Once upon a time, having a domain name (like .com or .ie) was what you might call ‘fancy’! Those who did were either large corporations or confirmed nerds who managed their own servers.
The rest of us made do with phone and fax. Some people signed up for dial-up internet services which came with a single email address like email@example.com.
They were simpler times and we all proudly put iol.ie or yahoo.co.uk on business cards and vehicles, on advertising and on signage.
But times change and now you can register a custom domain name for just a few cents per month. As more and more people choose to do so, those old-style email addresses are beginning to look a little dated.
But if cost is not a concern anymore, many people just don’t know where to start. So, we went to the Irish leaders in domains and web hosting, Blacknight in Carlow, to get their top ten tips for choosing and using a domain name for your online brand identity.
It’s All About Trust
64% of Irish consumers have little or no trust in businesses that use free email addresses like Gmail or eircom.net. That’s from a survey of 1,000 Irish consumers conducted by the IE Domain Registry (IEDR) in 2017. By contrast, 77% said they trust companies that use professional email addresses (such as firstname.lastname@example.org, for example).
A company which has its own domain name is showing that it cares about its brand and reputation. It’s like dressing appropriately to meet a customer or brushing the floor of your shop. Using a professional domain name is a signal that you are serious and committed to your business. And customers, in turn, will take you seriously.
.IE or not .IE - That is the Question
The .ie registry is the country-code domain for Ireland. In Ireland, .ie has widespread recognition among consumers. A .ie name doesn’t guarantee that a website is Irish, but it usually means that it is designed for an Irish audience.
If you are primarily focussed on doing business in Ireland, a .ie name can be a useful way to highlight your Irishness. However, if you intend to trade internationally, you should consider a generic domain (like .com, or .me) or a territorial one for the market you are targeting, like .uk or .eu.
Get Creative with New Generic Domains
.com and .ie are still the most popular choices for domains in Ireland. However, hundreds of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) have come to the fore in the last few years, leading to some interesting and creative possibilities.
“The new domain extensions work on multiple levels” explains Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon. “They highlight the particular business that a brand may want to emphasise. And they’re efficient, if space or words are at a premium, because they make more use of the space ‘to the right of the dot’. By comparison, a .ie extension tells you only that the entity which owns the name has some connection to Ireland. The .com extension carries no information at all”.
Visit www.blacknight.com/domains to see some of the more popular new gTLD options, including .design, .club, .app and .irish.
Choose a Meaningful Name (and Don’t Steal!)
“Keep it simple. One word or two - and no hyphens” says Neylon. (His company can be found at blacknight.com).
“You don’t need to have a totally unique name. If the domain name is available, and you are not competing with, or confusingly similar to, another brand with the same name, you are perfectly entitled to register your domain name if you are acting in good faith”.
‘Cybersquatting’ is frowned upon. It’s not a legitimate strategy for business success. Neylon describes it as the practice of people registering a domain, the same as or similar to someone else’s brand, when they are acting in bad faith with the sole purpose of infringing another’s intellectual property.
“All the major domain registries have Dispute Resolution Policies based on WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) rules,” he explains. “Rights holders have an opportunity to contest a malicious domain registration and, if successful, have it reassigned to them”.
Make it Short and Memorable: Say it Out Loud
Is your domain name catchy and memorable? Is it easy to spell? How will it look on the side of a van, in a print advertisement or on a billboard? How will it sound on radio or television?
Remember that the domain extension is part of the domain name. Think about how many brands are simply referred to by their domain names: booking.com, appliancesdelivered.ie, boohoo.com, 123.ie.
Email: Use it! Share it!
By itself, domain registration is like the title deeds to your online space. Nothing happens until you connect the domain to services such as email or a website. This is called hosting.
Email hosting is the first step for most people. There are a range of options: Blacknight’s entry level email hosting costs €9.99 ex VAT per year and supports up to three email addresses. What about info@ .... support@ … manager@ …? Do you need more? Blacknight offers a range of options, including Microsoft Office 365 and Hosted Exchange. “A quick conversation with our sales staff is usually enough to figure out the best plan for each customer,” says Michele Neylon.
A One-Page Website is Better than None
Registering a domain name can take just a few minutes, but you’ll want to take some time to plan and design the website it leads to. Web development companies offer a range of options, from simple brochure websites to large ecommerce stores, depending on requirements.
The best advice is to shop around. Look at other websites. Make a list of what features appeals to you. Talk to friends and colleagues and look for testimonials and references before you enter into a contract with a developer. Ask about maintenance and support. Do you want to be able to update the site yourself, or have your developer do it? What about training?
But while you wait for your ideal site to be built, your webspace doesn’t have to be idle. You can get a small site up in minutes, with a few pictures and your contact details. Blacknight’s siteBuilder is a simple and easy way for non-technical people to do this. It costs just €39.99 ex VAT and includes a free domain name and security certificate. For some, that’s all they’ll ever need.
Get a Security Cert
Nowadays every website needs a digital security certificate, also known as SSL. These are no longer the exclusive preserve of banking and ecommerce sites. The movement to encourage adoption of secure web protocols has the backing of big players like Google. Search engines give higher ranking to sites with SSL certs, and web browsers have begun to flag those without as ‘insecure’.
Thankfully, digital certificates are easy to install. Blacknight offers a range of fully supported certificate options, including one that’s free with siteBuilder.
Ask for Help
If you’re new to owning your own little bit of the Internet, there can be more questions than answers at first. Blacknight suggests you take it one step at a time, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“We have customer service staff available to take your call in Carlow,” explains Alan O’Reilly, Customer Service Manager at Blacknight. “We also handle requests by email and live-chat, we’re active on social media and we have a support forum on boards.ie”.
Check your Inbox
Owning your domain name can be like having a pet: there are responsibilities as well as benefits. The main thing to remember is that your domain name comes up for renewal every year. If you forget to renew you could lose your domain, and your site and email will stop working.
You can choose to renew your domain automatically using the payment details on file in your Blacknight account control panel. You can even pay for multiple renewals up to ten years in advance, as Alan O’Reilly explains.
“Whether you have selected the auto-renew option or not, you’ll be notified by email when your renewal is due and before the payment is taken,” he says. “And we’ll also contact you periodically by email to verify your contact details. For a domain holder, it’s important to maintain a valid email contact and phone number and we protect any personal data you provide”.