First off, what is a domain name?
In layman’s terms:
A domain name is the address for a website. Just like a physical address helps people find a specific place, the purpose of a domain is to help visitors find a specific website. You type the website’s domain name into an internet browser URL bar to visit the website.
In not so layman’s terms:
The Internet is made up of a giant network of computers that are connected to one another through a global network of cables. Each computer on this network can communicate with other computers. This is what makes up the internet.
In order to be able to identify them, each individual computer is assigned an IP address. An IP address is a series of numbers that identify a particular computer on the internet. A typical Internet Protocol (IP) address looks something like this: 188.8.131.52
Without domain names, users would only be able to access websites using IP addresses. However, IP addresses are difficult to remember as they consist of a seemingly random series of numbers, which also makes them inconvenient to share. Imagine if you had to type in 184.108.40.206 every time you wanted to visit Facebook?
Domain names were invented to solve this problem. Instead of remembering and typing in an IP address to visit a website, you can visit it by typing an easy-to-remember domain name. The domain name serves as a placeholder for the IP address.
Why is owning a domain name such a critical part of your business?
Internet real estate
If you plan to build a website, you will have to own a domain name. Purchasing a suitable domain early on in your new business venture ensures you have the address secured for when you develop a website platform for your business. Keep in mind that a domain isn’t all you will need to build a website; the domain name is just the address. You will also require web hosting so that your website files have somewhere to live — but don’t worry, we can help with that too!
Not everyone who runs a business has a website. You might only have a Facebook Page or Google Maps listing, or you might want a place to host a blog or post your resume online. Even if that’s the case, you should still get a domain name. You can redirect your domain name to your Facebook Page, your Etsy profile, your Google Maps listing, or anything you want. For example, it is much easier to tell someone to visit “my business dot com” instead of “Facebook dot com slash shop slash my business name”.
As long as you own a domain name, it allows you complete control over your web presence, email, website, and anything else associated with that domain.
If your entire business is built around a YouTube, Etsy, or Facebook page, you run the risk of that platform disappearing at some point and everything you’ve built on that platform along with it. In addition, lots of applications are famous for regularly changing and updating their service and service agreements, which you have no control over. Hosting a custom website on a domain name you own is something that you maintain control over and is good insurance against all your content being hosted on an external platform.
Credible email address
Buying a domain isn’t just about your website — you can also use your domain for your email address(s). Eg. Instead of using an email address that ends with gmail.com or outlook.com, email addresses can end with a domain owned by your company.
Check out our article on the bad optics of using Gmail as your business email.
Having a hard time deciding what domain name should you choose?
Make it memorable
Choose a domain name that makes it easy for customers to find you. People have a hard time remembering a long web address, so keep it short and easy to remember, type, and say. If people cannot effectively communicate your domain name, your word-of-mouth advertising will suffer. It also has a big effect on processing fluency, which is the concept that we remember and have more positive associations with things that we can easily pronounce.
Also, avoid selecting a domain name that includes numbers or other non-standard characters, uses unusual spelling, or is longer than about 15 characters. Particularly avoid the use of hyphens as they strongly correlate with spammy behavior and decrease readability and memorability.
Search Engine Optimization
The vast majority of people won’t find your website by visiting your domain name directly, they’ll likely be finding your business through using a search engine, like Google. Search engines place priority on a website’s domain name because of their growing reliance on accessibility and usability as a ranking factor. The easier a domain name is to read for humans, the better it will rank in a search engine.
In addition, your domain name can include a keyword that directly relates to your business’ services, making it immediately obvious what your business does. But keep in mind that keyword stuffing is no longer a useful or successful ranking strategy – “real-realestate-realtors-selling-realestate.com” won’t get you very far. Place priority on choosing a domain name that is catchy, unique, and brand-friendly; if you can do that and include a business related keyword, go for it.
.com, .net, or .ca?
When registering a domain name you will often be provided the option to the same domain name with varying domain extensions (eg. “org” or “com”). Many organizations register their domain name across multiple top-level domains (TLDs) in an effort to protect and control their brand. Domain names aren’t expensive and by registering both the .CA and the .COM domain exension, you are preventing it from being registered by somebody else (like a competitor, for example).
If you are a Canadian-based business you have the option to purchase a domain name with a .CA domain extension. Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and Canadian businesses can register a .CA domain extension due to Canadian presence requirements. A .CA domain name will immediately brand your website and business as Canadian. Search engines will deem .CA websites relevant to Canadian consumers and the website will rank better on Canadian-based geographic web searches. In addition, Canadian consumers have a strong affinity towards .CA websites, with 9% of Canadians indicating they prefer supporting Canadian businesses and 68% agreeing that Canadian businesses should have a .CA website. There are also far less .CA domain names registered worldwide than there are .COM domain extensions, so if the domain name you want isn’t available in a .COM domain extension, chances are it is available in a .CA domain extension, giving you greater opportunity to lock in the exact domain name you want.
In addition, by registering a .CA domain you are helping build a better online Canada. A portion of the proceeds of every .CA registration goes toward the Community Investment Programwhich funds innovative projects and grants that give back to Canadian communities and support initiatives to improve Canada’s internet.
Where can you buy a domain name?
A good domain name is possibly the most affordable branding tool available for your business. Registering a dedicated domain name isn’t expensive, averaging around $15 per year. It’s a small investment for the potentially big insurance on your business and brand.
There are many domain purchasing services, but domain.com, GoDaddy, or Google domains are all excellent places to start. Or, if you are looking to build a website on your domain, get in touch with us or check out our website portfolio — We can assist you with the purchase of a domain name during the development process.