Every week I receive at least a few questions relating to domain names – it seems that it’s the first dilemma many new entrepreneurs face when starting an online business as let’s be honest – without a good domain name, you have no business online.
Even if you’re just starting out selling stuff locally or on eBay, you still want to secure a domain name that matches your business name. Imagine a situation where you have built a successful business on eBay or Etsy, with a good follower base of loyal customers, and decide to build a website only to find out that the domain name that you wanted is not available. Disaster!
People sometimes avoid situations like these by adding some extra words to the name or using hyphens but that’s far from an ideal scenario. In fact – if someone runs a competing business on a domain name that 100% matches your brand name, you’ll lose countless potential customers to that competitor. Most likely that would already be happening as whenever a customer searches for you via Google, your competitor’s website will show up.
To avoid such situations, ALWAYS register a domain name right at the beginning of starting your business. If the domain name for your business isn’t available; you have no choice but to look for another name. That’s why I always recommend brainstorming names on the actual domain registrar’s website, such as Go Daddy, so you can instantly see whether a matching domain name is available or not.
To further explain the various aspects of domain names, let’s cover some of the most commonly asked questions in detail:
When should I register a domain name?
As covered previously, you want to register your domain name BEFORE you actually start doing any business. Basically, you do it at the same stage as name brainstorming as you should only decide on a brand name if the matching domain is available to register.
You definitely want to register your domain name before you order a logo or any other graphics as if it turns out that domain isn’t available then you’ve completely wasted your money.
What extensions do I need?
Ideally, you want to register two domain names: one with a .com extension and one with a local extension (in UK it will be .co.uk, in Ireland – .ie, in Germany – .de and so on).
Why do you want to secure both domain names?
The localised domain name will be used for email and your online shop. But you still want to have that .com domain name just so that no one registers it and creates a competing business. Also, by having a .com domain name you enable the possibility of future worldwide expansion, where it’s not viable to use your local domain.
Sometimes you can also use the .com domain name to create a wholesale shop or an info type website/blog.
What do I do with the .com domain name if my main domain is .co.uk?
There are several things you can do with it:
- Simply re-direct it to your local domain name. So that if your customers type your domain.com, they will automatically go to your real domain name (in this case – .co.uk local extension).
- Host eBay product images and template files on it.
- Host a blog or forum.
- Host a script for your business, like tracking or accounting software.
In most cases you’ll simply re-direct it to your main website or use it for eBay template and product image storing (you can do both at the same time).
What do I do if the local domain name is available but the .com isn’t?
Yes, most good .com domain names are long gone so in many cases you’ll just have to stick with your local domain name (e.g. .co.uk). And that’s perfectly fine AS LONG AS on the .com domain name there isn’t a competing company already working in your niche.
Most often, the .com will be taken by a US based company. If they work in a similar or the same niche as you, you should change your name and try finding something more unique. If there’s a company working under the .com name BUT in a totally un-related industry to you, it still may be ok to use that name.
But you have to be prepared for a situation where your brand name and the other, .com domain, will get mixed up in Google search results, social sites etc. So not ideal but if the name is really really good, you could still do this.
If there’s no active website on the .com domain name, you can go ahead and just start a business under the one, local domain name – this is perfectly fine.
If that .com domain name is up for sale, you can get in touch with the domain owner and maybe purchase it if the price looks good to you.
Should I register similar domain names to my domain name?
Depends on the name. In some cases it may be a good idea to register similar domain names too. For example, your brand name is Stamp and you register Stamp.co.uk. In a case like this, it would be a good idea to register Stamps.co.uk too.
But you definitely don’t want to go overboard and register all kinds of variations of your name. It’s just not necessary and will cause extra costs in yearly renewal fees.
Is domain registration a one-time purchase?
No. You’re actually not buying a domain name but renting it out. Most commonly domains names are sold for 1 year (.coms) and 2 years (.co.uk). And each time you have to renew the name by paying the yearly or bi-yearly fee.
But rest assured that no one can take a domain name away from you once you register it – it’s yours for as long as you continue to pay (unless you’ve breached the domain registrar’s T&Cs).
What registration term is best?
It doesn’t matter really. I have most of my domains on 1 or 2 year terms and just renew when needed.
Sometimes domain registrars run very good sales on longer terms so you can get a really good price if you take a 5 or 10 year deal. If this is your main business and you know that you’ll need the domain name for many years, it only makes sense to register it for a longer time to get a cheaper yearly price.
