What do you need to consider when choosing a domain name? What makes a good domain name? Should a domain name include keywords for your business? What provider should you choose?

Before you embark on registering a domain name, you should get comfortable with the jargon. Read the ThinkBusiness.ie introductory guide to domains. Next read the ThinkBusiness.ie guide to choosing a domain name. Then follow these five steps to choosing and managing a domain name.

1. Choose a top-level domain and second-level domain

You need to consider the following factors:

  • Do you need a distinctive domain name that sets it apart from others?
  • Do you want a descriptive website name that imparts important information about you, your business or your products?
  • Do you want an easy-to-remember domain name that is easy to type and short enough to fit on a letterhead or on the side of delivery van?
  • Do you want to register a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) like .ie or .uk, which may be seen as more trustworthy by your customers?

Next you need to consider your brand. A good website with the right domain name should reflect the attributes of your brand. Like any good brand name, a domain name should be memorable, unique and strongly differentiate your business from the competition. You should also check to make sure that your choice of domain name does not infringe copyright or trademarks belonging to another party.

You may want to choose a domain name and extension that describes you, your business or your products. A common strategy by some businesses in the past was to buy “exact match” domain names that consisted only of keywords used to target search phrases. This is thought to improve the click-through rate (CTR) and search engine visibility.

While keywords can have benefits if included as part of your domain name, using only keywords in your domain name doesn’t differentiate your brand. In fact, search engines like Google may penalise the use of “low quality” keyword-only domain names.

Regardless of search engine optimisation (SEO) considerations, your digital brand should be memorable, unique, trustworthy and differentiated, as well as relevant to your users and to search engines.

Check out Google’s Webmaster Central Blog and Bing’s Webmaster Tools Blog which explain how they deal with ranking factors such as domain name.

2. Select a registrar or reseller with which to register

Many registrars are commercial companies which sell domain names and compete in terms of price, customer service and other value-added services such as hosting and web development. Domain names can also be bought through resellers which have trading arrangements with accredited registrars.

Remember that buying a domain name is not just about price. Registrars that provide good customer service and other value-adds can be an asset to a business.

Check out the full list of accredited registrars who can process applications for the ‘.ie’ top level domain (TLD). Many of these companies are also registrars for other TLDs.

3. Check the availability of your choice

More than 100 million ‘.com’ domain names are registered worldwide, as well as over 190,000 ‘.ie’ domain names. How do you check to make sure that your choice of domain name is still available?

You can check the availability of a domain name using domain search tools and other resources provided on the website of your chosen registrar. Many registrars have domain name search systems that allow you to search for a name across many TLDs (both generic and country code) and see if the domain name you want is available in all or any TLDs.

You may not be able to buy a specific domain name because it has a restricted TLD. For example, the extension ‘.COOP’ is restricted to established cooperatives. Some country code top-level domains or ccTLDs s like ‘.ie’ are available only to businesses that can establish an Irish connection.

You cannot buy a ‘.ie’ domain name from another party which has already registered it in their name, although the name can be transferred between two parties provided it is not a commercial transaction. Ask your registrar to advise you about any restrictions that apply to your chosen TLD.

4. Decide on the length of registration

When you first register your domain, you will be given a choice of a one-year or longer registration period.

Act on renewal notices

You should keep track of the registration renewal date and, if you intend to renew the registration, do so before the due date.

Own your domain name

Always make sure that the domain name is registered in your name or in the name of your business, and not that of the business which developed your website or some other third party.

Transferring your domain

At renewal time, some domain owners decide to transfer their domain name to a different registrar who may offer different terms, conditions and services. You will usually be provided with an authorisation code by your existing registrar to give to your new registrar in order to transfer the domain. Details on how to transfer a ‘.ie’ domain from one registrar to another are on the IEDR website.

5. Complete the registration process, including payment

The registrar will ask you to provide contact and technical information when you register a domain name. These details will be sent on to the registry of your domain name to confirm your qualification for holding the TLD and entering your new domain name in the DNS database.

You will also enter into a contract with the registrar that you or your reseller has selected. Once your domain name is in the registry and you have signed the contract, you own the domain name.