U-C WEBS' founder Nardo KuitertBy Nardo Kuitert, U-C WEBS
[Published in The Wellington Advertiser, November 2009 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce]

Every professional website needs a domain name. Do you have one already? Or is your website still something like www.freehostingservice.com/mycompany? If so, then it’s about time you moved up the online property ladder and buy a domain name.

Buying a domain name is a breeze nowadays, although you should always be looking out for scam artists. Hopefully this article will provide you with a base level of knowledge and reference, allowing you to make informed decisions.

First you will have to find out if the desired domain name is still available. Most of the ones containing short phrases are taken, but you might be lucky if you are looking for something unique. Otherwise try a domain consisting of 2-3 words (ideally). You could hyphenate-the-words(.com), but this may very well confuse people. Try to go with a phrase without hyphens.

Then you have to decide upon the domain extension. A .com is the most well known, and probably the best option for most businesses, but there are reasons why you might want to look for other extensions:

  • You are a non-profit organization (.org will suit you)
  • You target a specific geographical area like Canada (then .ca might be for you)
  • The .com is no longer available (anything else works just fine!)

A .biz or .info is usually frowned upon as an inferior extension, also by many search engines – better look for a .net as alternative.

Most country-related TLDs (top level domains) require that you have a presence in the country (e.g. in Canada for a .ca domain name). But some of them are not so picky. But rather than choosing a rather strange domain extension like .me you might want to consider adding another word at the beginning or end of the preferred phrase – if for instance juliesflowers.com already exists, you could try registering something like downtownjuliesflowers.com.

The pricing of domain names can be all over the board, although the most common extensions (.com, .ca, .net, .org) can be had under $20 a year – sometimes even under $10 a year. Some of the companies I have used to register domain names in the past include namecheap.com, domainsatcost.ca, domainpeople.com or 1and1.com. The registration prices have come down dramatically in the past few years – a .com domain name used to be $35 to $50 a year. Be careful with domain name renewals – there are still companies out there that try to pry on the ignorance of small business owners, and the perception that domain names are expensive. In the past I have received notices in the (snail) mail claiming to be about the renewal of one of my domains – at ridiculously high prices, like $79.95 per year. And upon closer reading this wasn’t even my domain name – it just looked like it. One letter added or deleted is enough to fool you into registering a new, similar domain name with a company like this – by pretending to offer you a renewal of your existing one. And don’t blindly click on links in renewal emails either, as these may be phishing attempts (spoofed web addresses, aimed to trick you into entering your contact and financial (credit card) information). Rather than clicking on a link in an email, just enter the URL of your existing domain name registrar in your browser’s address bar, log in, and safely renew your domains there.

Nardo Kuitert is an Internet Consultant with Fergus Website Development and Optimization firm U-C WEBS (www.u-cwebs.com). U-C WEBS also offers Internet advertising opportunities on www.ferguspages.com. (link opens in a new window)

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