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    How to Choose the Right Domain Name for Your Online Business


    The domain name you choose for your website, like your corporate name and other business marks, is an important component in marketing your business. It tells online visitors and customers who you are, and they then associate it with the products and services you provide (the definition of "branding"). It is therefore vitally important to choose carefully when deciding on a domain name. Here are some of the main points to keep in mind when choosing your domain.

    1. Format your domain name properly.

    • Domain names are not case sensitive and as a rule, are all in lowercase letters.

    • Originally, domain names were generally in English, but can now be registered in different languages. Your domain registrar can provide you with information on language variations that you may want to consider, especially if your principal markets are in countries in predominantly non-English speaking parts of the world, such as Asia or South America.

    • Your domain name should be no longer than 63 characters, excluding the extension (.com, .net, .org, etc). Your domain name must start and end with either an alphabetical or numerical character, and should contain only letters, numbers or hyphens. Avoid the use of special characters such as #, *, @, $, and the like.

    • Speaking of hyphens - DON'T use them if you can avoid it. Using hyphens in your domain name does not affect your ranking or SEO, but it can make the domain more difficult to remember. They also look spammy in the search results, and searchers tend to avoid clicking them in favor of unhyphenated domains.

    2. Your domain name should be appropriate for your business.

    • Keep in mind the type of users you are trying to attract, and choose a name that is appropriate. A domain name should be simple and easy for your potential visitors to remember. Try to keep it as short as possible, but try to avoid the use of abbreviations that might mean something to you but are meaningless to web users. However, if your aim is to improve your ranking with the search engines, you may want to register a longer domain name (up to 63 characters) containing some of your targeted keywords, and have it automatically redirect visitors to your web site. Google will not penalize you for redirects.

    • If you are targeting a specific industry or business, your domain name should reflect that. If you are targeting a global market, avoid words that have different spellings in different countries, or words that may have completely different meanings in another language.

    • If you use a word that has different spellings (such as color and colour), register both variations. And if your domain name includes a word that is commonly misspelled, register a variation with the misspelled word as well, to ensure that even the visitors who don’t know how it’s spelled will be directed to your site!

    • Pick words that create visual images or that have concrete sensory connections, as these are easier for most people to remember. The exception would be in the case of a well-known brand, which people identify with on the strength of its public presence. Name brands conjure up their own visual images.

    • Choose the appropriate form of the word, i.e. decide whether it is more appropriate to use a noun, verb, adjective, etc or whether the word should be singular or plural. For instance, weigh the advantages of versus, versus, etc.

    • You don't need to limit yourself to just one domain name. If you want to register several versions or several different domain names, and if all of them are available, then by all means register them all. This will ensure that you can cover all the bases when it comes to directing users to your web site by having each of the variants point to the same place.

    • Using a domain name search program such as Domain Questor will make creating a domain name or names much simpler. There are a number of such programs available and many of them are shareware or freeware. Another such program, which has a number of excellent features such as a thesaurus, alternative spellings and trade mark searches, is Mozzle.

    3. Register your domain name.

    • Prior to registration, ensure that your domain name does not infringe on an existing trade mark or other proprietary right belonging to a third party. Just because a domain name is available does not necessarily mean you have the right to use it.

    • Be sure you are registering your domain name in the appropriate domain(s). Check with your registrar if you are unsure. Certain domains (.com, .net, .org) are world-wide. However, most countries also have their own domains of various levels (such as .ca in Canada, and in Britain), and in order to register in most of these country-specific domains, you must be registered to do business in that country.

    • Some levels of domain are set aside for specific types of business, organizations or institutions, such as educational institutions. Most registrars will have information available on their web sites describing the various domains and levels and the restrictions, if any, attached to each.

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