Can I register a domain name with a brand name as part of it?
No, you can’t! A brand name is almost guaranteed to be trademarked and you cannot have trademarked words as part of your domain name. So for example, a domain name eBayGoodies.co.uk is no good as eBay is a registered trademark. Names like these will be taken off you within a few weeks of registration without even asking your permission.
Can I register a domain name for a name that is trademarked?
Again, as above – no, you can’t. While theoretically you will be able to register such names, in most cases this will only cause you problems in the future. Even if there’s a trademarked name that’s not yet registered specifically in your country, it may be in the future and then you’ll have your domain taken away from you.
Either way; save yourself the trouble and stay away from trademarked names.
How do you know if a name is trademarked or not? There are various online databases you can use to check trademarks, such as:
My domain registrar offers me email, hosting and other up-sells. Do I need them?
Generally speaking, no. There’s nothing wrong with those services but you’ll be better off having a full hosting account (with the same or another company) which in the long term will be a more cost effective solution.
Ok, if you’re not planning ANY online activities and need just an email account, then of course you can opt-in for the email service upgrade as it will be cheaper than having a full hosting account. Go Daddy for example offers such a service for as little as 2 pounds per month.
What is Private registration?
Private registration simply means that your details will not be shown on the WHOIS database under the domain owner, and instead the registrant will be shown as a Private registration company. This means you can protect your personal contact information and address from public view.
It’s up to you really whether you want to use this service or not.
Do I have to purchase hosting from the same company I register my domain name with?
No, not at all. Domain names and hosting are separate services that you can obtain from any companies you want.
Well because I like to use an EXPERT for each service. Go Daddy are well known for cheap and reliable domain name services whereas Host Gator are a highly regarded provider for hosting.
The only thing you need to do when purchasing hosting from another company is to change the name servers for the domain you want to use for hosting.
You can easily do this for free via your domain registrar’s account.
Can I sell a domain name?
Yes, of course! Unlike with PayPal and eBay accounts, you can freely sell your domain names as you wish.
Usually, when selling a domain name you’ll want to use Escrow.com for payment just to secure the deal and ensure you don’t get scammed. When using escrow, the money is held in a secure place until the domain is transferred to your buyer.
Will I be able to use email and host product images for eBay using the domain registration alone?
No. To have a personalised email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org), you will need a hosting account OR you’ll have to opt-in for an email service from your domain registrar.
You can’t host anything on your domain name unless you have a hosting account. So if you want to host product pictures for eBay or your eBay template files, you’ll need a hosting account.
The domain name is just an address. Hosting is the actual service that gives you the disk space and all the features associated with it.
Is it ok to use hyphens in a domain name?
No, I don’t recommend using hyphens in domain names. Why? Simply because your customers won’t remember them and won’t be able to type your domain name correctly in their browser.
Why would you want to use hyphens anyway? Because the domain name without hyphens is already registered? Then look for another name!
Some people still believe that hyphens in a domain name help with SERPs in Google. I’m sorry but that’s just ridiculous! Do you really think that Google is so stupid that it can’t “read” words without hyphens!? Also, it’s a well known fact that these days the domain name alone plays a very small role in rankings.
So no – don’t use hyphens in your domain name!
How to come up with a great domain name?
I have never had problems with name brainstorming but I understand that some people are more creative than others and for some of you – this is a very difficult task, keeping in mind that most good and simple name combinations are already gone.
PLEASE be patient when you work on your brand name! I don’t know why but some people think it’s a 30 minute task.
That’s why I wrote this domain name brainstorming guide – check it out and if you still can’t come up with a decent domain name by following my guide, you can try another approach which is…
Is it ok to buy a domain name from auctions?
YES! You can buy a domain name from auctions if you really like the name and can afford it.
The only thing I would recommend is do some research on Google beforehand and find out the history of that domain name, has it been used on a website that has been indexed or penalized by Google etc.? You don’t want that.
Ideally you want to buy a “clean” domain name with no previous history OR a working website which has good rankings already. But that’s a whole different story and a topic for another blog post.
Can you recommend a good, cheap and reliable domain registrar?
I personally have all my domains registered with Go Daddy. I haven’t had any problems to be honest – their service and prices are very good.
Whatever domain registrar you use, try sticking with one company so that all of your domain names are held in one place. This way it will be easier for you to keep up with the renewals.
Hope this helps! I have tried to cover all of the most frequently asked questions about domain names but if I have missed something, please feel free to post your question in the comment box below this article.