Choosing a domain name can be a complicated step for entrepreneurs. As the digital name of your company, your domain name is vitally important, but millions of domain names are reserved every year, making it more and more difficult to find an available one that properly represents your company.
Not to worry—the experts at our Montreal web agency answer all of your questions in this article so you can choose your domain name with confidence.
- What is a domain name?
- Frequently asked questions about domain names
- Can you change your domain name?
- Can you have multiple domain names?
- Can you use accents, symbols or numbers in a domain name?
- Can you use a domain name that’s already in use?
- How do you secure your domain name?
- Do you have to reserve your domain name in advance?
- How much does a domain name cost?
- Determine the value of a website based on domain authority (DA)
- How to choose your domain name
- Find the best domain name for your SEO
What is a domain name?
There are 3 elements associated with a domain name:
- The subdomain: “www.”, which isn’t really part of the domain name.
- The name: “mylittlebigweb”
- The domain extension or top-level domain: this part often depends on your company’s industry or location. The most frequently used extension is “.com”, with almost 200 million names reserved.
The last two elements, the name and the extension, make up the domain name. Think of your domain name as your internet address. Domain names and URLs are often thought to be synonymous, but your domain name is the title of your website, while the URL is just the pathway to get there.
In order to register your domain name, you will need to contact a registrar. “.ca” and “.qc.ca” domain extensions in Canada are managed by managed by CIRA (the Canadian Internet Registration Authority).
Frequently asked questions about domain names
Can you change your domain name?
Yes, you can change your domain name if it no longer meets your needs. However, domain names are inextricably linked to domain authority (which we discuss further below). In short, domain authority is a score that indicates a website’s credibility in the eyes of Google and other search engines.
If you change your domain name, search engines will have to index your site under a different URL. They will consider it a completely new website, not just a new name. And since we know that ranking is partly based on a website’s age and authority, the consequences of this change can be disastrous.
Can you have multiple domain names?
Yes, you can have multiple domain names, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea! Every domain name corresponds to a URL, so if you decide to use multiple domain names for the same website, search engines will see it as duplicate content. As you are undoubtedly aware, Google is not a fan of duplicate content.
Tools like CopyScape can help you avoid getting penalized for duplicate content.
While using multiple domain names for the same website may not be a good idea, it may be worth reserving them. Many companies reserve their domain name with multiple extensions, for example. You can also reserve your domain name with and without hyphens between the words. This will prevent other companies (competitors or not) from purchasing a domain name that’s too similar to yours. This does cost money, however, so make sure it’s worth the investment before proceeding.
Can you use accents, symbols or numbers in a domain name?
Yes, but once again, it’s not a good idea. Google recognizes these types of characters, but Internet users don’t usually enter them into the search bar. Characters can differentiate you from your competitors and websites with similar domain names, but they come with problems.
Accents are typically francophone. If your company is active in the rest of Canada or the international market, having a domain name that is only accessible to French speakers will not help your digital marketing strategy or your SEO.
Furthermore, if you decide on a domain name with accents, your domain name without the accents will still be available and may be taken by potential competitors. You may want to purchase all variations of your domain name to protect yourself. Note that for “.ca” domains, CIRA automatically reserves all accent variations for the registrant.
The problem with having numbers in your domain name is that they must always be positioned correctly when someone is looking for your website. A complex sequence such as “m12y3little4bi56gw7e8b9.com” will be difficult for people to remember, type and share.
Can you use a domain name that’s already in use?
No. Even though there are few laws governing the use of domain names as of yet, you can’t pick a domain name that’s already in use.
In order to make sure the domain name you want doesn’t get taken, it’s a good idea to reserve it and any additional domain extensions you’re interested in. For example, if you plan to expand your Quebec-based business into the rest of Canada, you’ll want to reserve the “.ca” extension as well as the “.qc.ca”.
In the example above, the ASOS website has reserved its domain name with a variety of extensions, including “asos.fr”, “asos.eu” and “asos.com”.
Can you use a domain name that has been used previously?
Yes. There are even advantages to picking a domain name that’s been used previously. Domain names are connected to domain authority, which is significantly affected by how old the domain name is. A domain name that has been used for 10 years will have much more authority and credibility with Google than a brand new one. Note that when we say previously used domain names, we mean those that are no longer active or reserved and are available for purchase.
It’s also possible to buy an existing domain name. The price will depend on how much authority it has. There are various sites that offer brokerage services to help you obtain an existing domain name, but you can also contact the registrant directly to make a buyout offer.
That being said, previously used domain names have their drawbacks. For one thing, they are often associated with well-known companies. Imagine for a moment that Walmart has ceased to exist and its domain name is available for purchase. You own a high-end clothing company and want to take over Walmart’s domain name. Your domain authority might be great, but your brand image will be affected. Furthermore, Walmart’s SEO practices will have an impact on your SEO. If Walmart’s SEO team created duplicate content and got banned by Google, your site will pay the price even if it’s completely different. So, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons before proceeding.
How do you secure your domain name?
In order to secure your domain name, you must register it with a certified registrar. For domain names with a “.ca” or “.qc.ca” extension, you must contact the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). CIRA provides a list of registrars like GoDaddy and ovh to help you get started.
Registering your domain name and its variations will prevent it from being used by anyone else.
Do you have to reserve your domain name in advance?
