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What Every eCommerce Merchant Needs to Know About Domain Registration

Looking to register a custom web domain for your storefront? Here’s how.

Having your own domain name is incredibly important, especially if you’re running a digital storefront. Your customers all but expect you to, after all. What that means is that if you don’t, it could well cost you a sale or two.

On the flipside, a strategic. high-quality domain name can make a great deal of difference with your customers.

“Your domain name can add credibility to your ecommerce business – it’s about being professional and proving that you deserve your customers’ trust,” writes E-Seller’s Paul Skeldon. “A good domain name can go some way towards generating traffic to your ecommerce website and building your reputation. In turn, that will result in more customers and better sales.”

At first glance, the process for selecting and registering a domain can seem more than a little overwhelming. Don’t worry, though. It’s actually a lot less complicated than it seems. We’ll even walk you through the process.

Step One: Do Your Homework

First thing’s first, you’re going to want to start with some research. That includes:

  • Brainstorming a list of possible domain names, and making sure they’re marketable, SEO-friendly, and aligned with your overall brand image. Make sure you also know what there is to know about top level domains. Use this checklist from eConsultancy – it’ll help.
  • Eliminating the domain names on your list that are boring, off-brand, or simply confusing. Again, refer to the checklist I just linked.
  • Ensuring that of the names you’ve selected, none of them step on the toes of copyright holders. You need to be certain that your domain name is unique, original, and legal.
  • Looking into common misspellings of your domain name, and ensuring that you register those alongside your primary.
  • Understanding how much your domain name will cost, and any methods that might exist to reduce that cost.

Step Two: Know The Underhanded Tricks Of Bad Registrars

Once you’ve done your research, your next step will generally be to register your domain name with ICANN (we’ll get to that in a moment). You’ll want to approach a certified registrar to handle the specifics for you. Here’s where things get a little sticky, though.

There are many registrars out there that are just looking to make a quick buck. And they’ve got some nasty tricks up their sleeve to fool you into spending more than you should. Make yourself aware of them, so you can protect your brand:

 

  • Transfer-out fees. Check the fine print of your registrar of choice. If it includes authorization to charge your credit card for moving your domain to another registrar, dump them. They aren’t worth your time.
  • Confusing TOS. Most people fail to fully go over the TOS for a company. If you’re doing to do business with a registrar, you need to. Because some of the more underhanded ones bury some truly nasty stuff there. You might not just be authorizing them to register your domain name – you might be signing over your business.
  • Service rates. Domain name registration is not a multi-year thing. While you do need to occasionally submit a renewal fee, most registrars will not require you to do it up front. Once you’ve registered, use a whois lookup to verify your domain name’s registration date and expiration date.
  • Whois locks. Your registrar must provide you with the ability to change your Whois records. If they try to lock you out for any reason, they’re shady. Don’t work with them.
  • “Premium” services. A host might offer you a service called ‘whois masking’ to allow you to avoid tying your name to your domain. Don’t use it. Technically, they own the domain if theirs is the registered name.

 

One other word of advice – don’t go overboard when buying domain names, or you could end up spending a mint with little to no return. And don’t bother with premium domains or “exact match” keyword domains, either. They’re just more variations of the sleazy tactics above.

Step Three: Register With ICANN

Now that you know what you need (and what to avoid) your next step is simple. Find a registrar or go through a host like Shopify, and get your domain set up.

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