Choosing the Right Domain Name for a Small Business | page 2 of 2
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Small Business Domain Name FAQs

16.09.2009
Following on from the general advice about what you should keep in mind when choosing a domain name for a small business, here are some specific questions that regularly crop up.

Natural keyword domains

There are very few of these left, but occasionally you might find that (for example) www.plumberbrighton.co.uk or www.sussexcaterer.co.uk are available. If you see a natural keyword domain that relates to your business, register it.

Even if you don't intend to use it, registering it stops your competitors using it and gives your business an asset that can usually be resold for many times the price paid.

Should you use hyphens?

Hyphens can be used to get keyword domains that wouldn't otherwise be available; for example, www.plumber-brighton.co.uk might be available if www.plumberbrighton.co.uk is gone.

But the hyphen can be forgotten when people mention the name, and many affiliate or spam sites use hyphenated domains so they can have some unpleasant associations. Hyphens can be used to make sure words read correctly. A common example given is the famous site www.experts-exchange.com; without the hyphen this could have a completely different meaning!

Update : A Google representative indicated in this interview in October 2009 that hyphens aren't a reliable signal of spam in all countries.

I can't get the domain name I want!

You need to be creative. For example, www.webdesign.co.uk is taken, but my initials are PF and www.pfwebdesign.co.uk is available and is personal to me.

Remember that if your initial choice of keywords are gone you might be able to get related words - for example 'construction' instead of 'builder', or 'law' instead of 'solicitor'.

If you keep playing with combinations of keywords and variations on your business name you should always be able to get something very close to what you wanted - or even better. Take your time; this is very important.

What extension(s) should I register?

I always recommend a .co.uk, even if you (plan to) trade overseas as well as in the UK. If your business is truly international then a .com could be better. If you will have offices abroad you should also make sure that you can register www.mybusiness.fr (France) or www.mybusiness.de (Germany) for example.

Whichever it is, make sure that you can register both the .co.uk and the .com of your chosen name. You do not want to lose traffic to a competitor (or, worse still, a professional domainer).

My Business Name has already been registered!

Often there's not a lot you can do about this. If someone registers a .uk domain with an identical name to your existing business then you may be able to claim the domain from them, if you can demonstrate 'abuse' - i.e. that there is an unfair motive behind the registration or use of the domain.

If the domain name was in existence before your business and is not being used abusively then you have no claim to it. For more information see Nominet's Dispute Resolution Guidance.

Who should I buy a domain from?

I would recommend that you choose a registrar that will provide you with a control panel to administer the domain yourself, and will not charge exorbitant fees to transfer the domain to another registrar.

The control panel will allow you to log in yourself and update things like the NameServers (which determine which webspace the domain will point to) and the MX record (which determines which mail servers are used to process email for the domain).

As you can register a .co.uk for 2 years for £10 or less, I regard a transfer fee of any more than £10 as an exorbitant fee. There are many companies that do not charge any transfer fees.

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