A domain name isn’t just part of your website’s address these days: it’s an essential part of your brand name.
Dot-ie and dotcom roll off the tongue when discussing high-profile companies, highlighting the importance for entrepreneurs of securing a top-level domain name when they choose the name of their business.
One of the big questions for companies is whether to plump for a globally recognised .com or .org domain or for a national domain such as .ie or .fr.
This will ultimately depend on the market you are targeting. While securing a .com domain should be considered if it’s available, it’s more important to have a national domain for a number of reasons.
Firstly, having a .ie will bring you farther up the search engine rankings in Ireland than a .com; secondly, from a branding perspective people know a .ie is Irish and the content of the site will therefore be more relevant to them, whereas a .com could be from anywhere; thirdly, a .ie domain offers accountability and security.
“The .com would be viewed by some people as the PO box of the internet whereas the .ie would be traceable to a limited company or registered business name in Ireland,” says Conor Dalgarno, sales and marketing director of Silkweb Design. “There is complete accountability with .ie.”
The .ie domain name was earlier this year voted second-most secure domain globally by internet security firm McAfee.
“The .ie domain name is governed by a managed registry model, which means that applicants for a domain name must authenticate their claim to a domain name,” says David Curtin, chief executive of the IE Domain Registry (IEDR).
“The benefits of this are virtually no cyber crimes, identity theft or credit card fraud, less incidences of spam and virtually no cyber-squatting. With a .ie website you know who you are doing business with.”
Companies with global reach will want to have as many national domains as possible to complement their core domain. YouTube and MySpace are two companies that recently launched .ie services. These can help attract targeted advertising.
“We have a number of large companies who ask us to register multiple domains. We would obtain .co.uk for them, for instance. They don’t necessarily do business in Britain but because the restrictions are not as stringent we can buy it for them if it’s available,” says Dalgarno.
Significantly, YouTube and MySpace have content specifically related to Ireland, but just registering multiple domains for the same website could get you in hot water with the search engines if you’re not upfront about what you’re doing.
“If you’ve numerous domain names pointing to the same website and you haven’t put in place anything to tell the search engines that they are actually the same website you could get done for duplicate content,” warns Tom Doyle, managing director of 2bscene.
“A lot of Irish companies will have registered a .eu domain name and will just have it pointed at their original website. That’s detrimental as they could get penalised and won’t appear as high in the rankings for a search phrase relating to them.”
Last week, the IEDR introduced personal domain names. According to Trent Dickinson, operation manager with Novara.ie, this will have a great effect on business. “People who trade under personal names — politicians, doctors, media people — will benefit.”
A potential danger is that high-profile public people could lose out to those with the same name as it will be done purely on a first-come, first-served basis. “There could be three or four Bertie Aherns out there, so the Taoiseach might not get his application in,” says Dickinson.
Professionals who value their name as a brand need to get their papers in with the IEDR right from the off. As with businesses, they need to protect their identity.
“Once a domain name is gone it’s very hard to get it back: it could be a couple of years before you can get it back,” say Dickinson, as Google, ironically enough, found out when it lost Google.de in Germany recently.
“For brand protection we strongly advise our customers to secure their domain names and as many top-level domains as possible.”
You can’t buy a domain outright — you can only rent it for a set number of years — but they are fairly cheap to get. A .com can cost anything from €2 to €60 depending on which reseller you get it from and how long you want it for. A .ie can range from €35 to €135.
Silkweb Design is providing a special package for schools where they can get a domain name and hosting for €75 a year.
Under the deal, each fifth and sixth-year student will be given an Outlook email address, and the company will provide video tutorials to ease teachers into controlling their own hosting.
For information visit www.silkwebdesign.ie.
By Niall Byrne