‘‘Don’t sweat the small stuff!’’, they say, but this is exactly the type of ‘small stuff’ you should be concerned about. It is, in fact, a fundamental element of the set up and subsequent maintenance of your website. To get it right first time around will save you a lot of hassle in the future. Trust me on this!
With this article we aim to provide you with the essential information needed to create and register a domain name which will best suit your needs.
We will take you through:
Simply put, the Domain Name is your business name on the web. A domain name, (such as meanit.ie) functions as a component of a URL (https://meanit.ie/) which directs the user-like a phone number or online address- to the server where your website is hosted. Domain names are word-formatted to be humanly-legible substitutes for a website’s IP address which consists of strings of numbers and characters. It’s like having names for the places you want to go instead of having to remember their exact coordinates on the surface of the Earth. Although, of course, Google will know both!
You need a domain name which will enable your target audience to easily find your website online. A strong domain name will contribute to establishing a good reputation for your website, whilst one which evokes distrust in either the search engine or the user may have a negative impact on your SEO efforts, resulting in low website traffic.
With the potential of your website at stake, you may want to continue reading.
The anatomy of a domain comprises of two elements- the top-level domain and the second level domain. For example, in the domain name ‘MeanIt.ie’, the ‘.ie’ section is known as the top-level domain or extension, while ‘MeanIt,’ is referred to as the second-level domain.
When deciding on a top-level domain/extension, you should consider the purpose and target audience of your website. There are many different types of TLD and they are generally chosen based on their relevance and the appropriate tone of the website. They can also be significant in communicating the quality and security of the website. Government departments, educational institutions and large organisations will have official websites which need to have a high standard of maintenance and security. The perceived quality of these sites will be reinforced by their TDLs whereas, TDLs such as .win, .xin and .vip can and may not be the best option if you want to your business website viewed favourably by the search engine and target audience. Plus, using a familiar TLD such as .com or .ie/.co.uk will make your domain name more memorable.
Country Code TLDs
Country code TLDs are reputable as they have to be officially registered. To register a country code as your TLD you must prove to the registrar that you are based in that country by sending them proof of address. This registration of your company, in a way, provides some validation of your website to the search engine. Your traceability signals to them that your intentions are legitamite.
CcTLDs are recommended for companies who want to do business within a particular geographical area, whose target market or audience is within that area and is not intended to expand beyond it. Examples may be solicitors, dentists, restaurants, florists, web-design agencies (i.e. us!) etc.
In order to register a ccTLD the business must provide proof of residence or trading in the specified country/region- your national VAT number, registered company name, business name or trademark. If you are a start-up and have not yet registered as a business you can provide an Irish passport, driving license, bank statement, college ID or Revenue document.
Generic TLDs are extensions which are not ccTLDs but are well established and have been around since the early days of the internet. The most widely used and recognisable generic TLD is, of course, ‘.com’. Generic TLDs vary and can signify which type of entity the website represents.
- .com- Commercial
- .org- Non-profit Organisation
- .gov- Government
- .edu- Post-secondary Educational Institutions
- .net- Network Resources
New Generic TLDs
As the internet ages and the number of websites continue to increase, the number of viable new domain names, using the most common TLDs- such as .com- decreases. Among the traditional generic TLDs, .org, .gov and .edu are considered ‘industry specific’. As a result of a demand for more industry specific TLDs, in 2012, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) began the new gTLD program. Their objective was to ‘’enhance innovation, competition and consumer choice’’. They aimed to create 1300 new domain extensions to include ones which were more industry specific (.charity, .dentist), brand focused (.bmw, .barclays) and non-latin (including 游戏 -Chinese for ‘game’, شبكة -Arabic for ‘network’ or ‘web’ and others).
The jury is still out on whether the benefits of these shiny new gTLDs out-weigh those of the old familiars. Over half of all existing domain extensions are still ‘.com’ and people often alter their second-level domain, which encompasses much of their identity, to obtain the .com TLD status.
Less recognisable generics such as .biz, .win etc. can be found online in lists of ‘Top shadiest TLDs’ and can be suspected by users and search engines to be spam or low quality sites.
In a study by www.Varn.co.uk the majority of those surveyed said that they trusted the old TLDs more than the new generic ones, BUT many of the younger generation, 18-35 y/o, in the survey said that they would trust the new domain extensions as much as the old ones. This could be an indication of how the trend will evolve.
People between the ages of 18 and 34
People from the age of 55 to 65+
As familiarity with the new gTLDs grows there are surely benefits to using more industry specific top-level domains.
Pros of New Generic Top-Level Domains
- Google has clarified that, regarding SEO, they will treat the new extensions with the same credibility as the old ones.
- They make it more likely that you’ll be able to acquire your first preference of second-level domain name.
