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How important is it to have the right domain name?

Finding the right domain name can sometimes be confusing as there are a number of very important points to consider.  Before registering the domain names for your business, it is important to consider these points as it could adversely affect your customer's experience when they are interacting with your company online.  It is important to have a good first impression on visitors so the right domain name will give those visitors confidence and add credibility to your brand.  Let's first look at what a domain name is and what parties are involved in registering a domain name.

What is a domain name?
A domain name is a simple identification label that is your unique address on the internet which is registered on your behalf by a domain registration company.  There are a number of Top Level Domain names (TLD) extensions available to choose from, which include .ca, .com. net, .org, etc.  The registration companies that register these domain names for you are governed by a third party company called ICANN.

Who is ICANN?
ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a private organization located in the United States that is responsible for managing the worlds IP addresses (Internet Protocol Addresses), domain name registrations and exist to ensure a stable and secure distribution of these.

Who is CIRA?
CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) is the organization that manages all of the top level .ca domain name registrations in Canada.  When you register a domain name with the .ca extension it is automatically registered with CIRA by the company that registered the domain name on your behalf.  Typically you would not have any dealings with CIRA directly.

How is a domain name used?
A domain name can be used in a number of different ways; as your website address, to create unique email addresses using the domain or to simply protect the name from being registered by individual or company.  Many domain names are registered to be redirected or aliased to another domain name to help direct web traffic to a main company page or to promotional links.  There are no limits to the number of domain names you can register but your server host may have restrictions on the number of redirects they allow.

How do I choose the right domain name?
We are often asked by new clients what domain name they should register.  To make this decision, you will need to examine what you are trying to promote and then search for the best domain name to fit that criteria.  Here are some points to consider before searching for the right domain name:

- What are you trying to promote?  Your business or personal website, a special or specific product?
- Is your target market in Canada or abroad as you will have to decide what domain extension is best (.ca, .com, .net, .org, etc.)

When you start searching domain names, we recommend using a domain search tool that will not only show if the searched domain name is available, but will display other extensions and domain suggestions that you may want to consider registering.  Remember, you are able to register multiple domain names to point back to your main website if needed.  Here are a few pointers we give clients to use when they are searching for a relevant domain name:

  • Make sure your domain name is not too long
  • Try to stay away from using hyphens in the domain name
  • Search and register common misspellings of your domain name
  • Keep the name simple
  • Choose a name that is easy to remember
  • Consider registering domain names with negative connotations like "sucks"

Who owns my domain name once it is registered?
When you register a domain name, it is very important that you are listed as the administrative contact or owner of the domain name.  Some companies that offer domain registration services use their information to register domain names, which basically means they own the domain name.  If you are listed as the owner of the domain name, you will automatically receive renewal notices and important information about your domain name.  In order to protect your intellectual property, ensure you are listed as the owner of your domain names.

How can registering a domain name protect your brand?
As competition grows for premium domain names, make sure you don't miss out by not registering the domain names that are available for your business.  If you are a Canadian based company, you should consider registering both the .ca and .com versions of your domain name.  You may also want to consider registering negative domain names so nobody else can.  As an example, if you have abcengineers.com, you may want to register abcengineerssucks.com to prevent anyone else from registering that domain name and using it in a negative way, adversely affecting your company's brand.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Does a domain name affect search engine rankings?  Having your own domain name does affect and improve the search engine rankings for your website.  Unfortunately there is no way to determine how much impact it has but what we do know is there are direct connections between your domain name and website content which will help determine how your website ranks with search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.

In conclusion, we have covered a number of important points you should consider when registering a domain name.  Don't be afraid to ask your domain registration company questions about their registration policies and choose a domain name or names that are best suited for your project.  Remember there are tools available to guide you along the way so use them to find the right domain name for your company or project.