Before You Get Your Business Online, Do Some Research
I have owned a lot of domain names over the years and I have launched a lot of successful online businesses as well as dogs. Some things work, and some things don’t as you will learn when you get your business online. Unfortunately when I started building businesses online, it was still the wild west. There wasn’t close to the amount of information available as there is today. I actually had to buy books. Hard copy books. Can you imagine? This meant it was far more difficult to learn from someone who traveled before me. Books were outdated by the time they were published. Most roads online were untraveled and I went through a ton of trial and error. I tried just about everything and the majority of things didn’t work. It was painfully slow to iterate and find things that did work. Here at Long Live The Internet, we set out to help like-minded people like yourself get your business online with ease. We want to help you get your business online quickly and effectively by learning from our mistakes and successes. In this post we are going to cover how to get your business online with a domain name that works.
When I was in college and young and dumb, my roommate and I started buying domain names. We had seen that business.com had just sold for $150,000 and the year was 1997. Later the domain sold for $7.5 million but buying and selling domains seemed like something we could do. It was the gold rush days and we thought we would easily cash out on some desirable names that larger companies would want. Around that same time, I had the itch to start my own online business.
My First Domain Name Mistake
I had actually started an online auction site similar to eBay but focused only on figurines, dolls, characters, etc. The idea was that eBay at the time was alienating a lot of users and there were factions that were looking for an alternative option. Its a long story and if you are interested you can read about my first online business here. Anyhow, one of the domain names I had purchased for the site was BarbieShop.com. I didn’t use this domain name as the main name for my site but rather pointed it to a landing page. The page at the time which was targeted to people listing their Barbie Dolls and various barbie accessories on the site.
When I registered the domain name I wasn’t planning on selling it. I really registered it to use as a relevant domain name for a landing page. At that time, and still today, once you get your business online you have to attract traffic. Traffic or visitors is the life blood of an online business. I was using this particular page that barbieshop.com was pointing to in order to attract people looking to buy or sell Barbie dolls online. I would point banner ads related to Barbie to this specific page with the intention of getting them to register for free and hopefully start buying and selling their Barbies through my site. I built about half a dozen of these landing pages including this amazing Hulk Hogan Wrestling one.
The Bad Guys Came
The landing pages were doing great although the site had little traction at best. I was puttering along building the site and the business. I remember the day I went to the mailbox to grab my mail only to find a love letter from a big fancy Park Ave New York attorneys office. The letter read something to this affect.
It has come to our attention that you are the current owner of the domain name BarbieShop.com. As per cybersquatting law blah blah, we demand that you immediately hand over ownership of the domain name and any claim to it. We expect a response by end of week.
I was a little rattled but I chalked it up to a bullying tactic. Unfortunately the day will come once you get your business online when someone comes to bully you. I decided I was going to use my top secret strategy of ignoring the letter and hoping it would go away. Most of you are familiar with this technique. It works about 10% of the time. This time it didn’t. Somehow they obtained my phone number and were now calling me. I felt harassed. I took a deep breath and switched to business mode. Maybe there was a way for me to benefit from this. Maybe I could even sell the name to them and cash out. I hired an attorney and played a little hard ball for as long as I could. I told them I would sign a non-disclosure but they were going to have to pay me. They weren’t having it.
Unfortunately you know how this story ends. Little college kid vs Goliath. The problem with my particular case was that I had barbieshop.com pointing to a landing page. The page actually showed the Barbie brand. They argued it was confusing to a visitor, even though I clearly had a disclaimer. Eventually I was forced to transfer the domain name to Mattel without getting a penny. Not only did I not get any money, I didn’t even get my $20 for the domain name reimbursed. (domain names were more expensive back then and not cheap like they are now at GoDaddy. I had to cover my attorney fees and nurse my wounds. I had though, learned a lesson.
When picking a domain name to get your business online you must check for trademarks. You don’t want to end up in a battle like I was with Mattel. Your first step is to go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to search for your proposed name. If you don’t find anything that matches your name, you can move forward with registering your domain name. Please don’t decide on your company name and create your legal company entity before you have the domain name secured.
I don’t care how clever or perfect your company name is. If you can’t get a good domain name then it won’t matter. You are building an online business and picking a domain name for your online business is the most important way people find you.
