Choosing Your Website Domain

Chris Hawkins's picture

When you decide you’re going to build a website for your project, one of the first things you’ll need to do is select a website domain. For those unfamiliar with the term, a website domain is the URL that the website uses - in our case is our website domain.

When choosing your new domain, there are a few factors to consider. You’ll want a name that communicates to your users what you do, or that communicates a feel, tone, or value of your brand.

You’ll want to consider the domain suffix you’ll use: .com, .ca, .org, or a myriad of other options. This is VERY important - when looking for your domain, you should look to purchase only if the .com is available. Even if you’re only looking to rank within Canada and you’ll be using the .ca domain to host your files at, if another business owns the .com, you will forever be trying to distinguish yourself from them. Save yourself the trouble and only purchase domain names that have both the .com and .ca available.

What about all the other domain suffixes? What constitutes a Top Level Domain or TLD? Your best bets for Top-Level Domains are .com, .ca, .org, and .net in that order. You’ll want to own at least the .com, .ca, and .org for whatever domain term you decide on. Some companies choose to hold variations on their name as well, as a way of protecting them from use by other businesses.

Domain Registrars: Best Practices

To search for and register your domain, you’ll need to use a domain registrar service - companies that register and hold your domain for you as long as you pay the yearly fees. Some of the most common domain registrars are:

  1. CloudFlare
  2. GoDaddy
  3. CIRA (.ca domains only)
  4. NameCheap
  5. FastComet

While you’ll be able to say you “own” a domain while holding it, the system is closer to leasing, where you hold property only as long as you continue to pay for it. It’s generally cheaper to reserve domains for a few years at a time, but be cautious when starting out, as domains tend to be cheaper the first year and more expensive each consecutive year, and 10 domains can easily cost a combined $200/year, not including hosting.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Using the free / cheap “builders” that domain registrars and hosting companies provide: These often appear as “free website” offers, or as cheap building tools. These builders offer to launch a website same day, but the websites these builders launch are about as high quality as early 90’s websites. Save yourself the trouble and don’t degrade your brand with a cheap website. Use high quality open-source CMS’s (Content Management System) like Wordpress or Drupal instead.
  2. Using the cheap “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization) services offered by hosts or registrars: Many offer a service for as low as $90 a year, claiming they can make you rank in the search engine for that cost. These are false claims, and not at all how SEO works. You’ll be better off hiring a real SEO Consultant or firm, or waiting for your website to gain traction on its own while you publish valuable content.
  3. Using long phrases as your main domain: These may give you some search ranking if the keywords involved.
  4. Using misspells of popular websites or search terms: Many people assume a misspell will get them more traffic, but it won’t. Google automatically reverts misspell searches to the real term. Besides, you’ll never reach your brand’s full potential without building an authentic brand identity.
  5. Buying domains through auctions when you’re starting out: You might have the perfect domain name in mind and it’s unavailable to the public. Another person may be holding your intended domain for private sale or auction, but as a new business, don’t spend more than $20 ea for your first domain. You should be working on building your business model, developing a brand, and creating value for your users. If your business gains traction and proves its profit model, you may later want to buy a fancy or specific domain at auction, but for now work on proving your concept.

Should I Host With My Registrar?

Each domain you intend to host a website on or redirect will need to be hosted. Many domain registrars offer hosting services as well, though it’s a matter of personal preference whether to host with the same company that you’ve registered a domain with. Many business owners keep their registrar separate from their hosting as some companies that solely host websites have better customer service and tech support hours.

No matter what services you choose for registering and hosting your domains, do remember to build a high quality website with powerful content. Nothing replaces a well designed, well structured website with purposeful, valuable content. As long as you build something of value and continue to get to know your target markets, you should be fine.

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