Today, people often turn to the Internet first for information about businesses and products – whether they are shopping online, or simply looking for a business’ address or phone number – making an online presence one of the most important assets for business. No matter the size or the industry, a Web presence is vital for businesses to help ensure customers can access the information they want.
The most important decision a business owner can make when establishing an online identity is choosing the right domain name. In this digital age, domain names are central to all online activity and businesses should take careful consideration when making their choice.
Which Top Level Domains Best Serve Small Businesses?
First, business owners need to ask themselves which Top-Level Domain (TLD) best serves their business. TLDs appear to the right of the dot, like .com, .net, .tv. The domain name industry is a competitive marketplace and there are many TLDs to choose from. When deciding where to build your online identity, a TLD can be as important to your business as your second-level domain (what’s to the left of the dot, i.e., your name, brand or product) for many reasons, including security, credibility and search – which will be how most customers find your site.
For more than two decades, .com and .net have been the TLDs of choice for businesses seeking to establish their online presence because they have global recognition and consistent records of security, availability and stability. They are also the TLDs of choice for many search experts because search engines give more weight to websites on .com and .net, making it easier for them to be found.
There is a common misconception that popular TLDs like .com and .net, which are powered by Verisign, are “full” and businesses need to go elsewhere to get the domain they want, but that is simply not true. Millions of new .com domain names are registered every year and millions of great domain names are still available.
I Know Which TLD I Want, But How Do I Choose a Domain?
With recent changes to search algorithms, businesses can see better search engine rankings by registering longer and more descriptive domain names (which conveniently make up the majority of available domains) that include keywords, their brand, their location, or memorable phrases. This is because many Internet users today prefer to simply type a search term into a browser to find what they are looking for, unlike 10 years ago when most typed in a direct domain address to reach a website.
Businesses should take advantage of this evolving behavior and try to think of the keywords their customers might search to find their business and register a combination of those keywords as a domain name. For example, if someone in London is looking for a bakery, they’re likely to search for “the best bakery in London” versus “bakeries.” A business with the domain www.thebestbakeryinlondon.com, or www.bestlondonbakedgoods.com would be served well in this example. Moreover, a trend in marketing today is to register “brand-able phrase” domain names, like www.nowwhat.com, which uses a phrase that’s intended to be catchy so it will draw interest or intrigue to a promotion or advertisement.
Video is also a huge draw for people online and many businesses are establishing video hubs on .tv domains that are associated with their primary websites. A great example of this is www.RedBull.tv and www.Lipsy.tv, which both have distinct .tv websites that house video content and are linked to their .com websites. Registering domains on additional TLDs is an investment in future growth and a great defensive brand protection move, too, as in the past companies have been known to purchase domain names associated with competitors and place questionable content on them
How Do I Buy a Domain Name and Get Started Building My Online Presence?
Using the tips provided above, start by making a list of possible domain names you may want to secure for your business, and how you might want to use them. There are many ways domain names can be used to establish a Web presence. From free and low cost channels that require little to no investment or technical expertise - like redirecting to a social media site - to a full featured customized website, the control that having a domain name provides is critical because it allows businesses to scale their Web presence as they grow without the risk of losing customers.
Once you have a solid list, visit Verisign’s Who-Is tool to see if your desired domains are available. You may find that the domain you have your heart set on has been registered by someone else. If this is the case, you have the option to make an offer to purchase the domain from the holder - known as the registrant in the domain industry - but the sale price is up to the registrant. You can also simply adjust your desired domain name and search again until you find one that is available.
Once a business decides which domains it wants to register, the next step is to decide which registrar to purchase from. Registrars are effectively domain retailers that send the necessary domain name system (DNS) information to a registry like Verisign – the wholesaler – to register a domain name on behalf of registrants. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.
Many registrars also provide online tools to help people search for available domain names and create, optimize and promote websites around their new domain names once registered. Since small businesses often don’t have employees dedicated to building and supporting a website, registrars can be business owner’s one-stop-shop to help establish and grow their online identity.
For more information about how to build an online presence, visit www.verisigninc.com/smallbiz.