Jordan Klassen is a web designer for J. Klassen Inc., a Vancouver BC Web Design and Development company. He has been designing and developing websites for over 10 years, working on 250+ websites. He has his BBA from the University of Toronto.
If you need help generating a list of possibilities or just want us to take a look at what you've decided before you make a purchase, please contact us.
Domain Names: Picking and Purchasing
A guide to understanding, picking and purchasing .com, .ca and other domain names
Domain names have two main parts: The part before the final dot and the part after it. The part before is usually based on your organization name or the name of the product, service or website. The part after it is known as the TLD or top level domain, and can be chosen from a handful of usually 2-3 character options. Choosing each part has important considerations.
Before the Dot
- Only lower case letters
- Numbers are ok
- No spaces
- Hyphens (-) are ok between characters but you can't have two in a row and you can't start or end with a hyphen
- No other special characters or accents
- Avoid using hyphens if at all possible. jordanklassen.com is better than jordan-klassen.com
- Especially avoid hyphens if the non hyphenated version is in use by a direct competitor, or it could be confused for your organization's website.
- Use hyphens if you must. I wanted a shorter alternative domain name for fullphotoswap.com. f-swap.com was the only thing close that was available. fswap.com (no hyphen) was taken but not in use. The only downside is that I have to say "f dash swap dot com" when telling people the name verbally.
- If the words in your name are potentially spelled differently by members of your audience, get both versions (if possible) and redirect the alternate to your official version. So both worldofcolor.com and worldofcolour.com.
- Similarly, if your name contains a number, get the version with the number as a digit and written out and forward the alternate to the official one. So both designer4hire.com and designerforhire.com.
- Shorter is generally better. Jimsfitnesscenter.com isn't as good as jimsfitness.com or even just jims.com.
- Adding words is ok. While shorter is often better, sometimes it's not available. If you nonetheless want to use a particular word or phrase, you can add to it, since most visitors won't try to guess your domain name if they don't know it; They'll use a search engine to find you instead. For example, the product "BaseCamp" uses basecamphq.com since basecamp.com was taken.
- If your business plan relies on a high ranking in Google for a particular commonly searched phrase, and that phrase is available as a .com (with the spaces removed without adding hyphens), using that phrase as your primary domain name will itself go along way towards ranking you near the top of search results. For example pianolessonsvancouver.com is the top result for the search: piano lessons vancouver.
After the Dot
- Dozens of other specialty and country specific options
- If the .com is available, get it even if just to redirect to another option. It is the default people will guess and gets primacy on Google (all else being close).
- It is often worth compromising on the part before the dot in order to get the .com version.
- If your business is specific to Canada or you want to be known particularly for being from Canada, get the .ca. If it is your primary domain, it also helps qualify you for searches "within Canada only".
- .org is appropriate for non-profit organizations or good causes
- The secondary options are less recognizable as domain names. Therefore, people might not know it's a website address when listed on printed materials. It also might require some explaining when stated verbally. These should generally be avoided unless the TLD makes for a particularly clever brand (del.icio.us, or "delicious") or is very specific to your niche (thepeak.fm for the local radio station)
Domain names, particularly short ones and many .com domain names are frequently already taken. Even if no website appears at the domain name, it might still be registered. A good site to check .com, .net and .org domains is http://instantdomainsearch.com/
You can also check for availability on the sites where you can register them (see links below).
If a domain name is taken but not in use, it may be for sale from someone who purchased it hoping to re-sell it. Buying the domain name from someone like this can often cost hundreds of times what it would cost if it were available and the transaction should be handled with care so you don't end up paying and not getting it. If the domain name uses a trademark of yours, you may be able to obtain the domain name through legal action.
Purchasing and Renewing
If your domain name choices are available, they are so inexpensive that it's not much trouble to pick up the few variations necessary to make sure you are easy to find. .com, .net and .org domain names cost around $10/year. .ca domain names can be had for as low as $13/year.
Purchasing it yourself directly with an authorized registrar allows you to maintain control of the domain name should something happen to your web designer or host, or your relationship with them.
Check with your web designer or website host before purchasing the domain name to determine what nameservers to enter when purchasing it.
Here is a list of .ca registrars. I've successfully used namespro.ca for years ($12.88/year for .ca domain names).
Here is a list of registrars for most other TLDs. I've happily used gkg.net for years (US$10.89/year for a .com domain).
For .com domain names, most registrars have a privacy or proxy option for a few dollars a year. This keeps your contact information out of the publicly accessible WHOIS database, if this is a concern for you. I don't bother since my contact info is listed on my website.
I recommend only purchasing or renewing domain names for 1 year at a time. Besides the cash flow savings, this makes it less likely that you will have lost the login information needed to renew, move, or recover it because you no longer have access to the associated email address.
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