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What's In A Domain Name

27 February, 2017

Often one of the most underappreciated aspects of any online strategy, we believe that domains should actually be treated with focus when looking at your organisations over all online strategy. More and more, your domain name is more important than your physical postal address and, for many, it’s the very first contact your potential new client will have with you.

Choosing Your Domain

You may already have a domain you use, in which case you can probably skip this section. For those of you that don’t, picking a domain name definitely needs some thought.

First port of call is always your organisation or brand name and it’s the way we’d always recommend you start. Historically, many companies were encouraged to use descriptive terms in their domain name, but unless that’s your brand name too ( for example), it’s not really a key feature of SEO anymore. You can use page structure and the full URL to help with SEO, the terms don’t really have to be in the domain itself.

Your brand is often one of your most important assets – so why not have it at the forefront of your digital strategy?

Brand Protection

We hear of many horror stories of organisations not protecting their brand online. Imagine you own, but you didn’t buy and your biggest competitor does? Every time a potential customer takes a guess at your domain or types .com by accident they go to your competitor rather than you? There are legal avenues that you can go down to stop this – but they’re long and expensive processes.

We’re not saying you need 500 different versions of your domain, but try to get the top ones .com, and .net. You may also want to expand to .uk or if that suits your organisation. There are vanity URLs you can get too (.club, .agency and many more), it’s perhaps worth investing (for the low cost it is) in protecting domains relevant to your industry. And, if your chosen domain could be interpreted in different ways it may be worth buying the .xxx domain to avoid any blushes.

Don’t forget international protection too and, where possible (as some countries have restrictions on whom can purchase their domains), get the domain extensions for countries you operate in abroad (.fr, .it etc)

Multiple Domain Use

Ok, so above we’re telling you to buy multiple domains to protect your brand… in this section we’re going to explain how you can only really use one anyway.

From a search point of view, only one domain can be used. Any more and Google etc will see you as trying to cheat by getting multiple sites listed under different domains even though all the domains actually point to the same website – the dreaded duplicate content penalty!

As such, you should always 301 redirect (a term for an automatic redirection of one domain to another) your domains to a single and final domain – which ever one you chose to be your main domain (in the UK that will usually be a or .com domain).

There are ways you can use multiple domains, but ultimately they end up in you having multiple sites – for example you could set up microsites on the other domains you have (not very cost effective for the advantage it will give) and if you use foreign language sites, you can have each of them running under the different countries’ domains with the domain defining the language a user is shown your site in.

Don’t forget that running a site with www. and without a www. start counts as two sites! Remember to forward one onto the other in whichever way best suits your brand.

Offline Use

When looking at your domains – don’t forget about their offline use. If you choose a particularly long domain remember you’ve got to fit it on printed marketing (business cards, brochures, vans etc) – if it’s too long you’ll either need extra-long stationary or a very small font! Your end user also has to sit and type it out too.

Your name is likely to be spoken too – your staff may have to read out your domain name over the phone for example… “Yes sir, it’s www dot our hyphen company hyphen name hyphen website dot co dot UK”. Hyphens do help you secure branded domains that might have already been taken without the hyphens and can help domains be easily readable, but users want domains they can type quickly – no hyphens and no numbers if it can be helped.

Domain Purchasing And Management

It’s a little point, but one that can save you a lot of hassle down the line. Many times, irrespective of the client size, we often get told that an organisation doesn’t know how to get access to their domain account. The domain is on auto renewal so they’ve paid for it, but it was purchased ten years ago by someone who’s no longer with the company and nobody knows the username or password.

If you don’t have in house IT, speak to your IT company or, more so, whomever looks after your emails. As a digital agency, focussed purely on the website aspect of working with you, we often don’t need full domain access as we only need to interact with a small part of the domain settings, so we often recommend that your email or IT company is the best place to administer your domain.