What’s in a name? Choosing and using a domain name

In today’s marketplace, being on the internet is a must. It provides your clients fast and easy access to you, and you to your clients. But how do you represent your organization through your use of the internet? So many small business operators send e-mails that brand them as the user of one internet provider or another. You’ve seen it – username@internetprovider. What may be worse is an address through a free mail service (Hotmail, Yahoo!, etc.) What does that say about your business or organization and how serious you are about it? The words ‘cheap’, ‘fly-by-night’ and ‘unprofessional’ come to mind.

One way to project a more professional image is to register a domain name and use it for your e-mail address, even if you do not have a Web site. It says you take your work seriously. It is not hard to do, nor is it expensive.

How should you choose a domain name? Whatever you choose, you want it to be memorable, easy to use and unique. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • The most logical choice is your business or organization name, or a variation on it. (Use abbreviations cautiously, they can be confusing or hard to remember.) If the name is taken or unworkable, consider basing it on your tagline or a slogan identified with you (like IKEA’s unboring.com campaign), a descriptive adjective (qualityservice.com) or product name (superwidget.com – there are advantages to this in the world of search engines). If you operate under your own name, you may be in luck, but ask yourself – and others – how easy your name is to spell.
  • Avoid a dash or underscore unless it is part of your business name. They are hard to say when you tell someone your address. Abbreviations make it hard for people to guess your domain – and they will if they cannot find your business card right away!
  • Keep it short as possible. Long domain names are hard to fit on a business card and are more prone to typing errors.
  • Be careful – of similar domains. For example, if you are choosing a .ca domain, find out where the .com equivalent takes you. Think about similar spelling or plurals, too. You don’t want to accidentally send clients to a competitor with a similar name – or worse, an “unsavoury” site!

Once you have your domain name, use it – for both a web address as well as for e-mail addresses. It seems quite baffling that an organization has a domain name and a web site, but the email goes to a mailbox with their local internet provider. What’s with that? It shows someone hasn’t taken the time to deliver a consistent identity (maybe there isn’t one) and does not pay attention to detail.

Choose wisely, but choose. Then use it. Show your clients you care about what you do. If you do, they will too. What’s in a name? Lots!

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