A Guide to Website Domains for Start-Ups

website domain options .co.uk .com

Your domain says a lot about you and your company. It’s your address on the internet, the place people go to find you, and a name intrinsically associated with your brand.

But is one domain name enough, and what options do small businesses have when it comes to deciding on a domain strategy? Neal Thoms of Fasthosts explains;

As a new business, it’s very easy to overlook your domain when there are so many other plates to keep spinning. You have enough to get on with, so once your website is up, it’s only natural to move on to the next challenge. But there are numerous reasons why your business should have a domain strategy.

Lock down your brand with multiple domains

First and foremost, you’ll want to secure your brand. If you’re a UK-based business with a local focus, it makes perfect sense that .co.uk would be your first choice. But you may still want to present your company on a global stage, and for that .com is the domain that people recognise and trust worldwide.

And it’s not just about prestige. If you don’t register your company name with .com, who will? The unfortunate reality is that fraudsters are always looking for ways to exploit legitimate businesses.

Domain squatting, the practice of registering a domain to deny it from other parties, is a big problem. Squatters’ motives vary, but their most common goals are to sell the domains on at inflated prices, or monetise the traffic they receive.

In more serious cases, squatted domains are used for phishing or malware attacks – by tricking unsuspecting users with what look like legitimate URLs.

URL hijacking or “brandjacking” is a more advanced form of domain squatting where the squatters register an existing business name with a different domain extension, or perhaps with a slightly different spelling (“typosquatting”), to fool users into divulging valuable information that can be exploited in subsequent cybercrimes.

In this context, it becomes essential to register your brand name with multiple domains, and even with slight variations and misspellings. This way, you stay 100% in control of how your brand is perceived, and prevent anyone else from damaging your reputation through malicious activity.

Don’t miss out on type-in traffic

“Type-in traffic” refers to all those users who simply type an address into the URL bar – no search engines, no bookmarks, just a flurry of keystrokes.

From typos and mis-remembered brand names to generic descriptions in the vague hope of a website actually existing, type-in traffic comes from diverse sources – and very much encourages the use of multiple domains.

Maybe a user doesn’t remember your company name, but they do remember a specific product or service you offer. Or maybe they just assume every product will have its own URL. In these circumstances, it’s vital to have the right domains in place to hoover up all that type-in traffic.

Ensuring you catch type-in traffic will also help protect you from the typo-squatting threats mentioned previously. Just like how Google has gogle.com and googel.com, and at Fasthosts we have fastgosts.co.uk and fasthost.co.uk, you should look to secure all the likely variations of your domain.

Multiple domains, SEO and 301 redirects

Do multiple domains help SEO? The short answer: probably not, at least not directly. Of course, more domains usually mean more ways for users to find you, and hopefully more traffic; in the long term, this should help boost your SEO, even if multiple domains aren’t a direct ranking factor.

Search engines have long since gotten wise to that old SEO tactic of bulk-buying keyword-stuffed domains for a single site. Doing that today could actually end up harming your SEO, since Google punishes sites featuring duplicate content.

This brings us to perhaps a more pressing question: can multiple domains hurt your SEO in any way? The good news is that multiple domains shouldn’t damage the SEO ranking of a site, provided they’re set up in a way that meets the search engine’s approval.

301 redirects are the way to go when linking additional domains to your site. By having one primary domain and forwarding everything else via 301 redirects, you ensure that Google only sees one website, not multiple copies, so you won’t be penalised for duplicate content.

301 redirects also have the advantage of passing the vast majority of a domain’s existing SEO ranking power, or “link equity”, to the site it forwards to. So in cases where you have existing domains with previously accrued SEO value, there absolutely is a benefit in linking those URLs to your main site – just remember to do it with 301 redirects.

The UK family: Is a .uk reserved for you?

As the established standard for British businesses, .co.uk is popular throughout the country. But with the launch of the .uk domain, there’s an alternative. Short and simple, .uk is ideal for giving your site a global, fresh feel – and if you already have a UK domain, you could have a .uk specially reserved for you.

The UK family of domains includes .co.uk, .me.uk and .org.uk. And now, .uk domains have been reserved for owners of equivalent UK web addresses. So why not register a .uk and link it to your existing .co.uk site? Until 10th June 2019, you’re first in line.

What happens to .eu domains after Brexit?

One question which businesses may not have considered is what happens to their .eu domain once the UK leaves the EU.

The .eu domain is exclusively available to individuals and organisations that reside within the EU. This means that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the .eu registry EURid will revoke existing rights to all .eu domain names where the registrant contact data uses a GB (UK) or GI (Gibraltar) country code.

Those affected will no longer be eligible to register or hold .eu domains after the withdrawal date. In other words, .eu domains held by UK companies (who don’t have an EU-based contact address) will effectively be lost.

Of course, this may all change if a transitional arrangement is agreed. However, if recent events are anything to go by, it’s prudent to prepare for the effects of No Deal on all aspects of your business – domain included.

Surveying your domain

For many businesses, domain name and brand are interchangeable. The domain is the brand. In fact the shortage of original .com domains is one of the reasons why many new companies – especially internet ones – have such strange names.

The likes of Meebo, Yipit, etc. could claim their .com domain because their names were so unusual no one had thought to register them. According to a study of 700 companies by Clutch, 41% of newer, venture-funded startups have totally invented names, i.e. ones that have no attached meaning whatsoever.

With a proper domain strategy, you don’t necessarily have to go down this path of adding new words to the Oxford English Dictionary when starting your company. But as this article shows, a domain strategy is still important to secure the domains that are relevant to your company and to protect your brand on the internet.

About the author

This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Neal Thoms of Fasthosts.

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