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Choosing A Domain Name

When choosing a domain name for your business, it can be difficult to know what your first consideration should be. Should you give priority to finding a name that will help you rank high in the search engines? Or should you be more concerned with a name that describes your business?

One thing you should probably not do, unless you are very famous – i.e. a household name – is use your exact company name as a domain name. It can be tempting to do this, as you can be sure it will be easily available. However, if you are just beginning to establish a web presence, people won’t be looking for you as they won’t know about you. They will be looking for the service you provide. So you need a domain name that will help them find you easily.

The other thing you absolutely must not do when choosing a domain name is deliberately use a name that is similar to that of a famous competitor. For instance, suppose you are a financial adviser, and there is a very well-known bank called Parker Finance. You might be tempted to choose a domain name like ParkaFinance.com, in the hope that people looking for the famous bank might arrive at your site if they made a typing mistake, as often happens. However, you would find that the big companies are on the look-out for this practice and would have no hesitation in taking action against you.

So your main decision in choosing a domain name is: should you use a highly-searched keyword or phrase, to help your search-engine ranking? Or should you use a name which characterises your business as accurately as possible? Opinions differ. Some say using a keyword or phrase is a good idea. For instance, if you are a financial services provider, and you found that a highly-searched keyword was “leading financial services” you could choose a domain name like “leading-financial-services.co.uk” (if it was available). Others advise against it as the search engines keep changing their criteria, and recommend that you find a name that represents your business, such as FinanceForYou.com

What is important is that your domain name should be clear, memorable and as short as possible. You are very unlikely to get a one-word name as most of those have been snapped up long ago. But avoid hyphens if you can, and also letters mixed with numbers e.g. Finance4You or Finance4U. Remember that you or your staff will often have to tell people your web address over the phone, so the simpler you can make it, the easier it will be for people to find your site.

The other main question is, what top-level domain (TLD) to use – that is, the suffix at the end of the domain, e.g. .com, .co.uk, .net, .org etc. Most people advise going for .com if you can, as that has the most prestige. The .net suffix is also a good one. The .co.uk suffix is fine if you are a UK company, but you should probably still go for .com if you can. A lot of new ones have recently become available, such as .biz, .info. These are less prestigious, but cheaper if you are short of cash. However, if cash is not a problem it can be a good idea to buy up as many as possible of the other TLDs on your domain to prevent other people using them. If your site is called FinanceForYou.co.uk, and someone else sets one up called FinanceForYou.net, it can cause endless confusion.

Finally, bear in mind that even if you arrive at the most perfect domain name, you can’t have it if someone else has already registered it. When you go to your domain hosting site to type in your choice of domain, they will tell you if someone else has already taken it. They will then provide a list of suggestions for similar domains that are available. Remember – keep it clear, memorable and easy to spell, and you won’t go too far wrong.

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Buying A Domain Name

The process of buying a domain name starts with a domain hosting company. They do vary, both in price and reliability, so your best plan is to ask friends who have web sites to recommend a good one. Some companies provide web hosting services as well, which can be a big advantage.

The main thing to remember is that, although we talk about buying a domain name, you are not actually buying it, you are “renting” it – that is, registering it to yourself for a period of time. Many of the domain hosting companies are US companies but there are lots of UK companies as well. When your domain name is due for renewal, they will contact you, and if you fail to renew in time, you will lose the right to use it.

There are two or three approaches you can use in buying a domain name. The simplest way, once you have found your hosting company, is to think up the most appropriate domain name to describe your business, and type it in to the search box on their site. They will then tell you if the name is available or not. If it’s a good name, it probably won’t be! The site will then come up with a list of suggestions for similar names that are available, and you can usually find one that suits you. Be careful. You may have set your heart on the domain name “MyWidgets.com”. You may find that this isn’t available, but “MyWidgets.net” is. You can take this if you want, but it isn’t usually a good idea to use a name that’s so similar to someone else’s. Once you have chosen your domain, you can proceed to purchase on the site.

