“What is in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” – It’s clear William Shakespeare didn’t live in the information age and have to go through the trials and tribulations of naming his own business! Many businesses mistakenly think that registering their name at Companies House – a task in itself – is the first step to setting up their business, only to find that they do not own the domain name for their company.
This explains the plethora of small businesses with tricky domains, covered in-extra–hyphens and registered as .net or .me when the business really wanted a .com or .co.uk domain name.
It’s not just entrepreneurs starting out that make these domain name mistakes. In 2003, Microsoft made the mistake of forgetting to renew its Hotmail.co.uk domain name despite being warned numerous times that its Web mail service was about to be brought onto the open market once again
Although Microsoft failed to catch their mistake in time, a kind citizen scooped up the domain in order to keep it out of the hands of cybersquatters and return it to the company in one piece.
Microsoft have also previously failed to renew Passport.com which then shut down their Hotmail service only to be bought by Michael Chaney, and also returned to its original owner. If it were not for these kind citizens, Microsoft might have been in some serious trouble as they were already known for these products and likely would have had to spend a lot of money in order to get them back.
Another example is Apple, who unlike Microsoft does not seem to have the good-natured relationships with its users, where kind-hearted people have bought a domain once they noticed Apple had forgotten to purchase it. Instead Apple has a long history of suing others in order to snatch up domains for products already out in the market or in the process of development.
In 2000, Benjamin Cohen (of Channel 4 news fame) registered itunes.co.uk only to be threatened by both Nominet and Apple into relinquishing his domain to the hands of one of the world’s most prosperous companies.
Apple had forgotten to register its .co.uk domain until well after Mr. Cohen bought the space, with the battle ending up in court. As Apple have hundreds of lawsuits in their past, one would think there is a full-time job somewhere in the depths of the company simply registering all variations of their product names. At least there should be.
Today’s small business owner can easily learn from these big tribulations, taking steps to protect their online brand and in turn their company’s livelihood. It is down to the small business owner to make sure their domain name will not be taken over by users who will only use the name to redirect traffic to completely unrelated, and sometimes unscrupulous, websites.
Registering your domain name is an easy process as companies such as Names.co.uk allow you to search for a domain across all variants; .com, .co.uk, .net, and .eu to name just a few. There are some steps to keep in mind that will make life easier when registering a business domain name.
Your website – We recommend to all our customers that you own your domain first – before you register with Companies house as it is extremely important to have a domain that is relevant to the company name itself. You want your domain name to be short and simple so it can be easily remembered by users.
Set up your business – Give your business a unique trading name that can be registered with Companies House. Your accountant may well register the company name for you which can help take away any unneeded worry.
Cover your bases – Register your company name early and across all extensions, that way you stay relevant to your market now and in the foreseeable future. It is a rude awakening when you build up your business only to discover cybersquatters camping out on your good name.
Social – Your company’s facebook and twitter account (@yourcompany) is incredibly important these days as it is one of the simplest ways of directly communicating with your customers in a personal and easy way. Likewise it can be used as a great (free) marketing tool! Make sure you get these early on – unlike @natwest who failed to own their twitter account last week.
Update – Update your website content regularly to keep customers engaged. Give your company a blog page and write articles, inform them of new products and give them reasons to come back.
What has become a very common problem new business owners are experiencing due to the market flush with entrepreneurs and startups, registering a company’s domain under the original name hoped for is a challenge that needs to be considered right from the start. New business owners have to be creative and quick when registering, otherwise they have to begin the whole process again.
Because of this, it is wise to protect your company’s name from the beginning and invest in both the domain name as well as the Twitter account. You cannot rely on strangers to notice your mistake and inform you about it, so why leave anything to chance?
Entrepreneurs and small businesses should start with your web address, then register with Companies House – owning your online property could be key to the success of your small business online.
Like many opportunities in business, it’s all about getting there first before someone else does!