It’s in your best interest to reserve your domain name in advance. In fact, I would argue that you should reserve it right from the beginning of your business. Domain names correspond to the name of the business in 99% of cases, so it’s important to make sure your chosen name is available before getting started. Many entrepreneurs have had to rethink their entire marketing strategy because of the long wait to reserve their domain name. The domain name market is ultra-competitive—at the end of the first quarter of 2021, there were 154.6 million domain names with the “.com” extension. So, it’s important to be proactive!
How do you check whether a domain name is reserved?
There are a number of platforms that you can use to check the availability of a domain name, including GoDaddy and domain.com. Simply enter the domain name you want into the search bar to check its availability.
How much does a domain name cost?
The cost of a domain name depends on the registrar. Some platforms charge around $10 per year, while others ask for as much as $100. Make sure to use a reputable registrar and avoid fraudulent ones. It’s safe to expect something like GoDaddy’s rate of $20 a year.
Prices also vary depending on the domain extension you choose.
Determine the value of a website based on domain authority (DA)
The domain authority (DA) of a domain name has a major impact on SEO. Domain authority is a score that indicates how credible search engines think a given website is. As we explain in our article on domain authority, a variety of criteria are taken into account, including the quality of backlinks, external links and how old the website is.
Domain authority represents the value Google places on your website. When reselling a domain name, the price will be based on its domain authority.
How to choose your domain name
As you can see, choosing a domain name is a crucial step for any entrepreneur. The choice can be a real challenge and must be made early on in the life of your business. Fortunately, our experts can help!
The basic principles of choosing a domain name
There are millions of domain names out there, and finding an available one is becoming more and more difficult. People are resorting to long, complicated names that are almost impossible to memorize. Remember, your domain name is your address on the internet. If it’s too long or complicated, internet users will avoid it for several reasons.
Firstly, internets may not access your website at all because they weren’t able to memorize the name or they’re short on time. “montrealflowers.com” is clearer and easier to read than “thebestmostexcellentflowersontheislandofmontreal.com”, for example.
Secondly, an overly long URL can scare people off. A URL like “mylittlebigwebthebestseoagencyinmontreal.com” may seem like a scam or a website that doesn’t take itself seriously.
That being said, some websites have managed to make longer domain names work. Domain names like “momthisishowtwitterworks.com” are memorable despite their length. Some use a catchy or funny phrase instead of their company name, such as Greenberg Smoked Turkey, whose website is “gobblegobble.com”. Some even use extensions in clever ways, such as the website “insure.me”.
The more memorable your name is, the more widely internet users will share it. It should be simple and easily understandable.
2. Easy to type in
A good domain name must be easy to type in on a computer. That’s one of the reasons why the use of numbers, accents and special characters is generally discouraged. Typing on a keyboard can be complex, and some letter combinations are more difficult than others. Some companies have even conducted research to find out how easy their name is to type. So, make sure that your domain name is easy to type in on computers, smartphones and tablets.
3. Easy to pronounce
Your name also needs to be easy to dictate verbally. Abbreviations, numbers and accents should be used with caution because the spelling may be ambiguous to people who hear it and want to write it down. For example, a site called “100stories.com” could be written using numbers or letters, and someone hearing it wouldn’t know how to spell it. Same goes for special characters like “&”. If someone talks to their friends about a website with this sort of naming problem, it’s unlikely that their friends will be able to find it afterwards.
Names that are tough to pronounce aren’t a good idea either. Something like “peterpiperpickedapeckofpickledpeppers.com” might be difficult to slip casually into conversations.
If a domain name is unpronounceable, internet users won’t share it.
There are hundreds of millions of domain names, so being unique is probably the most difficult task. Unfortunately, it’s also an important part of standing out to both internet users and Google. Using an existing domain name and just changing the extension won’t help you conquer the web.
Do you need to include keywords in your domain name?
When it comes to integrating keywords into your domain name, there are two schools of thought. It may seem like an easy way to improve your SEO, but Google is penalizing exact match domains more and more. Exact match domains are websites whose domain name corresponds to their business activities, such as “montrealflorist.com” and “buyhouse.com”. EMDs have been used a lot by low-quality sites looking for an easy SEO boost, so Google is no longer promoting them.
Although including keywords in your domain name may not be a good idea anymore, you can still use the keyword’s semantic field. If you’re a florist, feel free to use the word “flower” in your domain name—it won’t be considered an EDM. You can use the AnswerThePublic platform to explore your keyword’s semantic field. Check out our article on keyword research for more information.
Use alternative domain extensions
The domain extension is an essential aspect of your domain name. Typical domain extensions like “.com” and “.net”, and those related to location, such as “.ca” and “.qc.ca”, are so popular that they are becoming difficult to use. Now, new extensions are appearing, some of which describe particular business activities.
New extensions such as “.boutique”, “.photos” and “.email” are becoming increasingly popular. As an agency, we could have chosen the extension “.agency”, for example. Here are a few of the more specific extensions that GoDaddy offers.
Using alternative extensions can be a risky business, because they are less memorable than the classic ones. Only 7% of domain names with a new extension get remembered. However, with a new extension, you’ll be able to reserve your domain name at a lower price and distinguish yourself from the competition.
Use domain name generators
There are a number of tools that can help you find your domain name. Shopify, for example, gives you recommendations for both the domain name and the extension.
GoDaddy goes even further by estimating the value of some domain names.
Find the best domain name for your SEO
Choosing a domain name and reserving it are essential steps in the process of creating a website. The most important thing is that your name is easy to express and understand. You can get creative with the domain extension to distinguish yourself from your competition.
We hope this article has answered all of your questions about domain names! If you’d like more information, feel free to contact us on our website or by phone at +1 514 572 7758. We will be happy to help you create your website!