This article is a jargon free guide to getting your small business visible on the Internet. Having a useful website can be a fantastic way to get free traffic to your business. Visitors to your website can come visit any time of the day or night and even earn you income while you sleep!
There are two very basic parts of getting a website or blog up and running: your domain name and your hosting. This article will examine domain names.
Small Businesses: Choosing Your Domain NameYour domain name is bit like your company name - your name and your address on the Internet: google.com is a domain name which reflects the name of the company which own's it, as is amazon.com.
You may already own your own domain. Even if you do though here are some things you should be thinking about.
Lets take an example: Bob's Meats is a butcher in Wellington New Zealand. Bobs is a specialist butcher who produces fantastic South African style sausages and other specialty items. What domain name should Bob buy?
bobsmeats.com really isn't the best choice in this case - this essentially a local business - Bob doesn't export, so Bob should look at buying the relevant country domain in this case bobsmeats.co.nz, if Bob was in England it would be bobsmeats.co.uk if he was in Canada it would be bobsmeats.ca. If Bob was in the US he's probably find that the dot com was not available. For a business with a shop front if you can't get the general name try for something which includes your locally e.g. BobsMeatsNewYorkCity.com can be a good choice.
There is another approach to buying a domain for your website, or buying an additional domain because a domain will generally cost you less that US$10 (for a dot com) a year - and that is to get the domain with the phrase that you think your customers might use to find your site. In Bob's example maybe something like "South African sausages Wellington" so bob might buy SouthAfricanSausagesWellington.co.nz
You have no right to a domain name. Even if you company is legally incorporated and registered that gives you no right to the matching dot com domain name, or any other domain name for that matter. In fact if you are starting a new company it might well be worth checking out the availability of the matching domain before you register the company.
Avoid Losing Your Small Business's Domain NameYou never own your domain name: think of it more like a long-term lease: you pay an annual fee for your domain name and you can pay up to a minimum of 10 years in advance, with a minimum of one year. If you forget to renew your domain name you may well lose it - someone else has the perfect right to register "your domain name" - not your actual website content - but the domain name itself.
To avoid inadvertently "dropping" your domain name by not paying the renewal take these simple steps:
- make sure you personally, or your company, is listed as the "registrant" - you can check who is for any domain by checking your official whois record. Whoever is the registrant has the absolute right to transfer the domain, sell the domain, point the domain to a different hosting site (where the website's files are located). All too often a small business owner will allow a web design company or Jo who deals with the computers to add his name and email here. In a word - don't - you do not give them your PIN for on line banking to? Didn't think so! Make sure that you or your company is listed as the registrant of your website
- use a "real" email address for that all important registrant details. Ideally the email address on your domain should be a associated with that domain e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. That way if for some reason you lose access to your free gmail or yahoo account you don't inadvertently miss important messages from your registrant. You can still use a free email address if that is your preference. Just ensure that your "real" email is redirected to your "preferred" email - something you do with your hosting panel.
- setup automatic renewal for important domains. Most registrars will offer you the option of automatically renewals - so long as you use a credit card. This is still not perfect - the credit card may expire or be canceled, but its better than nothing.
- register your address for long period of time, if you plan on being in business for the next five years then register your domain name for that length of time.
- pay for it. Some hosting companies will offer you "free domains" - this can be a very poor way to avoid paying a very few dollars. These deals can tie you up with using that hosting company for a long period of time. It can also see your domain name registered in the hosting company's name: don't do it.
Additional Domain Names for Your Small BusinessFor most companies a dot com or a local country's equivalent is the logical domain name to do for. You may be tempted, if you can't get your dot com domain name to try for the same name with one of the new extensions such as dot biz or dot ws (supposedly for website but in fact the country Western Samoa). Its probably not a good idea because if your customers are trying to enter your website they are unlikely to realize that bobsmeats.biz is a legitimate name and instead head on over to bobsmeats.com - your competitors site! Also most of these new extensions are significantly more expensive than the traditional dot com, dot net and dot org extensions.
There are some other domains which may be worth considering. If your business has a side-line - which has its own separate identity and branding then get it its own domain name.
If your business name can be easily misspelled or has a common alternative spelling or used to be known as a different name, which customers still refer to it by - buy the domain name. You don't even have to develop websites for all these domains - its a simple matter to redirect a domain to a different domain: so if your customer types in robertsmeats.co.nz they will end up at bobsmeats.co.nz without even realizing what happened!
Photo Credit: sabellacha smil