- They allow you to signify your industry, differentiating you from other companies, in other industries, who may have taken your ideal ‘.com’ or ‘country-code’ TLD. This occurs most often for people whose company name may be their family surname, particularly when their surnames are very common. For instance, kellys.ie is owned by a hotel and spa resort in county Wexford, but Kelly is a very common surname throughout Ireland and many businesses use it in their company name. If companies felt comfortable using industry specific TLDs it would increase the possibility of being able to get second-level domains that they really wanted.
- Using these new domains typically shortens your URL. MartinKellyDentistry.com could become www.MartinKelly.Dentist.
- Cost of registration will usually be lower than for a country-code or .com TLD.
Cons of New Generic Top-Level Domains
- It will take a while for people to understand this change and become familiar with it. ‘.Com’ means nothing to a lot of people who only see it as part of the structure of a website address. To have words which mean something in their place may confound people for a while- they may even think the address is incomplete.
- As mentioned above, it will take a while for people to trust the new domain extensions and to iron out their negative assumptions about ones they don’t recognise.
- It doesn’t guarantee that your ideal name will be available, there will still be more websites going up all the time and so competition will still increase.
The principal task of the domain name is to make your website easy to find online. As mentioned above, it allows a website to be located with a comprehensible word-formatted address, instead of its numerical IP address. In order to achieve this, there are a few different aspects of choosing your second-level domain name which need to be considered.
Should I Use Keywords In My Domain Name?
First of all, to put old ideas to rest, I’ll breach the topic of ‘exact-match’ keyword domains.
In the days of old, businesses wanted their website to be the place to go for information on buying the product/service they sold. Things were simpler then, so many straight-out used keywords related to their industry as their second-level domain.
A company called ‘Seymour’s’ – which sells wood flooring, furniture and carpets-registered their domain name as ‘woodflooring.ie’. The idea was that when someone searched for ‘wood flooring’, the top results would include ‘woodflooring.ie’ as it seems this should be the most relevant website to the search.
This strategy used to work to an extent, but in recent years Google and other search engines have become savvy to these SEO ‘tricks’. Placing too much value on the keyword-focused domains meant it wasn’t necessarily the most relevant and high-quality websites which showed up in top results, but rather ones which were trying to ‘cheat the system’.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use keywords at all, they have their benefits. For instance, they can be useful to distinguish yourself from a company with the same name in a different industry- particularly if they own the coveted brand-name domain and ccTLD.
‘Exact-match’ or ‘keyword-packed’ domain names are not recommended, but one should note that if the content of the website is of a sufficiently high standard, the intelligent use of relevant keywords should not have a detrimental effect on SEO. On the other hand, if you use ‘baited’ keywords that are not tied to quality content on your site, the search engine will recognise this and it will negatively impact on your ranking in the results.
Should I Use My Brand Name In My Domain?
Yes, if you want to of course! The primary function of a domain is as the address of your online site, but it has become much more than this. It is now a vital element of branding online. As the title and address of your online real-estate, an effective domain name will create a positive impression on your audience- influencing their perception and expectations of you. As explained above, TLDs are important, but it is the second-level domain name which distinguishes you from other sites and establishes your brand identity.
The most successful websites in the world- Amazon.com, YouTube.com and Google.com- didn’t establish their domains based on keywords. Instead they strengthened their brands so that eventually, to their target audience, what they delivered became synonymous with their company name. Of course, this strategy doesn’t only work for long-standing technical giants who can afford to align their websites to every move of the SEO goal-posts. It also serves the savviest local businesses- Bakeries (OHehirs.ie), Hairdressers (Pello.ie), Solicitors (Laniganclarke.ie), Entertainment Complexes (Arena7.ie) and all looking to place first in the minds of potential customers in their region.
SEO and The Domain Name.
<QUOTE> they now regularly adjust their algorithms to ensure that it is websites with the most high-quality, engaging and relevant content which show in the top of search results. </QUOTE>
Search engines are also businesses. They have competitors and thus are always striving to optimise their service to deliver the best experience for their users. As a result, they now regularly adjust their algorithms to ensure that it is websites with the most high-quality, engaging and relevant content which show in the top of search results. Your domain has significant importance when created and utilised effectively, but is one aspect of many for your website’s SEO efforts. Whether you solely use your brand name or incorporate keywords, the main thing for SEO is that the domain name is backed up by relevant website content.
For more on SEO checkout:
Additional Tips for Creating Your Domain Name
Make It Memorable:
- Distinctive: Whether you decide to go for a domain which is informative or reinforces your brand, make sure it clearly distinguishes you from your competitors.
- Keep It Concise: the fewer words a user has to remember, the more likely they will be to recall your domain. They’ll also be less likely to make typing errors when searching for you online.
- Try not to use numbers or additional symbols and characters as this interrupts the cognitive processing of your domain name- making it harder to remember accurately.
Do Some Research:
- Although registering your domain name gives you no legal rights to it, using it for your company may infringe on the trademark or copyright of other established businesses. In this case, you may be legally ordered to change your domain or incur penalties for using it in the first place. Be smart and make sure you check this out first.
