Every website has to have a domain name or people will have no way of reaching it.Many people don’t understand how the whole domain name system works. This article will explain the issues involved and the decisions you need to make when choosing a domain name.

To begin, examine this random list of domain names:

ibm.com

JoesFishShop.co.uk

walmart.us

rollingstone.com

greenpeace.org

freewebspace.net

(These may not all exist)

As you can see, they are all different, because all the owning businesses have different aims. If you examine them looking for commmonality, you will see that they all have two parts – the first part, which identifies the business and the second part which says where the domain fits into the Internet.

We will begin by examining the TLD. We firstly need to choose from .com, .net, .org or a country-specific TLD. First lets see what a TLD is:

TLD is an abbreviation for Top Level Domain. The Top Level Domain is the 2 or 3 characters that appears after the final period in every domain name. So possible TLDs are:

com

net

org

and the plethora of country-specific codes, eg .uk, .au, .us, .fr, .br, etc.

(Root Zone, among many others, has a Further Reading on TLDs…

Most people reading this article will be business people, so a business-type web address is what we are discussing. This eliminates .org – while the original intention of restricting it to non-profit sites was never enforced, you still want to present the correct image to your customers.

If your business has clientele from all over the world, then a .com address is suitable. You might consider a .net address, but most people expect them to apply to internet-service companies.

If your clientele are generally from your own country, then you should get an address that has the extension for your country.

Country-specific TLDs

If you decided on a .com address then you can skip the following section and go straight to “Your Domain Name”.

If you will be using a country-specific TLD then you need to understand the system a little more.

The country-specific TLDs are issued by organisations local to each country. This means that there is local control over these Second Level Domains (2LDs) and thus they are all different.

Some countries have a second breakdown within their addresses, eg:

in Australia, domain names are joescompany.com.au,

Canada simply uses the TLD, and thus if joe were based in Canada he would use joescompany.ca,

yet another set of countries use .co.xx – eg. if Joe operated in Britain, he would use joescompany.co.uk.

Look for what is used in your country.

Sidenote for the US market

If you are a US-based business and you really don’t expect to do a lot of marketing overseas then you should be using a .us address. Currently a lot of local US businesses still go for .com addresses. This is for historical reasons; Originally the .us names weren’t readily available, and people became used to seeing local businesses with international names. Your choice of domain name will be part of the image of your company. Would you like to take advantage of being seen as American? A .com address implies you are a worldwide business. If you are unsure of this, I would suggest that you buy both the .com and the .us domains. Advertise the .us but have the .com change to your ‘real’ address when people type in the wrong thing – the technical term to ask your registrar or host for is a ‘301 redirect’. Why wouldn’t you want to tell the world that your business is in the US?)

Your Domain Name

Having decided the domain name type, we can now move on to the beginning of the domain name: what your own site will be called.

To decide the beginning of your domain name, firstly, look at your company name – this is your main candidate for creating your domain name.

So Joe’s Fish Shop in Australia would ideally use JoesFishShop.com.au

(where au is the TLD for the country where Joe lives – I am assuming that a fish shop is a local business!)

Company names make the best domain names, but there are times when we don’t want the whole thing, for instance Joe’s Fish Shop and Seafood Eat-in Cafe, as JoesFishShopAndSeafoodEatInCafe.com.au is too long to be practical.

Here, Joe would be adviced to stick with JoesFishShop.com.au

What to include

Domain names may only include letters, numbers and hyphens (‘-‘), so no apostrophes or exclamation marks. In addition, the first character must be a letter.

In choosing your name, avoid hyphens. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a name that isn’t taken without hyphenating, but try to avoid it. There are several reasons for this:

  • some of the search engines don’t like hyphens, so the more you have, the less likely you are to appear in the top results.
  • customers have trouble remembering hyphenated domain names, and we want people to be able to reach our site.
  • hyphenated domain names are terrible to tell people out loud.

If your are concerned by the readability of your domain name without hyphens, use capitalisation, as I did for the JoesFishShop example above.

Product Lines

You might feel that a domain that reflects a major product line would suit you better. This is fine to do, but I would suggest that you buy a domain name that relates to your actual business as well, even if you only use it for email.

Generally, keep alternate domain names to use for marketing in specific ways, and your company’s prime domain should reflect your permanent company name.

Conclusion

We’ve chosen both the beginning and the ending of our name. Now, put them together, and thats the whole thing!

Choosing your domain name is only the beginning, of course, once you’ve picked your domain name you have to find a registrar from whom to buy it and then you have to have it hosted and then comes the biggest job of all – building your website! But its one step on the journey to a successful and profitable internet presence for your company!