Get Your Business Online and Keep It Simple Stupid
You don’t want to be cute with the spelling of your domain name. Think about telling someone your domain name for your online business over the phone. What do you think your next sentence in this conversation is? If the next sentence out of your mouth is how to spell the domain, you’re making a mistake. You don’t want to have to explain to everyone how to spell your site. You don’t want a dash in your name. You don’t want a .net or .us or anything that people are going to forget. Stick with an easy to spell, concise, .com domain name. It doesn’t matter when you get your business online if nobody can go to it.
Think About Search Engines
There are a couple of things to consider when choosing your domain name related to search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is how you are able to control factors that directly affect where your site shows up in search engines. Once you get your business online, search engine optimization will become extremely important. Lets look at an example. Lets assume you get your business online and you decide to sell motorcycle helmets. When people search for Motorcycle Helmets you want to appear as high in the search results as possible.
There is a direct correlation between how high you rank in the search results and traffic to your online business. This increased traffic ideally equates to more sales and more money in your pocket. When you make the plunge to actually get your business online, you must pay attention to search engine optimization. We discuss search engine techniques in other posts but I personally believe that your domain name is an extremely important factor for ranking of your site.
This is a debatable argument and you will find just as many people saying it does matter as those saying it doesn’t. I’m telling you from testing with hundreds of sites, it matters. It’s not a game changer but it helps. This means that www.motorcyclehelmets.com generally speaking would have a better chance of showing higher in the search results than www.chipsheadprotection.com when searching for “motorcycle helmets.”
I’m not saying you must have the keywords in your domain name but it certainly helps. You also want to consider the future of your business. If there is any chance that you foresee selling bicycle helmets down the road, you probably don’t want to have motorcycle helmets in your domain name. Consider these things before you pick a name. Once you think you have the name you want its time to see if its available.
Its Time To Register Your Domain
Head over to GoDaddy Here. Its simple, inexpensive and if you register your domain they throw us a couple of nickels which is much appreciated. There are lots of domain name registrars online but we always stick with GoDaddy because of their simplicity and support if you are having trouble. Your first step is to check availability. I will tell you now, don’t get your hopes up. The chances are, the name you want is taken. Don’t be discouraged. This is part of the process. GoDaddy will try and recommend some alternatives to your name if its not available. I don’t recommend these. They may try and sell you a .net or .info or add a random word to the end of the domain. If you don’t like it, don’t settle. Go back to the drawing board and keep searching. Its free to search and this is going to be your domain for a long time. This is a crucial step to get your business online so don’t rush through it.
Once you have found the name you want, you will start being presented with options. If you would like another layer of privacy you can add privacy to the domain registration for an additional $15 or $20. We would recommend doing this otherwise your address and name will be visible from a domain whois lookup. This is an online tool where people can see who owns the domain name and have access to your contact information. Its not a huge issue but you may not want to show your home address online. This is how Mattel got my contact info when they sent me a love letter.
Other than the private registration, I don’t recommend that you add anything like hosting or email or other unnecessary items. If you are just about to get your business online and just starting out, then you don’t need to upgrade anything except the privacy. Go Daddy is a great service and very reasonable but they are also very good at upselling you additional things you probably don’t need. Save your money as you are going to need it for other things to get your business online.
Once you have selected the name, you are going to be asked to select the number of years you would like to register the domain for. There are a number of search engine professionals who are now saying that this is another factor that Google is using to rank your site. The theory is that a longer registration or more time remaining on the registration period implies permanence and therefore site legitimacy.
Reliable, Legitimate site = Rank higher on Search Results
We can’t say this is true for sure. but it is something to consider when registering your domain name. A happy medium between cost and this search engine ranking factor may be to register your domain for 2 or 3 years. In the early stages to get your business online you need to watch your expenses. 2 or 3 years is not too large an expense and gives you peace of mind that you don’t need to worry about the domain expiring for some time.
This Is Only The First Step To Get Your Business Online
Once you have paid, you are ready to rock. This was the first step to get your business online. You never thought picking a domain name would be so exhausting. You want to make sure you are considering all the potential issues ahead of time. Spending some time researching these things up front will save you a lot of headache down the road. This post is part of our online book How to Start an Online Store that walks you through step by step all the various steps to starting your online business.
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