Registering a domain name: what SMEs should consider

If you are a small business owner, you undoubtedly know the benefits of launching a website for promoting your brand, selling your products, and managing customer relationships.

If you don’t have a dedicated IT department or technical assistant in your organization, you’ll likely have a lot of questions about domain name hosting and registration.

While our guide to the best web hosting services can help you acquire hosting for your business, this step-by-step guide walks you through the key legal, practical, and creative considerations you’re likely to encounter when selecting and registering a domain name for your company.

Registering a domain name: Preparation

Before you start registering a domain name through the official registration process, the main preparation you need to undertake will likely be conceptual rather than practical. In order to design and build a successful website, you need to be clear about the type of content you will be posting.

You should ask yourself a number of questions. What will be the purpose of your site? Are you going to include an online store? How long do you plan to run the site under its original domain name?

Once you are armed with this information, you will be in a much stronger position to begin the relatively straightforward process of selecting and purchasing your domain name.

Step 1: Choose the right name

the man was standing in front of the wall covered with post-its

The best names are vivid and memorable (Image credit: Unsplash)

In the increasingly digital age, your domain name could be a customer’s first interaction with your business. It is therefore essential that the name you choose is a true representation of the services offered by your business.

You should also select a name that sets your business apart from others in your industry – otherwise, potential customers might mistake you for one of your competition.

Other things to keep in mind: try to come up with a name that is short, catchy, memorable, and easy to spell. From a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, it also makes sense to choose a name that uses keywords relevant to your industry.

To learn more about the steps for choosing a domain name, you can read our step-by-step guide on how to choose a domain name for your website, which also discusses the three types of domain name types: tld , cctld and exotic. .

Step 2: Find potential registrars

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The right registrar for your business domain depends on your specific needs (Image credit: Unsplash)

Simply put, your domain name provides an online identity specific to your business. Once you’ve registered your name, your business should benefit from copyright and trademark protection for your material, along with improved SEO positioning.

As the name suggests, a domain name registrar is a company with the authority to sell and register domain names under a range of extensions, including (but not limited to). com, .net or .org.

Although all domain name registrars must be accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), it is essential that you do your research and find the right provider for your business needs.

Not all registrars, for example, are licensed to sell all top-level domains (the part of the domain name after the period). This is especially true in the case of country-specific extensions, which can prove problematic for companies with a global presence.

It is also essential to check the levels of technical support available: If you are a small business owner and have a problem with registering your domain, solid technical support services can be invaluable.

While the most suitable registrar for your business will depend on your specific needs, Domain.com, Hover, and GoDaddy are some of the most respected.

Step 3: Check the availability of your name

Almost all of the major website registrars have tools to automatically check if your suggested name is available for registration. If the name you choose is registered with another user, these tools usually contain name generator functions to suggest alternatives.

You may, for example, find out that you can change your name by changing the extension from .net to .com. Be aware, however, that this approach could confuse your business with others of the same name.

Step 4: Consider bundling registration with your web host

A number of companies, such as Bluehost, offer free domain name registration services if you choose their website building services as well. This option might be particularly suitable if you prefer the convenience of an all-in-one platform. Learn more about Bluehost’s services, features and more in our Bluehost review.

Step 5: Beware of Hidden Fees

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Unwanted additional features could skyrocket your costs (Image credit: Unsplash)

If you are a small business owner, price is probably one of the most important factors when registering a domain name. However, it could be a mistake to simply choose the registrar with the lowest overall cost.

At this point in the process, it is essential that you check for any hidden costs or additions to your plan. Some registrars charge a reduced fee in the first year and then include expensive renewal fees for subsequent years, while others vary their costs depending on the extension you choose.

However, most registrars will include free email addresses linked to your domain name as part of your plan.

Step 6: Ensure your privacy

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Online privacy is essential, as Whois protection is an integral part of domain name registration (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Privacy is another key point to consider, especially when it comes to cyberspace. When you register a domain name, you can include privacy protection to protect your identity, known as Whois protection.

This feature prevents personal information required to register a domain name, such as your name, phone number, and email address, from being visible to those who browse the Internet. Without such protection, anyone could find your information in cyberspace and contact you in a way that makes you uncomfortable,

While some registrars such as Hover offer this feature for free, others charge additional fees.

Step 7: Choose your registration period

The next thing to consider is how long you will need to own your domain name. Currently, you cannot buy a domain name permanently, but many providers allow you to register your name for up to 10 years.

While you can assume that you will need the maximum registration period, this may not be the case if, for example, you plan to sell your business in the future.

Step 8: Understand the transfer policy

notebook, crumpled sticky notes, a cup of coffee and pencils on a table

Remember to check the fine print carefully (Image credit: Unsplash)

When registering a domain name, it is essential to think about the future. Which domain registrar you choose now is not necessarily the most appropriate option several years down the road.

For example, you may sell your business and need to transfer your domain name to another provider to reflect the preferences of the new owner.

In general, you can change registrars if your name has been registered with your current provider for 60 days or more, although both companies will normally need to approve the transfer. However, a number of providers will charge expensive fees if you want to switch to a different registrar.

Step 9: Check the suspension clauses

When checking the fine print of any potential transaction, be sure to review your contract carefully for the terms and conditions of your business operations. Most registrars include a clause in their contacts that they can revoke your domain if you conduct your business in a way they deem inappropriate.

Some registries may revoke your domain name for actions like suspected spamming, which could be problematic if your business maintains a mailing list or email newsletter. In some cases, the registrar may remove the name with little (or no) notice.

Step 10: Complete the purchase

Once you’ve found the right domain name and the right provider, the purchase itself will likely be the easiest part of the process and only take a few minutes. As stated earlier, it’s a good idea to check that the options for expensive add-ons aren’t pre-checked when you make your purchase, as they can dramatically increase the cost of registering a domain name.

Summary

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Once your domain name is live, you can either create a site yourself or hire a professional designer. (Image credit: Unsplash)

Registering a domain name is probably the first step in your business’ online journey. After that ?

Depending on the nature of your business, your level of technical expertise, and your budget, you may want to create a site with one of the best website builders. Alternatively, you can hire a professional website designer to promote your presence online.

Either way, you will have wasted your time and money unless you attack a website at your domain – a website that will generate sales, increase your profile, or create goodwill with your customers.