Another approach you can use is to go to one of the sites that list expired domain names. Sometimes you can find some really brilliant names that have been allowed to lapse for some reason – it may be that the owners have changed their e-mail address and forgotten to inform the hosting company, so they didn’t know the name was due for renewal. Or they may just have gone out of business. If you find one that you like, you can try registering it and see if it can be registered in the normal way. However, some of the expired domain sites put a price on these domains as they are considered more valuable.

A third possible way of buying a domain name is to join a domain auction service – these services are offered by one or two of the domain hosting companies. These work in a similar way to other Internet auction sites. You can either bid on the name, and wait to see if you have won the auction, or pay the “buy it now” price and snap it up straight away. This is only really for you if you are in the business of buying up domains in large numbers.

Whichever method of buying a domain name you use, don’t lose sight of how important it is. Your domain can come to represent your business in the minds of the public and potential customers. It’s worth taking trouble and making sure you get it right.

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Top tips for choosing a great domain name for your business

It’s important to choose the right domain name. Choose a name that people will remember. After all, the right domain name will increase visibility, inspire trust and attract customers.

Here are some great tips to help you through this process.

1. Choose your domain name quickly

.uk domain names are being registered at a rate of one every 20 seconds and allocated on a first-registered, first-served basis, so a delay in decision making could mean someone else gets there first.

2. Choose a name that suits your business

You should choose your domain name so that it best represents your company’s interests. Bear in mind the brand, what you offer, your unique selling point and the implications of being alphabetically listed.

Think about domain names that solve a problem or names that describe the products or services your company provides e.g. ‘marketing solutions’. Either way, your name will help drive targeted traffic to your web site if you take this approach.

3. Keep it short and memorable

Short memorable brand names are effective, especially if relevant to the personality of a business brand. If you keep the name short and snappy it is also less likely that people will misspell it and more likely that they will remember it and pass it on via word of mouth. For the same reasons it’s a good idea to keep the number of words in a domain name to 2 or 3 at most.

4. Think about keywords and branding

There is some debate about whether it’s better to choose a domain name that contains keywords (that will increase your search engine optimisation) or to focus on a name that is more generic or related to your brand.

If you are particularly interested in attracting customers via search engines it is advisable to choose a name that is a keyword. Choose keywords that are the names of the products or services you will be offering on your web site. You could then use specific keyword software to see how popular your potential domain names are to customers using search engines.

5. Decide which Top Level Domain (TLD) to use

Companies based in the UK usually register a domain name ending in .co.uk, and recent independent research suggests that British Internet users are six times more likely to choose a .uk rather than a .com address when looking for information via an Internet search engine. 72% of respondents also said they would visit a British web site above any other.

There are however a number of other alternatives including .com or other Second Level Domains such as .org.uk (or non-commercial organisations), .me.uk (for individuals), .ltd.uk and .plc.uk (for Ltd and Plc companies) and .com, .info and others for generic usage.

6. Register your domain name in other suffixes

It’s not a bad idea to register several similar domain names. If you have ‘yourname.co.uk’ you could register ‘yourname.org.uk’ so no-one else can come in at a later stage and capitalise on your brand name using another major domain name type. You could also register your full company name and a shorter, easier to remember version.

7. Hyphens: Good or Bad?

If your ideal choice of domain name is not available, you might consider using a hyphenated version. One advantage of using them is that hyphens are said to identify keywords to search engines more clearly. The disadvantages of using hyphens are it makes your domain name harder to remember and more difficult to tell to a customer (e.g. on the telephone).

8. Take account of misspellings

Don’t use words that are difficult to spell, as people are likely to misspell your domain name, which may mean they don’t arrive at your web site. It’s also a good idea to avoid words that are spelt differently in some countries.

However, if you have a company name that is difficult to spell, it is worth registering domain names with common misspellings of it. You can of course point several domain names to your web site.

