Registering a Domain Name

Part One of a three part Small Business series

Location, location, location: it's one of the oldest commandments in the small business success bible. Find a prime location, they say, and business will find its way to you. Set up shop on the outskirts of town, and watch the cobwebs accumulate on your account ledger.

The same rule applies for the hurly-burly frontier of the World Wide Web. Domain names are the addresses of the e-business world, and if you've chosen a poor one, woe be your website's fate. But, how to choose a successful one?

There's gold in them hills
With the seemingly unstoppable flood of domain names being registered (estimated at 60,000 names per day and increasing) it's becoming more and more difficult to find names that are still available. Who would believe that someone has actually registered www.perfectsideburns.com? Or even www.pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis.com (coincidentally enough, the longest word in the English language)? With the highly publicized sale of choice domain names like www.business.com ($7.5 million), or www.loans.com ($3 million), it's gold-rush fever.

Head to the top… level, that is
Add to this already complicated matter the numerous "top-level domains" available, and registering your domain name could become a small nightmare. Top-level domains are the last section of the name which define either what country the name was registered in, or used to denote what category the applicant fell under (like dot-com for a commercial site, dot-net for Internet-based, or dot-org for an organization). With the rush for good names, this categorization of names has been tossed, so you're just as likely to find a business with a dot-org domain as an organization with a dot-com.

Choosing a new name
Because so many domain names have been snapped up by people intent on cashing in on the high demand for quality names, it's very possible that your business name may already be taken. If this is the case, try to remember these handy tips when registering a name:
  1. Names should be easy to remember.
    Domain names can be up to 67 characters, but that doesn't mean yours should be that long. Shorter is definitely sweeter here, as a short and memorable name makes it easier for people to find your site. And, if you can, try to avoid using hyphens in your name. It's easy for people to forget to add them when typing the name in.

  2. Know the competition.
    If you're forced to choose a different name than what your business name is, think about other business in your field. Do you want to choose a name similar to theirs (and possibly get lost in the crowd), or go against the grain and choose something different? Researching your competition will help you make an educated decision.

  3. Name for the future
    Sure, businesses with web addresses starting with e-something or i-something might be the trendy thing, but what happens in a year when this naming convention is out of vogue? Try to choose something that will (hopefully) stand the test of time.

  4. A name is just a name.
    It doesn't matter if you choose the coolest name in the world - if the business side isn't well developed, no www.werock.com can make up for sloppy business practices and poor customer service.
Digging up WHOIS
If a name you're interested in has been registered, you can find out who owns the name by doing a WHOIS lookup. This will provide you with the name of the registrant, plus other info like contact information. This information is available from the organizations in charge of domain names, such as InterNIC (the most well-known and common), and relative upstarts like the European CoreNIC.

Other options
And finally, don't panic if your dot-com or dot-ca name isn't available. You could still try to buy a name from one of the countless domain name resellers out there, or go with a dot-net name. There's even many other country codes (like dot-tv for Tuvalu, or dot-nu for the tiny country of Niue) that might add something interesting to the name you desire. Or, you could try out a redirection service, who will provide a shorter, easier name for your website address, like yourcompany.web.com.

So, take a deep breath, start jotting down ideas, and check out the resources we've collected to help you in your quest for your own piece of the internet. Good luck!

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