Holding space in the digital world is essential for modern businesses. Despite the internet only becoming widely available in the 1990s, its impact on how we do business locally, nationally and internationally can’t be understated. Once you’ve chosen your business name and registered your business, it’s time to secure your digital real estate.
What’s a domain name?
A domain name is the address the internet uses to help people find you. To get technical, the internet takes this domain name and extension that you see and translates it using the internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) into a number. Think of it like a phone number specific to a location on the internet called Internet Protocol Numbers or an IP address. Domain names act like a mask over the IP address, so you don’t have to remember a random group of numbers for each website—just the domain name and extension. You can purchase domain names through an approved registrar.
Choose your domain name
Every business will choose their digital identity and how they’ll represent themselves online in a unique way, but consistency is key. Similar to choosing a name for your business, domain names should:
- reinforce distinct and descriptive elements about your business, including your product or service
- be easy to understand, remember and pronounce
- distinguish your business from your competitors
Unlike your business name, including a geographical element to your domain name can help boost your SEO (search engine optimization) scores. But if you plan on expanding to multiple locations, sticking to a straightforward business name as a domain is best practice.
Leave out any hyphenations or numbers (unless they’re a core element for your business, like houseof1000bagels.com). Your domain name can have between two and 50 characters before the extension, with some exceptions. Canadian domain registrants can also purchase domains with French characters, which is great if you own a bilingual business. In an ideal (digital) world, your social media handles and your domain names match. If this isn’t possible, try to align them as much as possible.
Consider any variations on your business name, like common misspellings, and consider registering those names as well as your primary name choice. Once registered, you can reroute these variations to your primary domain by using domain forwarding through your registrar.
Decide on the domain extension
Once you’ve picked your domain name, you’ll need to consider your top line domain (TLD) extension. There are a few extension options:
gTLD: generic top line domain
gTLDs encompass a variety of unique extension identifiers for business, including the most common .com signifying “commerce.” Other common extensions include .net, .org and .info.
ccTLD: country code top line domain
Country codes are exactly what they sound like—domain extensions identifying a specific country. If you’re a Canadian business, you’re eligible to acquire a .ca extension by registering with CIRA through your chosen registrar at purchase, as well as the .quebec ccTLD.
Other country codes examples: .eu (Europe), .cn (China), .jp (Japan), .qa (Qatar)
Industry-specific or branded endings
Unique top line domain options exist but are not as common. Options like .museum or .kitchen exist, but can cost more to acquire. Consider if your photography business really needs a .photos TLD or if that’s something you want to invest in when your business is more established.
Branded endings are fun but are generally reserved for larger corporations. A few examples include .eurovision acquired by the European Broadcasting Union for the song competition of the same name, .clinique by the luxury makeup and skincare brand, and .google by internet tycoon Google.
Purchase your domain
Once you’ve decided on your digital identity, it’s time to purchase your domain through an approved registrar. You can purchase your domain for up to 10 years, with a minimum registration of one year.
When purchasing a domain, you can choose to have your registration information hidden. Otherwise, your information will be available to the public in the internet’s WHOIS directory (where all registration for all domains are stored). We recommend you purchase privacy protection* for your domain registration to protect your personal information as well as prevent spam and potential hacking.
*Note: If you purchase your .ca domain as an individual, CIRA will automatically apply privacy protection to your domain. If you purchase your .ca domain as a business, you’ll need to purchase privacy protection through your registrar.
Your registrar may offer an auto-renew option to help secure your domain name before its registration expires. This is a great idea for entrepreneurs looking to secure their digital identities long term. Turn on auto-renew when you purchase a domain. There’s no additional charge at time of purchase, and you can always change your mind before your domain automatically renews.
When purchasing a domain name, ensure you are the owner, not your marketing or web company. This is an important piece of your brand reputation and business infrastructure, so holding onto the logins for your registrar and ensuring registration is in your or your business’ name is critical.
Other domain considerations
Put your domain to use by developing a website to highlight your products and services. There are many options for building a website yourself and website development companies that can create what you need. Consider what unique features your website will need, such as appointment booking, showcasing a portfolio or ecommerce capabilities.
Your domain can also be used to create email addresses to complement your business’ digital identity. For example: instead of firstname.lastname@example.org, the email address email@example.com provides a professional repository for all business communications. If you use your domain for professional email, it allows control and password protection should you have additional staff or logistics to manage. Adding and managing additional emails under your domain can be straightforward, and many email clients will include other services like cloud storage. Take the time to consider the email provider best suited for your needs.
With your domain ready, it’s time to decide what other digital channels you’ll invest in. Review which social media channels will be the best option for your business, and start to build and execute your marketing plan.