9. Before you register it, ask other people for their opinion

You might think your domain name is great, but what about other people? Ultimately you will be relying on whether other people find it memorable, understandable and useful in terms of attracting traffic to your web site.

A name that makes perfect sense to you may be too hard to remember or confusing to someone else. The easier the name is to spell, pronounce, remember and type the better. Web users are often impatient and if your site is not easy to find they may quickly give up trying.

10. Check whether your chosen name has already been registered

Use the search facility on our web site to check whether the domain name you have chosen is available. If the domain name is not available in any of the suffixes, you could try and contact the current registrant to see if they would be willing to sell the name to you.

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Top tips for registering a domain name

The domain name is an essential part of any web site, but choosing and registering it can be a tricky process.

Here are some great tips to help you through this process.

1. Choose your domain name quickly

.uk domain names are being registered at a rate of one every 20 seconds and allocated on a first-registered, first-served basis, so a delay in decision making could mean someone else gets there first.

2. Choose a name that suits your business

You should choose your domain name so that it best represents your company’s interests. Bear in mind the brand, what you offer, your unique selling point and the implications of being alphabetically listed.

Think about domain names that solve a problem or names that describe the products or services your company provides e.g. ‘marketing solutions’. Either way, your name will help drive targeted traffic to your web site if you take this approach.

3. Be flexible and creative in your choice of domain names

There are approximately 120-130 million domain names registered worldwide. It may be useful to think about a few alternatives in case the name you ideally want is already registered. Consider using hyphens and acronyms.

4. Decide which Top Level Domain (TLD) to use

Companies based in the UK usually register a domain name ending in .co.uk, and recent independent research suggests that British Internet users are six times more likely to choose a .uk rather than a .com address when looking for information via an Internet search engine. 72% of respondents also said they would visit a British web site above any other.

There are however a number of other alternatives including .com or other Second Level Domains such as .org.uk (or non-commercial organisations), .me.uk (for individuals), .ltd.uk and .plc.uk (for Ltd and Plc companies) and .com, .info and others for generic usage.

5. Register your domain name in other suffixes

It’s not a bad idea to register several similar domain names. If you have ‘yourname.co.uk’ you could register ‘yourname.org.uk’ so no-one else can come in at a later stage and capitalise on your brand name using another major domain name type. You could also register your full company name and a shorter, easier to remember version.

6. Check whether your chosen name has already been registered

Use the WHOIS search facility on the Nominet home page – www.nominet.org.uk to check the availability of all .uk domain names.

7. If it has been registered, you could check if it is for sale

If your first choice domain name is unavailable the cheapest solution is to choose something else. However, if you have your heart set on a particular name, you could try buying it from the current registrant. There’s no guarantee you will be able to acquire the domain, and even if the current registrant is willing to sell, it could cost you anywhere from a few hundred to many thousands of pounds.

8. Make sure the web address is registered in your name

This will make it easier to transfer a domain name, even if your registrar subsequently goes into liquidation. Pay particular attention to your rights to move your business and your domain name to another registrar, and whether there is a charge for doing so before you sign the contract. Use the WHOIS service to check the name has been registered in your name.

9. Make a diary note of the renewal date for your domain name

All .uk domain name registrations are valid for two years from the date of registration; others may vary so check your domain name certificate. Your registrar will normally contact you before the expiry date to ask if you wish to renew it for another two year period.

For .uk domain names, we will also contact you before cancelling the registration. Be aware that ‘Notices of Expiration’ demanding payment from sources other than your agent or Nominet may be a scam, so check correspondence carefully and contact your existing agent or Nominet if you have any concerns.

10. Tell your registrar if your contact details change

Your details must be correct for the domain name registration to remain valid and your registrar will not necessarily prompt you.

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Top tips for creating a personal web presence

You’ve decided to buy a domain name to create a personal web site, either to write a blog about your interests; to share news and photographs with your friends and family; or maybe to launch your own home business. How can your maximise the potential of your web site and increase the number of visitors?

