Once you have chosen a name for your business, you may want to check that it is available as a domain name.
A domain is a unique online identity and registering a domain name is the first step in establishing your business presence on the web. The domain name is your unique URL, ie www.yourcompanyname.co.za. You can choose to register your domain name yourself if you are fairly familiar with the online world, or you can pay an Internet service provider to register it on your behalf.
Registering your domain name
You can log on to Uniforum’s website and download the relevant forms, fill them in and submit them to register your domain name. Unfortunately it is not always as easy as choosing a domain name and simply filling a form in to own a domain. Many of the ‘good names’ are already taken. If the domain name you have in mind is owned by someone else you can contact them and offer to purchase it from them at an agreed price. But, if they are charging more than you are willing to pay or simply refuse to sell it to you, you need to look at alternatives.
If the .co.za version of your name is taken, you can look at possibly using . net, .org or even .com if these are available. The problem arises when potential customers assume your URL is .co.za and end up on the wrong website. You can look at adding prefixes or suffixes like “the”, “online”, etc to the domain name. Visit www.whois.com to perform a search on the most widely used domains.
Using a service provider
If you don’t have any experience in web development or hosting, it is advisable to go this route. There are a number of Internet service providers who are able to assist in registering your domain, and who can host your website for you. Look around at what they offer and how much they charge to make sure you are getting what your business needs. You will need to check whether or not the domain you are interested in is available before you submit the name to your service provider.
Checking availability of a domain name
Before you attempt to register your domain name, you can do a quick check to see whether or not someone already owns it. You can log onto http://www.coza.net.za/whois.shtml and type in the name you are interested in registering. You will then find out if it is available or if someone already owns the domain, their details will come up.
Do’s and don’ts of securing a domain name
Do: Include a location or keywords in your domain name, if you can.
If your business focuses on a geographic region, try to put the location into the name of your domain. For example if you have a painting business located in Sandton, you could register www.sandtonpainter.com. This will show up at the top of keyword searches that include ‘Sandton’ and ‘painter.’ Whether it’s location, or what your company does, put the most important keyword for your industry in the domain name.
Do: Register yourself as the owner of the domain name.
Some business owners make the mistake of not checking to ensure whoever registers their domain name does so under the business owner’s name. It’s very important to be sure you are the domain owner and administrative contact. It’s just like a piece of property. If you don’t own the property, you can’t sell an existing business.
Do: Remember to renew your domain name registration.
Missing the renewal of your company’s domain name can be a crippling business blow. If someone else buys the name you will have lost contact with clients. You can buy a registration for five or 10 years upfront, or set up an annual auto-renew payment. Just make sure the credit card on file doesn’t expire, another common mistake that might lead to losing a domain name.
Don’t: Use dashes, abbreviations or numbers in your domain name.
Instead, come up with a catchy name that’s easy to remember and captures your business. You get much more word-of-mouth if it’s a name you can easily say without having to spell out.
Don’t: Buy a domain without checking into its past.
Even available domains can be exposed to legal trouble if the name is too similar to another company’s trademark.
Local hosting companies:
Checking domain availability: