One of the most important components of your online business is its domain name. Every website on the Internet must have a unique address. This is called its IP or Internet Protocol address. IP addresses are long strings of numbers, which are almost impossible to remember. A domain name uses recognisable letters and numbers to represent the IP address. So instead of having to remember the IP address, your customers only have to remember the domain name of your online business. Think of your domain name as the Internet phone number of your website.
Creating a Business Domain Name
As you an imagine it is vitally important that every IP address and its corresponding domain name is unique. There cannot be two identical domains. Just as there can’t be two identical phone numbers. The uniqueness of your domain name ensures that every time anyone types this into their Internet browser, they always find your website and consequently your business.
Creating a unique and memorable name for your new online business is very important as your domain name is an essential component of your business’s brand. The domain name you choose is what’s called the top level domain. This is like a sign on the front door of your online store. You’ll already know many top level domains if you shop online.
The most popular top level domains end with an internationally agreed suffix. These include .com, .co.uk, .org and .net. There are also suffixes that identify the country that the website is based in. Websites in China for instance will have the .cn suffix at the end of their domain names.
The domain name you choose for your online business can have any number of letters and numbers. Certain characters are reserved so can’t be used, so stick to the 26 letters in the English alphabet and the numerals 0-9. Domain names are not case sensitive. Your domain name can have up to 63 characters in it, but it’s recommended you try and limit this to around 25 characters if you can.
Before you can register a domain name for your new online business you have to check that the domain name you want hasn’t already been taken. Today domain names can change hands for thousands of pounds as all of the most popular ones have now been taken.
There are many organisations that handle domain name registrations including Nominet for .uk suffixes. You may find that the ISP you want to use for your website hosting also offers a domain name registration service as well. This can be an advantage as often, package deals are available that can be very competitively priced.
Registering Your Domain Name
The company you choose to register your domain name with is called the registrar. Your business is what is called the registrant. Your business can be a sole trader, limited company or partnership. Which ever type of business format you use, this becomes the legal business bound to the domain name it registers.
For UK based companies its a good idea to register your domain name with a Nominet member. You can see a full list of these organisations on the Nominet website. Note that you cannot reserve a domain name for your new online business. You must register all the variations of the domain name you want to use. You can then ‘park’ these domain names until you want to actually use them to direct customers to a website.
Once you have chosen a registrar for your domain name you can make your application. This is usually done completely online via the registrar’s website. If your domain name is available you can make your registration payment. The registrar will then inform you of the transaction and send you your registration documents by post in due course.
Managing Your Domain Name
When you have successfully registered your new domain name you must manage this properly. The registration service that you used will hold information about you and your business. This personal information is usually published on the domain name database. If you are concerned about displaying this information speak to your registrar, as they may be able to help.
All domain names have a limited registration period. Domain name registrations are usually charged for by the year. You can choose how many years you would like to register your domain name for. The more years you have, the more expensive it is of course. What this means in practice is that you must periodically renew your domain name registration.
Your registrar should inform you when your domain name is due for renewal, but don’t rely on this. Make a note to renew your domain name with plenty of time. If you don’t, another business could register your domain name themselves. Remember that any domain names you parked, must also be renewed if you want to keep ownership of them. If you want to cancel your ownership of one or more the domain names you own, just inform your registrar so they can place those domain names back on the available register.