Here are some great tips to help you make the most of your personal web presence.

1. Do your research

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And it can also save you having to reinvent the wheel. Whatever type of personal web site you are developing, search the Internet to view examples of similar sites. Make a list of what features of those sites are most effective and least effective. You can then concentrate on copying the good bits and avoiding the mistakes.

2. Decide on the goals and objectives for your web site

Before you choose the domain name for your web site it’s worth giving some thought to what you want to achieve through it. Think about the following questions to help work out what sort of domain name would suit your site:

• What is the main topic of your web site?
• What do you hope to achieve with it?
• Who is your intended audience?
• What tone of voice will the site be written in?
• What action do you want visitors to take – do you want to inform them or sell to them etc?

3. Choose a domain name that matches those goals

Pick a name that will grab the interest of your target audience and enable them to instantly understand the aim of your web site.

4. Make sure your domain name is memorable

Try and keep your domain name short – two to three words maximum. Avoid complex or hard to spell words, as people will struggle to type them correctly and remember them. Try to avoid a hyphenated domain name, as it will make the name hard to pass on verbally (e.g. on the telephone).

5. Be flexible about your choice of domain name

However, as there are approximately 120-130 million domain names registered worldwide, it may be useful to have a shortlist of alternatives in case the name you ideally want is already registered.

6. Think about sources of traffic to your web site

The type of traffic you want to attract to your web site will also have a bearing on your choice of domain name, as well as influencing how you decide to publicise the site, and the features and content you include.

Traffic to a personal web site usually comes from three main sources:

• Search engines
• Referral traffic (from other sites)
• Loyal readers

Each of these audiences will benefit from a different approach. The key to building a group of regular readers is to keep the content on the site fresh and update it regularly. Adding features such as a forum, or comments section will enable your audience to interact with you and others who share your interests, which can help keep the impetus going.

You can attract readers from search engines by using keywords. Search engines use keywords within domain names to rank web sites. If you choose a domain name that contains generic keywords (like mobile, music blog, gamer) you could achieve a high ranking. If your web site contains advertising this kind of traffic can be valuable, as visitors who come via search engines are more likely to click on ads than regular readers.

You can also attract readers who follow links from other sites. If your site is a blog you could benefit from links from one of the larger blogs such as Slashdot. This can result in large amounts of traffic and although these visitors are less likely to click on ads if they decide to post links to your site on their own blogs this can help with your search engine optimisation.

7. Marketing your web site through search engines

If you are not able to use keywords in your domain name you can still use search engines to promote your web site to a larger audience. Most of the search engines and directories allow you to register your web site for free. You can also take advantage of free banner advertising on various link exchange networks.

8. Marketing your web site through social networking sites

If you belong to a social networking site such as MySpace or Facebook, or you are a member of a network such as a Yahoo Group, make sure that you post a link to your web site on your page, and post messages every time you update the web site or add a new feature. It’s free advertising that could reach a much larger audience than you think.

9. Making money from your web site

You can make money from your web site by placing adverts on your home page that generate revenue when visitors click on them. Google Adsense adverts are pay per click and can generate decent revenue. You could also sign up for an account with Text Link ads, who will sell small text ads on your site and split the revenue with you 50-50. You can also take advantage of free access to various affiliate networks such as Amazon and LinkShare. You can also make extra revenue by adding a donation button – if your site is giving people genuine value they may well be prepared to give a donation.

10. Keep developing your web site

The key to any successful personal web site is to generate traffic. In order to keep attracting visitors to your site, you must spend time developing it and updating it regularly. Add new content as often as possible, and carry out regular reviews of your layout and design. Keep your eye out for new features you can add to improve usability and if you are monetizing your web site, experiment with different revenue streams.

11. Use your domain name for your emails

In addition to your web site you can use your domain name for your email address. If you have an existing personal email account (e.g. hotmail) you can keep this, but use the domain name to forward your email.

