Thinking of starting your own business? Get your domain name locked down first
GoDaddy’s VP for EMEA, Stefano Maruzzi, begins his series of expert articles for Business Advice by looking at the important the right domain name for a company just beginning its growth.
Contrary to what we may assume, even the biggest businesses have had a’share of domain problems. Some of the world’s most valuable companies come up with new product names, but overlook the arguably important step of registering the equivalent web address.
Potential buyers will inevitably type a domain name they expect will take them to the new product website. Instead, they are faced with obscure websites that certainly don’t lead where they wanted. No matter how big you are, landing on the wrong website isn’t an ideal part of the customer journey.
In the modern world, your website is as likely to be your first point of contact as your shopfront. If your customers and potential customers can’t find it, they can’t find you. Big brands can fix this issue by buying back the domain from the company that owns it, an approach somewhat out of reach of the typical small or medium-sized enterprise.
SMEs need to approach with a little more caution. Before the company haseven begun, in fact. In order to ensure finding your company is as simple as tapping a name into an address bar, you need to make registering step one in business set up, right after having the idea. There’s no real excuse not to.
Get online before you’ve even begun
It takes less than five minutes to register a domain name and it’s often reallycheap. If you happen to come across a seasonal promotion, you could even be looking at as little as a penny for the first year of registration. Even if you have just the twinkle of a great idea, you may as well go ahead and register it. Even if you never kick off that company, you can rest assured that no one else is going to launch the business that could have been yours, and you never know, you could be the next multinational goliath.
When your business does kick off, however, your website is your very own piece of online real estate, acting as your online business card or shopfront to assure people that yes, you really do exist. And, if you don’t have the right address, people arent going to stop by, even people looking for you will get lost. As you market your business, potential customers will remember your web address from offline advertising, word of mouth and beyond. If it’s not simple, or clear, they won’t easily find you, and you may have just lost a prospect.
it’s not just whether people can remember your URL Google also understands a great deal about your site from your address, making the act of choosing an address your first act of search engine marketing. Web addresses that include clear signposts as to what your business does are registered by the search engine against the right industries and get the most relevant traffic. Include your company name and city and you can target locally, assuring potential customers that they are dealing with a local business when they need one. No one in Grantham wants a plumber in Toronto! Similarly, if you’re doing a great deal of business overseas, a clear address, searchable in every market will help explode your potential customer base.
What do they call you?
The first step in securing this valuable real estate is picking your domain name. There are two ways to go; signpost what you do (Bristolbikefixers.uk) or go for the good old fashioned brand name (Saddlebags.com). The choice is yours but consider whether people are likely to “get” what you do from your brand. Our bike shop probably isnt going to benefit too much from a range of horse riding enthusiasts finding the site (without a significant pivot in business strategy, at least).
Make sure that the simplest version of your chosen name is available. Long addresses arent memorable, so you don’t want to have to extend it, and don’t mix letters and numbers it’s a web address, not a password.
it’s also worth checking that your chosen address isnt too close to someone else’s copyright or another domain name for a similar service. If you’re too close you could be caught out by trademark squatting regulations. The owner of the infringed trademark could bring a complaint through the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and you could lose the address.
Once all that’s out of the way and you’re buying your domain name address, you may also want to grab any common mis-spellings of your domain and anything that people may more commonly call your business. The Guardian is a great example; in a fit of self-awareness, it owns grauniad.com, a name solely used by the newspaper’s greatest critics.
With all that in place you’ve almost got your domain, you just have to work out your domain extension.
At the beginning of his professional career, Stefano Maruzzi made an impact by leveraging his software engineering skills to launch Microsoft University in Italy, while writing fifteen books which have been translated into multiple languages. He then served as MSN Italy country manager at Microsoft, president at Cond? Nast Digital International, and Google Italy country director. Maruzzi is currently GoDaddy's VP EMEA in London, UK, heading the regional team to empower small business owners to build their brand and grow online.
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