Buy your business domain name (aka: your dot com name)

Registering your domain name is step 1 of 16 and it’s a must in our mobile driven world of commerce.  A lot of small business owners get hung up on finding a catchy domain name like the Googles and Yahoos of the world which can also be referred to as a dot-com name.  Don’t waste time here!  Name your business in the real world, find a domain name using a registrar (more details below), then come back later to find a more unique or catchy name if needed for marketing purposes.

What's in a domain name?  Your online credibility.  Pic Credit: TechTimes
What’s in a domain name? Your online credibility. Credit: TechTimes

Domain names are cheap compared to most business expenses.  Good deals can be found for just a few bucks or you can pay all the way up to 35 per year for a dot com.  There are new extensions that are costing crazy amounts of money, but stick with the dot com extension if possible since it will be the cadillac of domain names for years to come.

Make sure to keep the name simple when possible.  If your company name is named Kim’s Accounting, then buy kimsaccounting.com or kimsllc.com (LLC assuming you incorporated).  Your first point of interest is getting an initial website presence on the internet even if you’re still stuck in the planning stages of your new venture.  This web presence being online early allows search engines like Google some time to find and catalog your website.

Where should you get a domain name and what is a registrar?
Registrars lease domains to me and you so you can think of them as a wholesaler and you as the buyer.  There are many registrar choices so I say look at the most reputable first.  Keep in mind that registrar is the company that keeps ownership of your domain which means they ultimately control your web presence.  Choosing a reputable registrar is important.  Put your trust in a company that plays keep-away and they could steal your online name-brand.  I actually had this happen early on with the website registrar 1and1.com, but I let them keep the domain since I wasn’t using it anyway.  Also keep in mind that a downed-website can drive you insane if you don’t know what is keeping your website offline.  For that reason, you’ll want registrar customer service by phone or chat available 24/7 along with an organization that uses redundant servers that failover to backup servers if power outages occur. Lack of backups will result in your website going dead.

I will not promote one registrar over another since there are many good alternatives everywhere you look, but I can offer some tips based on my experience.

  1. Don’t register through a host
    A web host is a company that physically keeps your website files present on the internet.  This is technically a separate function from a registrar, but many hosts and registrars have started cross-promoting both services.  I have purchased a domain through a host before to get a free domain or whatever other promotion was enticing at the time, but I always recommend you transfer the domain to a large independent registrar as listed in step 2.  Why?  You are at risk for losing your domain if you forget to pay your hosting bills or even if your credit card expires without your knowledge.  Nobody cares what excuse you make cause they legally own your domain so make sure you don’t let that happen by using a registrar that is independent of your host.
  2. Choose a large registrar: GoDaddy, eNom, Network Solutions or Tucows
    Even registrars like NameCheap are resellers (for eNom in particular).  Whatever registrar you choose should be attached to these wholesaler names.  Not only are their names more reputable, but they can resolve issues with the large clearing houses due to their vast behind-the-scenes resources.
  3. Don’t lose your domain due to negligence
    Ever gotten your power or water cut off cause you forgot to pay your bills?  Domain names are no different.  Set calendar events to remind you to verify your domain contacts and always keep your registered owner email address valid.  If you forget to renew or pay for your annual domain renewal fee, the domain name will be lost or sold to someone else.  Make a point to stay current with your on-file credit card and email address so you don’t lose your domain name.  Domain contacts (the owners and controllers of the domain) are also required to verify a valid email address on a regular basis.  You are required to acknowledge these contact validations so ignoring them could result in loss of the domain even if you paid your bills.

I will note that there are loads of great companies out there.  When customers ask me for a one-stop-shop, I suggest GoDaddy.  It is very popular although more expensive than other registrars.  I stopped using them a while back due to their increasing costs, but I can’t speak well enough for their services and always-on customer friendly contact center.  They are probably the best choice if you want to be as hands-off as possible with your web presence.  You’ll benefit as a newbie with their cheap web hosting if you get a bundle deal (website, hosting, and registration) although remember what I said in step A above.  You’ll also benefit from their 24/7 telephone support.  They are very good at upselling other not-so-needed products so get ready to say no a lot.

Don’t see your question answered here?  Contact me for more details.