12. Publicise your blog relentlessly!

When you have finished creating your new blog you can launch it to your public. Write an introduction to the blog and submit it to various share web sites such as Digg, Reddit and Now Public. You can also create an account with Technorati and ‘claim’ your blog in order to make it more attractive to search engines. And don’t forget to Tweet about it on Twitter!

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Top tips for choosing a great domain name for your business

It’s important to choose the right domain name. Choose a name that people will remember. After all, the right domain name will increase visibility, inspire trust and attract customers.

Here are some great tips to help you through this process.

1. Choose your domain name quickly

.uk domain names are being registered at a rate of one every 20 seconds and allocated on a first-registered, first-served basis, so a delay in decision making could mean someone else gets there first.

2. Choose a name that suits your business

You should choose your domain name so that it best represents your company’s interests. Bear in mind the brand, what you offer, your unique selling point and the implications of being alphabetically listed.

Think about domain names that solve a problem or names that describe the products or services your company provides e.g. ‘marketing solutions’. Either way, your name will help drive targeted traffic to your web site if you take this approach.

3. Keep it short and memorable

Short memorable brand names are effective, especially if relevant to the personality of a business brand. If you keep the name short and snappy it is also less likely that people will misspell it and more likely that they will remember it and pass it on via word of mouth. For the same reasons it’s a good idea to keep the number of words in a domain name to 2 or 3 at most.

4. Think about keywords and branding

There is some debate about whether it’s better to choose a domain name that contains keywords (that will increase your search engine optimisation) or to focus on a name that is more generic or related to your brand.

If you are particularly interested in attracting customers via search engines it is advisable to choose a name that is a keyword. Choose keywords that are the names of the products or services you will be offering on your web site. You could then use specific keyword software to see how popular your potential domain names are to customers using search engines.

5. Decide which Top Level Domain (TLD) to use

Companies based in the UK usually register a domain name ending in .co.uk, and recent independent research suggests that British Internet users are six times more likely to choose a .uk rather than a .com address when looking for information via an Internet search engine. 72% of respondents also said they would visit a British web site above any other.

There are however a number of other alternatives including .com or other Second Level Domains such as .org.uk (or non-commercial organisations), .me.uk (for individuals), .ltd.uk and .plc.uk (for Ltd and Plc companies) and .com, .info and others for generic usage.

6. Register your domain name in other suffixes

It’s not a bad idea to register several similar domain names. If you have ‘yourname.co.uk’ you could register ‘yourname.org.uk’ so no-one else can come in at a later stage and capitalise on your brand name using another major domain name type. You could also register your full company name and a shorter, easier to remember version.

7. Hyphens: Good or Bad?

If your ideal choice of domain name is not available, you might consider using a hyphenated version. One advantage of using them is that hyphens are said to identify keywords to search engines more clearly. The disadvantages of using hyphens are it makes your domain name harder to remember and more difficult to tell to a customer (e.g. on the telephone).

8. Take account of misspellings

Don’t use words that are difficult to spell, as people are likely to misspell your domain name, which may mean they don’t arrive at your web site. It’s also a good idea to avoid words that are spelt differently in some countries.

However, if you have a company name that is difficult to spell, it is worth registering domain names with common misspellings of it. You can of course point several domain names to your web site.

9. Before you register it, ask other people for their opinion

You might think your domain name is great, but what about other people? Ultimately you will be relying on whether other people find it memorable, understandable and useful in terms of attracting traffic to your web site.

A name that makes perfect sense to you may be too hard to remember or confusing to someone else. The easier the name is to spell, pronounce, remember and type the better. Web users are often impatient and if your site is not easy to find they may quickly give up trying.

10. Check whether your chosen name has already been registered

Use the WHOIS search facility on the Nominet home page www.nominet.org.uk to check the availability of all .uk domain names.
If the domain name is not available in any of the suffixes, you could try and contact the current registrant to see if they would be willing to sell the name to you. If the domain name includes your registered trademark you may consider using the Dispute Resolution Service to try and obtain the domain name.

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