Buying the right domain: Make your first step online count

BRAND CONNECT
Published: Oct 1, 2019 05:31:04 AM IST
Updated: Oct 1, 2019 11:47:54 AM IST

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You’ve thought long and hard about your business idea and finally decided to take the plunge. You’ve figured out partners, managed the seed money, and even worked out a name for your venture. How long after this do you think about giving your business a website?

In today’s hyper-connected world, the first point of search for any product or service is online. Wholesale or retail, commoditised or unique, local or not, if you have something to sell, chances are your customers will use search engines, online yellow pages, trade portals, or other such aggregators to search for it. Having a website, instead of only social media accounts or trade listings, greatly increases your chances of being contacted. Because, having found your listing or post, customers would want to know more about your business; and if you don’t have a website, they will probably lose interest. According to a May 2019 study, only 8% consumers don’t look at the website of a local business they wish to use!

Now, you might ask, what is the ideal time to think of setting up a website for your business? Well, it should start as soon as you start thinking of a name for your business. The Internet is a crowded place today, and the name of your website, or its domain name, can make or break your success in the online marketplace. Before you finalise your business’ name and spend on branding and design, make sure the same name works well online too.

What’s in a domain name: The 3-point low-down

The domain of your website is, quite literally, its address on the Internet. And like real estate in the physical world, you need to first check if the address you want is available. Domain registrars, like GoDaddy, are like real estate brokers who help you search for and buy the domain you want. When choosing a domain registrar to work with, ensure that they:

  • Have ICANN accreditation (This is very easy to verify online)
  • Offer you complete control over your domain
  • Are able to offer a good range of options for domain names and extensions (.com, .in, .co.in, .edu, .blog, etc.)
  • Can promise you domain privacy to protect your personal information from online scammers and hustlers
Next comes the actual domain name. Domain names are classified based on the types of names used. The three most common domain classifications are:

  • Generic: camping.com, or club.com
  • Exact Match: khadisarees.com, or indiaroadtrips.com
  • Branded: underarmour.com, or decathlon.in
Generic domain names cast the widest net in terms of potential search key words that will lead traffic to your website, while exact match domains narrow the field a bit more to your specific offering – but they are not differentiated, and may be considered as spam. On the other hand, a branded domain name offers your business a unique identity online and works better when your offerings are broad, or you think you might grow into newer offerings in time. However, branded domain names always rank lower in search results initially. They require search engine optimisation (SEO) and marketing effort to draw traffic to the site and establish its credibility with search engines like Google. Take stock of your business objectives in going online, and choose a domain name that best helps you achieve them.

Once you have a domain name in mind, you will need to check its availability using the domain registrar’s database. If you’re using GoDaddy, you will find a search bar for domain names right at the top of the website home page. Simply type in the domain name that you want and check its availability.

Before you do this though, put your domain name through what is called the ‘radio’ test. If your customers heard about your website on a 10-second radio jingle, will they be able to visit it successfully? They will, if the domain name you have selected is:

  • Simple (no unfamiliar words; no numbers or hyphens)
  • Memorable
  • Short
  • Easy to spell (coffee, not koffee)
  • Includes ‘keywords’ that anyone looking for your product or service is likely to search for
As a small or medium business owner, the easier you make it for people to come to your website, the lesser you will spend on promoting your presence online. Which is why, it is worth your while to spend a few days researching and reviewing options.

The domain extension, also known as Top Level Domain or TLD technically, is the final part of your domain name. While .com domains are the most commonly used domains, they are also now the most expensive ones. Select a domain name extension that is most suitable for your type of business and audience. For example, for an India-focused business, .in, or .co.in domain extension makes sense, whereas if your business is India-based, but targets a global audience, it might be better for you to buy a .com domain.

Making the purchase: Final checklist

What if the domain name you really want is not available? If the available alternatives don’t work for you, the domain resale market is your next best option. Search for your preferred domain on GoDaddy Auctions, a resellers market that lists domain names whose registration has expired, or ‘investor’ owned domain names that are now being resold.

Once you find the perfect domain name for your business, there is a final checklist you must run through to avoid any expensive mistakes:

  • Run the domain name through a trademarks database. Even if the domain is available, if it refers to a trademarked brand name, you can be cited for infringement.
  • Check for the availability of social media handles matching your domain name.
  • When purchasing the domain name, consider buying other common extensions as well, to ensure you don’t lose customers if they type .in instead of .co.in. This also avoids brand appropriation/misuse later once your business becomes more established.
  • Ensure that you add the privacy and protection package for your domain when checking out your domain purchase.
  • Finally, ensure that you use your own credentials and payment sources to purchase the domain. Domain ownership is closely linked to the buyer’s credentials, and asking an employee or partner to buy the domain may backfire in the future.
The next steps after buying a domain successfully are linking it to a website and professional email address. We’ll cover that next in this series, so stay tuned!

Attributed to Nikhil Arora, Vice President and Managing Director, GoDaddy India

Disclaimer: The pages slugged ‘Brand Connect’ are equivalent to advertisements and are not written and produced by Forbes India journalists.

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