Since we are quite often working with small Canadian businesses setting up their first website we are frequently asked for advice regarding picking a domain name. There are a lot of things to consider,  whether to stress your business name or your product or some combination of both or neither. And then does it have to be a “.com” name or will the “.ca” name be sufficient? Or how about “.net” or even “.quebec” now?

It can get fairly complicated very quickly.

After looking at a bunch of different sites offering various lists (there are tons) and rules to help you decide and honestly, after making almost every mistake possible myself, from clumsy hard-to-remember acronyms to using hyphens (a big SEO no-no.) to, and this one is a personal pet peeve, registering my “.ca” domain name with an American company. (They have to buy the “.ca” domain name from a Canadian company and resell it to me. Aargh!) I though I’d put together my own little list of things to think about when trying to decide on a name for your new baby.

My distilled 7 rules (or guidelines if you prefer) around picking a domain name:


1. Keep it simple.

It should be easy to type. Avoid using numbers and hyphens, which can be confusing and a bit of an SEO downer.  Also watch-out for easily misspelled words (we spell colour with a “u” for instance.), and be careful about using intentional misspelling.

Flickr.com is a good example of this last point. At launch they were not able to register Flicker.com as it was already in use. They had a lot of trouble because when an existing customer told a friend to, “post their pictures on Flickr” the person heard, “post your pictures on Flicker.” Eventually they were able to buy Flicker.com too, but it cost them. Of course then they could afford it! (techcrunch.com link)


2. Make it memorable. And unique.

(ie. Google.)


3. Keep it short.

The longer the name the harder to type and to remember. (see rule one)


4. Consider using keywords.

Not critical in every case, but it can be important.
(ie. If you are a plumber having the word plumber or plumbing in your domain name helps with searches and very quickly communicates what happens at this website.)


5. Reference your local area.

Very important for some businesses. Less so for others. Are you relying on local clients or will you be targeting a larger geographic market?


6. Test and research variations.

Check to make sure that it isn’t already taken, and also which variations are taken. And what type of businesses have similar domain names. (My partners original design studio Cats Pyjamas Graphic Design had a domain name very close to a Cats Pyjamas Lingerie store.) Google variations, similar spellings etc. and see what pops up. It doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use the name, it just means you need to be aware of the issue(s).


7. Choosing the domain extension

Everybody says you have to have the .com version. I disagree. In fact I wrote about it in another blog post here. I do recommend buying both the .com version and the .ca version if possible. (We do not own CatfishCreative.com though it is for sale. We do own CatfishCreative.net just ‘cause.) And please, as I mentioned above, buy your “.ca” domain name from a Canadian reseller and cut out the middleman and save the mark-up.

buy domain

…and we won’t be buying our “.com” version any time soon.

8. My bonus stuff

There are many many places online to buy your domain and they often have sales. I just did a quick check through Cira.ca (Canadian Internet Registration Authority) and found one registrar selling “.ca” domains for $1.95. I personally use 10dollar.ca and have nothing but good things to say about them. (Nope, I get zero bucks if you click on the link.)

And my final advice: I do not buy my domains from the same company I host with. I use one supplier as my domain registrar and host sites for clients in various places. Why? It makes my life easier. My eggs aren’t all in one basket. If I changes hosts or decide to host a particular site with a particular hosting company it doesn’t get complicated.

All my domains are in one place, easy to access and re-direct as necessary. And should your hosting company go toast overnight you still have easy access to your domain name. (Yes, I have had my company host disappear overnight: offices closed, phone calls get, “this number is no longer in service.” Very scary.)

Thank you. I hope my list helps you with your domain name search. And if we at Catfish Creative can be of any help just let us know.

© 2018 Catfish Creative

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