money as they seek to “do you a favour”. Tempted as you may be, unless you need that extension of your domain and it is a fair price, resist at all costs.
Once the “domain squatters” know you are potentially susceptible to this type of transaction, word will spread very quickly through the domain community. You will no doubt tumble into a deluge of emails, a mass of variations of your website, all available to you at a “knockdown price”. Unless you need it, don’t buy it; in fact don’t even enter into communications with the third party.
Check domain backlinks before buying
Whether looking to buy what appears to be a new domain name or one that has dropped/expired you are advised to do some research first. It is very often domain names which “look too good to be true” which do in fact turn out this way. If you come across parked domains, ask yourself if they have any real value? The backlink history of a domain name is very important to how it may rank in the future even with the best content in the world.
If a website had dubious backlinks inthe past, no that search engines never forget. There is every chance it could have a detrimental impact on rankings even after your hard work creating content and new backlinks. The domain name may have been blacklisted for spam emails in the past or other unsavoury activity. There are many free tools out there today which will allow you to check whether a domain name is blacklisted or has any potentially damaging backlinks. Remember, if something “looks too good to be true” then it probably is – do your research and tread very carefully.
Read the domain name out aloud
On a more light-hearted note we have seen occasions when perfectly legitimate company names have been used as a basis for domain names with quite hilarious consequences. Some examples include:
- Itscrap.com – IT Scrap
- Expertsexchange.com – Experts Exchange
- Speedofart.com – Speed of Art
- Americanscrapmetal.com – American Scrap Metal
- Choosespain.com – Choose Spain
As you will no doubt appreciate, there are many other variations which are inappropriate for us to list! To avoid falling into this potentially embarrassing and expensive trap, read your preferred domain name aloud before buying it. If it sounds okay, then proceed, otherwise you may need to think again.
The vast majority of dos and don’ts listed above are common sense. Though, sometimes it is good to see them down on paper. This way you can tick them off as you buy your new domain names. The intrinsic link between your branding and domain name is vital. Therefore you need to get the most appropriate domain name straightaway. There are also other issues to take into consideration. Some of which include avoiding buzzwords, which may be popular today but not necessarily tomorrow. The subject of trademarks and copyright is also a common problem which can lead to potentially large legal expenses.
There is nothing wrong with being creative about your domain name but remember the basics…