- Don’t get too attached to your domain name idea before you check whether it’s available. Domain name registration sites typically have domain name generator facilities. Typing your proposed name in here should show you if it is taken or not. If so, they’ll suggest available alternatives- another TLD or variation of the SLD. Good sites for this include ie and blacknight.com. We include more info on this in the section on registration.
Make It Easy To Communicate
- Pronounceable. Communicable. As awkward as those very words are, you want to make sure they apply to your domain name. As a whole, you want to ensure that it is easy to type and pronounce. This is another reason it is recommended that you avoid the use of hyphens ‘-‘, numbers and other symbols. They complicate the name, affecting how it’s processed by the brain and potentially the search engine algorithms.
It also makes it harder to search for using voice activated technology which is rapidly gaining popularity and assists the accessibility of the site.
Consider Where It Will Be Displayed
- What are your aspirations for your domain name? The considerations in this list will prove useful if you plan to utilise the domain offline- in advertising, print media, company letterheads, on merchandise, references to the website on radio or TV etc. Remember that it will ultimately represent the identity of your business online and wherever you choose to display it.
What is Domain Name Registration?
Registering your domain name is the process of choosing a name which identifies with the IP address of your website and purchasing it for a period of time to make sure you are the only person/company using that website name (and address). A word-formatted domain is easier to recall and can be used in URLs to identify your particular webpage.
Basics of Registering Your Domain Name:
- Make a list possible domain names.
- Check the availability of the domain at the top of your list by typing it into the domain generator on the registrar’s website. It will suggest alternatives based on what you’ve typed in if your ideal name is already taken.
(If you feel very strongly about having a specific domain name, you can check who owns the name at www.whois.com to find out if they are using it and if they might sell it to you.)
- During the registration you’ll have to choose how long you want to register the name for. Typically you are given the option of one year or a longer time frame- maybe two years, maybe ten. Whatever you choose, know that you will need to keep track of when it is up for renewal (log the date, pay attention to emails from the registrar etc.) or your ownership of it will expire. You are renting, not buying.
- To complete the registration provide the necessary contact details and any other information or documentation which will be necessary to prove eligibility if you are registering a country-code TLD. Also fill in your payment details and make the purchase. Expect a ‘.com’ domain name to cost €10 annually and a ‘.ie’ €20 if you’re register it yourself.
- ‘Pointing’is once you’ve bought the domain, then ‘point’ it to your Hosting company where your website is hosted. They give you the DNS (Domain Name Server) details which look like a phone number and you add this into your Domain Name account settings so that your domain name will point to your website.
If Your Domain Name is Registered by Someone Else
Every single week I meet someone who does not have control of their domain name. Sometimes a previous web company registered the domain for the client, but in their own account and name. Think of the problems if you fall out with your developer – which is very, very common. (Not with us though, we are delightful!)
Sometimes people register a domain name, but do not add Auto Renew or they ignore the repeated renewal demand emails which are automated. You will not get a nice letter or a phone call from the Registrar.
If someone else has registered your domain name ask yourself some questions:
- Where is it registered – who is the Registrar?
- Can you access the domain registration account? Test it now!
- When does it need renewing?
- Which credit card is on file?
- Is it set to Auto Renew?
- Are you the Registered Administrator?
- Is it registered in your name or company name? It should be.
- Where does the Reminder email go to? You have to ensure you will get it.
Note: A .com or .ie domain name may cost you €10 or €20, respectively, if you register them yourself, but expect an additional €25 fee for someone else to do it for you (in your name).
Tips to Remember About Domain Registration
- As with the deeds of a house, your domain needs to be in your own name. You can have your web partner or IT guy be the Technical Contact and your Accountant can be the Billing Contact, but ensure that you are the Registrant or Domain Name owner. Protect your asset. Check this on Whoislookup.
- Owning a Domain name gives you norights to trade under that name or any protection if someone else decides to trade as that name. It is nothing more than just a domain name, which you rent. Get legal advice about trading names, patents etc.
- Registering a domain should ideally be done in the country where you are trying to sell as it indicates to search engines that you are based there – or use a facility NAP- (Name, Postal address and Phone number).
- Register it for 10 years and ensure it is in your own name and with a non domain email for back up – use Gmail or Yahoo. Google likes to see that you believe you will be in business for a while.
- Your website can have more than one domain point to it. By all means use two domains, perhaps you want to try out one using keywords ‘DonegalPhotography.ie’, and another with just the trading or brand name ‘DavidONeill.ie’.
- Sometimes the domain name settings need to be edited when you move hosting company or need to edit your mail or MX records or email records. So make sure you have these details as well as your ftp access to your hosting Control Panel.
- If you have registered the name for a longer term, make sure that you update your payment details if you lose or change your credit or debit card and have an annual direct debit set up.