Most services and businesses these days require an online presence, and the best way to achieve that is to acquire a domain name. There are distinct advantages to this; specifically, but not limited to, securing a brand, your own name, and trademarks.

Another easy way to get your business online is to establish a social network presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter can easily accommodate this strategy. These networks, with regards to businesses, are the equivalent to a “word of mouth” referral and can be utilized to target ad campaigns, like a “Friends and Family” promotion.

OK, so how do I get started?

It’s best to understand the process of acquiring a domain name, so let’s start there. First, you need to search for them. Then you need to find a Registrar to purchase the domain from – which usually averages about $10/year. Typically, these resources can be found in one place – for example, GoDaddy.com has a great domain name search tool, and conveniently provides you a way to purchase them.

Another, more advanced, way to search for domain names is to utilize the WHOIS command in your operating system. I won’t go into detail about WHOIS usage, but the reason I mention this is to warn you that some (not all) online registrars log and monitor your searches. If they see something they believe to be of value, they will acquire it for themselves and attempt to sell it to you, or anyone else, for a higher price. And this is where the value using WHOIS comes into play. You can perform domain name searches without having to worry that a third-party will “steal” a domain from under you.

I’ve personally found that GoDaddy is a reliable and trustworthy registrar. That being said, I conduct all my domain name searches via WHOIS, but purchase my domains through GoDaddy.

What domain name should I register?

There’s actually 2 questions you need to ask yourself here:

  • Which domain name is best?
  • Should I register a domain name and its variants?

Choosing a domain name is quite easy. Beyond getting a domain that’s easy to remember and brandable, you want it to be relevant to your business or service too. The best domain names are ones that are short in length, easy to remember, and generally a .com over the other TLDs. The real hurdle you’ll likely face is that of availability. Rule of thumb is: All single-dictionary-words have been registered. As are words, real or not, of 5 characters or less. Every once in a while, one of these domains expire and are re-entered into a 90 day redemption period. Immediately after this period, it can be purchased at regular purchase price.

Which leads to an alternative: After market domain names. This is where you can bid or outright purchase premium domain names. Afternic, Sedo, and GoDaddy are popular choices. This route is limited to whatever is available at the time, but has the best choices for memorable and brandable names.

Should you also get the variants to your domain name? Securing the same name on multiple TLDs, such as .net, .org, .co.uk, etc. may make sense depending on the business or service. For example, there’s no need to secure international TLDs if you are running a local cleaning service. If, however, you supply a product, you may want to secure the domain variants to protect the brand… and also to protect yourself from those who may clone your product and set up an identical online presence to cut into your bottom line.

What about usernames?

Choosing a username is just as important as choosing a domain name. From an SEO perspective, it allows search engines to quickly, and appropriately associate your profile with your website or business. This creates authority and confidence for your audience. Typically, usernames for a third-party app are generally created as a single string with no spaces and limited special characters. As such, search engines will “read” it differently than you may want. You’ll have to be mindful of multi-worded user names as ‘bluebearbonnets’ is not the same as ‘blue bear bonnets’. Since you can not use spaces, search engines will not be able to “split” words from a string and make a connection like it would normally be able to. So we have to help the search engines. The best way to achieve this is to insert special characters to split the string.

The usernames ‘blue-bear-bonnets’ or ‘blue.bear.bonnets’ is not only easier for humans to read, but easier for search engines as well. The reason being that search engines will treat these special characters (dashes and periods) as spaces, and will therefore be able to make the match to the page titles on your website.

Why stop at one?

You can take the multi-pronged approach and cast a wide net utilizing multiple domains and multiple usernames across dozens of services out there. Take it upon yourself to secure not only your brand through a domain name, but also secure the usernames of the biggest (and most relevant) social media and community-based outlets. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter should be at the top of your list. But consider how other channels can be utilized. YouTube and Vimeo for videos, Flickr for photos, Etsy for crafts, eBay or Amazon to expand your retail reach, Yelp! for local business listing and the all-important reviews, WordPress and Tumblr, the list goes on!

Resources

Enable WHOIS in Windows:
Download this file from Microsoft and copy the .exe file into your /WINDOWS directory. Launch the command prompt to use.

WHOIS in Ubuntu/Linux:

whois ubuntu

Domain Name Search:

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