What Domain Names Does Your Small Business Actually Need?

Unsure what domain names you should register for your small business? It depends on many factors, so my answer is usually, “It depends.” My company, Webnames.ca, provides a variety of Internet services, domain name registration among them. We are Canada’s original .CA registrar and our history in the domain industry dates back to 1987. To help guide you, here are ten things to consider when determining the domain names for your small business:

1. Get Your .COM if Available

.COM is still the most recognized domain extension in the world. If you’re lucky enough to find the domain name of your small business available, make sure to grab it.

2. Consider Geographical Location

Consider where your customers are located, and who your audience is.

Most people prefer to buy locally, pay in local currency, and have products shipped locally to save on duties and shipping fees. This is why Canadian businesses must have websites with .CA domain extension.

To register a .CA, the registrant must meet Canadian Presence Requirements. This means registering a Canadian trademark, having a registered Canadian corporation or partnership, or being a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. For more details, visit the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s (CIRA) Canadian Presence Requirements for Registrants page.

If you have a presence, key customers, or an audience in particular countries, consider investing in those domain names. Depending on the type of products or services you offer, it may be beneficial to register country-related extensions. Consider .US, our biggest trading partner with a much larger market, or .ASIA. Be sure to check out the  Internet Assigned Numbers Authority ccTLD database (ICANN) for the complete list of ccTLDs.

3. Optimize for Local Searches

Local search is becoming increasingly important to online marketing and customer acquisition strategies. Think of the last time you searched for a restaurant or a plumber.  You probably typed “Downtown Vancouver sushi restaurants” or “plumber in Kelowna BC” into the search engine.

If available, consider registering the generic name of your service combined with the location(s) of your audience or customers. For example, “WhistlerElectrician.ca,” “VancouverLaw.ca,” or “CanmoreDentist.ca.” You can forward these types of domains to your website and take advantage of the traffic they generate.

4. Protect Other Key Extensions

  • .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ – These are typically registered by small, medium, and large Canadian organizations along with their .COM. These extensions are unrestricted and open to anyone in the world to register, including your competition. If you have the budget to do so, we recommend protecting these and using them to drive traffic to your primary website.
  • .TEL – This is unlike any other domain name. It’s an extension dedicated to contact information rather than website content, like a digital business card. .TEL is mobile-compatible, has strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) capabilities, as well as free hosting. 
  • .CO – This is a domain that was rebranded and released for public registration in 2010. Originally the ccTLD for Columbia, .CO is being marketed to represent a company, corporation, or commercially focused endeavor and has proved to be highly popular.
  • .MOBI – This extension is dedicated to mobile websites and is a smart one to protect. While smartphone technology allows for regular .COM or .CA websites to be displayed, .MOBI websites are guaranteed to be mobile-compliant.

For more information about other domain extensions, read my previous post Domain Name 101 – What Do the Various Domain Extensions Mean?

5. Protect Your Intellectual Property

A company’s goodwill and reputation are tied to its name. It’s essential to protect your name(s) from competition and cybersquatters who aim to profit off your goodwill. 

Create a list of your company name(s), trademarks, brand, and products. You must ensure all of these names are protected in every key extension you’ve chosen. These are the most basic intellectual property assets your company has and protecting them will uphold your reputation.

6. Protect Variations on Your Intellectual Property

  • Misspelling – If the domain name for your small business is easily misspelled or mistyped, register the misspelling to redirect to your homepage and save your visitors time. 
  • Hyphenated names – Don’t forget to register the hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions of your name in at least the .CA and .COM extensions.
  • Plural and singular In applicable cases remember the plural and singular versions of your trademarks and brands.
  • Negative variations – Consider protective registrations too. If you’re in a competitive industry that’s susceptible to negative publicity or angry customers, register negative variations such as “www.YourCompanyNameSucks.ca.
  • Transposing multiple words – If your name contains multiple words, make sure you register the transposed variations, for example, “www.SpaSerenity.com” and “www.SerenitySpa.com”.

7. Consider the Size of Your Company and the Popularity of Your Products or Services

If your name is obscure or your company is small and you don’t plan on growing beyond your local area, you’ll likely only need .COM and .CA extensions. But if your small business plans on growing, it’s important to plan ahead.

The more popular your brand, the more valuable your intellectual property, and the more likely someone else will try to profit from it. After becoming established, you don’t want someone else to have your name(s) registered and try to compete or make money off you.

8. Determine Your Risk by Looking at Competition

If you’re in a market with lots of competition, it’s even more important to protect your brands and names across multiple extensions and variations. Look at your competitors and see what names they’ve registered. This will provide insight into key domain names you should consider registering. 

If you’re lucky enough to have little competition, don’t forget to consider future competitors as your product or service gains popularity.

9. Review Your Budget Against the Previous Guidelines

Money and cash flow are a key consideration in any small business. The number of domains you end up registering will likely depend on your budget balanced against the risk of someone else registering your names.

In the grand scheme of things, domain names are cheap. They’re a fraction of the time, legal expense, and battered reputation that you could risk by someone using your name to drive traffic to their website or posting objectionable material. For the minimal effort and cost involved, it’s good business practice to prepare for such possibilities.

10. Ask for Volume Discounts

As a rule of thumb, do your research and expect to register five to ten alternate extensions or variations for every domain name you intend to market. Whether it’s a business, product, trademark, or blog, it’s important to cover your bases.

Small Business BC clients may contact Webnames.ca customer support for information on volume discounts.

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