This example proves that choosing a poor Internet domain name can be disastrous to your business and its image.  This article provides tips for choosing a “good” domain name and avoiding some of the common pitfalls for choosing a poor one.

People often confuse domain names with Web sites, which are two separate and distinct items. A domain name acts as an address for your company’s site, and your company’s site consists of the marketing content relating to your business. You need both a domain name and a Web site to effectively market your business on the Internet.

Domain names consist of a keyword, such as upsizemag, and an extension, such as .com.  Your first task in picking a domain is to determine your keyword.

Generally, your keyword reflects your company’s name and the content you will display on your site. In some situations, your keyword may reflect your company’s slogan, trademark or the generic product or service your company provides. If your company’s name is difficult to spell or is long, you may consider using an acronym or abbreviation. Also ensure your keyword does not have unwanted alternative meanings.

The .com extension is the most widely recognized domain extension in the world.  Accordingly, it is usually best to pick a .com extension.  Unfortunately, it is common to find that someone else has already registered the .com extension for your desired domain keyword.  In these situations, you may consider picking a different keyword or choosing a different extension. Other popular extensions for for-profit companies include .net, .biz, and .us (generally .org domains are used by non-profits).

Are you infringing?

One of the common pitfalls for small businesses is picking a domain name that infringes upon another company’s intellectual property rights, such as trademarks. Small businesses that operate only in a limited geographic area without an Internet presence usually do not incur scrutiny from other businesses that have identical or similar domain names. However, after expanding into the Internet, small businesses may attract legal challenges from larger, more established companies that have similar domain names or trademarks.

At a minimum, small businesses should be vigilant to minimize their exposure to unnecessary litigation.  While it is recommended to obtain a legal opinion from an experienced trademark attorney regarding your choice of domain name, at a minimum, small businesses should perform rudimentary searches online for other businesses that may have similar domain names or trademarks.

Domain names are an affordable way to market your business.  For approximately $10 per year, you can register a domain name.  While you never technically “own” the domain name, registering a domain provides your company with an exclusive right to renew the domain for subsequent years.

It is important to choose a reputable domain registration company (commonly referred to as a “registrar”).  There are literally hundreds of Web sites that allow you to register domain names; however, their pricing and customer service varies greatly.

Popular domain registrars with reputations for fair pricing and satisfactory customer service include: Moniker (www.Moniker.com), GoDaddy (www.GoDaddy.com), eNom (www.eNom.com), and NameCheap (www.NameCheap.com).

Careful when registering

When registering a domain, you must provide your company’s contact information.  Whatever information you provide will be stored not only at the registrar, but also in a public database called “whois.” Be careful: Some registrars ask for this contact information before you register a domain (for example, when you sign up for an account with the registrar) so make sure your company supplies its proper contact information (company address, phone number and e-mail).

If you want to protect your company’s identity, you’re in luck.  Manyregistrars provide a service called “whois privacy” in which theregistrar’s contact information is used in lieu of your company’sinformation in the public whois database.  In addition to addressingprivacy concerns, purchasing whois privacy reduces unwanted junk mailand e-mail spam.  Many registrars charge a small fee for whoisprivacy-generally about the same price as the domain registration.

Once you’ve picked your company’s domain name and entered yourcompany’s contact information, you need to choose your registrationterm.  Registration terms range from one to 10 years.  Many registrarsoffer discounts for multiple-year registration terms.

After choosing the length of registration term, you need to pay for thedomain. Most registrars accept (and prefer) credit card payments.Paying with a credit card also enables your company to utilize afeature called “auto renew.”

Auto renew allows your company to minimize the chances your domain willinadvertently expire. Once your domain’s expiration date nears, theregistrar will charge your credit card for the renewal fee.

Auto renew only works if you enable it and have a valid credit card orother payment source on file with the registrar. There are pros andcons of using auto renew but using this feature is generally advisable.

When your name is taken

You have three primary choices when faced with a situation where the domain you would like has been registered.  First, as noted above, you can register a different domain extension. Second, you can contact the current registrant and attempt to purchase the domain. Third, in some situations, you can seek legal avenues to obtain the domain.

In order to find the domain name registrant’s identity, you must look up the “whois” information for the domain.  Sites like www.who.iswww.whois.net, or www.whois.sc provide access to the domain’s whois information.

In some circumstances, the whois information may be incomplete,incorrect or cloaked by whois privacy.  Even if there is informationfor the registrant, there may be reasons you should not contact theregistrant. For instance, contacting a domain name registrant andseeking to purchase a domain may adversely affect your rights shouldyou choose to proceed with legal avenues to obtain the domain at alater date.

There are more than 100 million domain names registered worldwide. Many of these domain names are registered by cybersquatters.Cybersquatters illegally infringe on companies’ intellectual propertyrights through the use of Internet domain names.

Cybersquatters often use companies’ names or common misspellings ofcompanies’ names to profit by placing sponsored advertisements on theregistered domains. If you find the domain you want is registered by acybersquatter, you should seek legal counsel.

 

Bad Domain Name Choices

Please check out this pdf for a list of badly crafted domain names that when read in a certain way cause unintentional names.