A domain name is used to identify an organisation's presence on the internet. It is important that the domain name represents the image of your business effectively and makes the nature of your product or service clear to potential customers.
There are different types of domain names and these are identified by their general part, or the top level domain:
- generic top-level domains such as .net, .com, .org, .biz and .info
- country code top-level domains such as .uk for the UK
Most UK companies choose to have domain names that end in .com or .co.uk, although the top-level domain .co - which became available to UK companies in the summer of 2010 - is another option. It is also possible to have a European Union domain name, ending in .eu.
You should think carefully about the geographical implications of your server and domain names as they can affect local search results. For example, a UK company with a '.com' address which is hosted in the US would not appear in UK only searches. However, if the same company website was hosted in the US but used a '.co.uk' domain name it would appear in UK-only search results. There are a number of free resources available to help you localise your website area, including Google's Webmaster tools.
Top level domains are handled by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which ensures that every domain name is unique. Find out about domain names on the ICANN website.
How to choose a domain name
When choosing a domain name, most businesses opt for a name that is based on the name of their business or product. It helps if the name is:
- easy to spell
- easy to remember
- relevant to your business or product
You should avoid choosing a domain name that misuses a trade mark belonging to another business, or might mislead users into thinking you are someone else. You can search for an existing trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office.
You should also avoid choosing a domain name with lots of dashes, for example my-new-website-business-and-shop.co.uk. It can look unprofessional, make it more difficult to remember and some search engines may consider it to be spam.
After deciding on a domain name, you then need to check if it has already been registered by another user. Find a database of .uk domain name registrations on the Nominet website. Once your domain is registered, it is protected.
Domain names are allocated on a first come, first served basis. However, disputes may arise when another party feels that they have a greater right to use a domain name.