Why choose certain domain names? What should you do to protect your brand? Is it worthwhile buying more than one domain? Can you buy and sell domains?

This guide addresses the questions about choosing the right domains for your business. You should also read the two companion guides:

‘.Com’ or ‘.ie’?

The first question business owners and managers ask is whether to choose a ‘.Com’ or ‘.ie’ domain name. Extensions like ‘.com’, ‘.net’ and ‘.gov’ are generic top-level domains or gTLDs whereas ‘.ie’ is a country code top-level domain (ccTLD)

Choosing a ‘.ie’ top-level domain (TLD) will provide a clear identification to your customers and to search engines that you are an Irish-based business. Where an Irish presence is an important factor in building trust and credibility with your target customer, then having a ‘.ie’ TLD is important.

Research in other countries such as the UK (.co.uk), France (.fr) and Germany (.de) has shown that people may be more willing to buy from a website if it has a ‘local’ extension. As the sale of ‘.ie’ domain names is restricted to commercial bodies that can prove they have an Irish connection, you may also find it is easier to get the domain name that you want.

Using a ‘.com’ or other extension can also work if you have a brand name that is already well established and trusted by your customers.

If you are using a .generic TLD like a ‘.com’ and want to target a specific geographical location, you can provide search engines with extra information that will improve your search results for a specified country. Ask your web developer or a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) specialist for more advice about how to do this.

Buying more than one domain name

There are many reasons for buying more than one domain name for your brand. These include:

  1. Protecting your brand. To protect your brand, you might consider buying as many TLD versions of your domain name as possible, including both gTLDs and ccTLDs. For instance, you might buy both the ‘.ie’ and ‘.com’ versions of your domain name. Anyone who is qualified can buy a domain name in good faith, provided it does not infringe copyright or trademark law. If you buy as many TLD versions of your domain name as possible, you are protecting your intellectual property and brand.
  2. Exporting. If you have any plans to export then you should consider buying local domain names or ccTLDs for the markets you plan to enter. This is best done as part of your brand building strategy rather than as an afterthought. Owning your domains in relevant markets means you will have consistent branding across all markets from the very beginning, and so avoid any disputes or compromises later on.
  3. Campaigns. Registering different TLD versions of your domain name means that you have access to a portfolio of branded domain names that you can use for specific campaigns and microsites.

Any additional names you can afford to buy are an investment in your brand. These can be parked and redirected so that they point at your primary domain name. A whole new range of more than 1000 gTLDs has become available from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). These TLDs consist of:

  • Brand names like .apple or .iPad
  • Geographic or regional names like .london or .wales
  • Generic names like .bike, .car or .plumber

New gTLDs open up a new range of possibilities for business digital branding strategy. You should consider carefully if one of these new gTLDs should be acquired to protect your brand-specific community or support a marketing campaign.

For instance, a new .Irish gTLD is available, targeting a global Irish community of 70 million people and can be registered by individuals, companies and organisations worldwide. The full list of TLDs is worth investigating.

How to deal with duplication

Registration works on a first come, first served basis. If somebody with a legitimate claim to the name you want has already registered it in good faith and has not infringed copyright or trademarks laws, then they are legally entitled to have it. Often the easiest way around this issue is to tweak the domain name label you want to make it different, like adding the word ‘the’ in front of your company name.

Buying and selling domain names

A person who registers a domain name owns the right to use that domain name during the registration period. It is possible in some cases to change the registration record for a domain to show that another person is now registrant of record for that domain. The registrar may charge to change the record and there may be other fees.

You cannot buy or sell a ‘.ie’ domain. These domain names can be re-assigned to another party, but no money can be offered or taken for the re-assignment. The IEDR reserves the right to delete any ‘.ie’ domain name that has been sold or is being offered for sale.

Several TLDs have similar restrictions on buying and selling. Check with the customer service department of your domain registrar for further advice.

Dispute resolution

If you feel that the domain was registered in bad faith by the current holder, you can use the Dispute Resolution Service. This can take time and cost between €1,500 and €5,000, payable to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and not the registrar. You should visit WIPO website for more information.

4 Action Points

1

Choose a domain name label and extension that make sense for your business. Always put long-term branding goals before all other short-term, tactical considerations when choosing a domain name.

2

Buy more than one TLD version of your domain name if you can afford to do so. Domain names can be an investment in your brand integrity, provide a useful portfolio of platforms for marketing campaigns and avoid costly disputes when you move into export markets.

3

Keep your registration information up to date. Use valid names and contact details for your domain name registration. Keep the information up to date in the domain record should you move or change email address. Check using the online tools provided by your registrar that the information you presented for your domain is up to date.

4

Renew on time. Always renew your domain name before the expiry date. Make sure that the person in your organisation who gets the renewal notice for your domain name will act immediately.