Over the years we've owned quite a large number of domain names, from variations on our business name such as obrienmedia.eu, common misspellings like obrianmedia.co.uk, and even for specific products and services we offer such as smsmessenger.co and tasknow.co.uk. This isn't to play to our vanity but to protect our business and brand from others who might – either intentionally or accidentally – decide to register a similar domain name, at which point we would run the risk of customers looking for us finding another business.
1. Own your brand
Domains are registered on a first come, first served basis so once it's gone, it's usually gone for good!
The first rule of marketing is to own your brand, from a digital point of view you'll want to own your business name equivalent as a domain name – in the same way as we're O'Brien Media Limited and own obrienmedia.co.uk – but you should also consider how it would affect your business if someone registered an alternate version of your name.
We trade pretty much exclusively in the UK and Europe so we registered obrienmedia.eu and obrienmedia.uk in addition to obrienmedia.co.uk. All three direct visitors to the same website but we're covered in case people try one of the other domain names and we're protected from other people registering those names.
2. Make typos count
We mentioned earlier that we own a few misspellings of our main domain name, such as obrianmedia.co.uk – this is beneficial when most of your sales come as a result of word of mouth and is especially important if your business name could be spelt in a different way. Another common reason for registering misspellings is to make sure that crafty competitors can't register them and drive visitors to their website!
3. Visitor expectations
A charity using a .biz domain might put people off, a .org domain could send a better signal
In the same way that you wouldn't want to host your business website on free web space that features another company's name (think your-business.example.com rather than your-business.com) your visitors might be put off by some domain name extensions.
Choosing a .biz domain name as the main domain name for a charity could be confusing to visitors, as could using a .info domain name for an ecommerce website. There's no reason not to register those types of domain name to make sure you own your brand online but you should make an informed choice about the domain name you use as your main website address.
4. Keep ahead of the game
It's always a good idea to keep an eye out for new domain name extensions, such as .uk which was launched last year – not registering your .uk domain name now could mean that someone else registers it, leaving your customers confused if they type what they think should be your domain name and get a competitors website.
It's pretty hard to predict which domain name extensions will take off, as of February 2015 there are 810 top-level domains (including the familiar .com, .net, .co.uk and the not so familiar .xyz and .ninja) but it's a safe bet that shorter versions such as .uk will gain some traction as they're easier for visitors to type, easier to say, and from an aesthetic point of view look better on printed materials.