Small businesses will have heard the warnings of “watch out for silly spelling mistakes” or “consider adding a hyphen if the domain you want is taken”, but there are still bumps in the domain road that keep catching even the most clued-up SME out.
While you don’t need to be a domain name expert to create your own website, arming yourself with the right knowledge can help you make the right decision and avoid any costly mistakes down the line.
Georgia Themistokleous and Chris Spencer, domain specialists at Fasthosts, share their expert insight into what small businesses should look out for when choosing and maintaining domain names. Here are their ten top watch outs that every small business should keep in mind.
1. Domains can only be registered for periods between one to ten years
When you buy a domain name, you enter into an agreement. If you change your mind and notify your provider quickly enough, within days or weeks depending on the terms and conditions, you can likely cancel the registration and get a refund. But any longer and you’ll be out of pocket for the duration of your registered period.
That being said, if you choose a shorter period, you may be open to yearly price increases. So, if you are certain on your domain name, entering into a longer-term agreement may allow you to freeze your price and avoid hikes down the line.
2. Older domains may be more valuable
Domains that have been around for a while may offer a greater return in traffic. That is because search engines believe they have more authority as a result of their age and as such may bump these up the search rankings.
Many providers offer the reselling of old domains, referred to as the domain aftermarket, and you may be able to find one that has some weight behind it. However, ultimately age does not trump relevancy, so don’t go hunting unless your dream domain already exists.
3. Newer extensions can offer great alternatives
There’s a common theme in the SME world – tight budgets. Desirable domains like .com can be very expensive as there is a limited supply, and most will already be registered and listed for resale instead. In recent years, however, newer extensions have been growing in popularity.
Rather than your photography website ending in .com, for example, how about exploring .photo instead? You’re likely to be able to secure a more relevant domain name for a fraction of the price.
Weighing up the budgets, the legacy of the domain name, and the relevancy to your brand, will help you make the best choice for your business.
4. Buying as many extensions as possible can safeguard your business
With all these new extensions popping up, it’s easier than ever for other people to ride off the back of your website’s success. Lookalike domains can easily divert traffic away from your site and potentially put your brand’s reputation at risk.
Even if your brand is trademarked, it can be time-consuming and expensive to go through the dispute resolution processes needed to keep lookalike sites at bay.
Instead, it may be worth safeguarding your site by buying as many extensions as your budget feasibly allows, using the free web forwarding services offered by most providers to direct traffic from these extensions to your main site. Make sure to contact your provider to see if you can get a discount on a bulk purchase.
For trademark holders, tools such as Trademark Clearing House will notify you of when a registration on a new extension may be infringing your copyright.
5. The fine print is important
With the above being said, you shouldn’t blindly tick that you’ve read the criteria for the extension you wish to purchase. When you buy a domain you are actually at first only applying to register the name, and there is always a chance the application could fail if you don’t meet the required criteria.
Owners of extensions like .ltd.uk and .plc.uk, for example, must all meet certain business requirements. You can get your money back if your application fails, but it’s an unnecessary roadblock that can be easily overcome by checking the fine print.
6. A domain name isn’t a website
Domain providers often offer staggering sales, promising domains for as little as 99p. While these provide an excellent opportunity to bag a bargain, remember that a domain isn’t a website, so it’s important to factor in the cost of buying hosting and email hosting on top.
7. If you have a domain name, you shouldn’t be using a generic email address
Most domain providers will throw in at least one free email address with any package, or in the very least will offer a forwarding service to a personal email. If yours doesn’t, it’s worth looking for a provider who does as there is no reason why your business should be lumped with having to use generic email addresses from the likes of Gmail or Hotmail. Using email hosting is an easy way to show you are legit and you mean business, so make the most of it!
8. If your details are incorrect, your domain may be suspended
When registering a domain name or updating the contact details assigned, the domain registrar will check your details to ensure that they are valid. If your details are inaccurate or invalid your domain may be suspended, bringing your website and email down with it. Therefore, ensuring your details are correct at all times is key to keeping your business online.
9. Don’t update your details if you are looking to move providers imminently
The above remains true, however, if you are looking to move providers timing is vital. Whenever you change your details (excluding .UK domains), the domain name is locked for 60 days as a security measure in case there are any disputes over the change of details.
This means you won’t be able to move providers in that time. Due to GDPR regulations, providers aren’t allowed to exchange your details anyway, all they need is a secure authorisation code, therefore don’t fret about updating your details before you move – you can do this once you get to your new provider.
10. Your domain may be worth a lot of money
Remember that domains are a finite resource, and as such yours might be worth a lot of cash. If it’s a popular or long-standing domain, you may be approached by companies looking to acquire it. Selling can also be a great solution if you no longer want your domain mid-way through your agreement.
Some providers may work as a bit of a buffer, fielding the requests to you with no obligation to respond. However, don’t forget to consider the value of your traffic if you are thinking about selling.
There’s more than meets the eye to the domain name market and keeping these factors in mind will help you make the best choice for your business no matter your budget. Remember that the market is ever growing and adapting with new extensions popping up frequently. Keeping up to date on the latest trends will help you to reach your target audience in the most efficient way possible.