Your domain name is your website URL/address and will be part of your business email address. It’s broken down into two basic parts, the ‘second-level domain’ is the name you choose for your site. In our case, it’s ‘CanadiansInternet’. The ‘top-level domain (TLD)’ is the domain extension. In our case, it’s ‘.com’.
You require two services to publish a website on the internet: domain registration (registrar) and website hosting (the company that keeps your website data and makes it available to the public). You can get both through the website host you choose, or might even be able to register your domain free of charge (for a limited time) when you sign up for hosting. You aren’t required to have both at the same company, if you’d rather register your domain and choose a hosting company later.
Selecting a domain name can be stressful, when we contemplate the finality of it. Nobody wants to be stuck with domain name that doesn’t suit our business or later find out it infringes on a copyright/trademark, or any number of other issues that could be the consequence of a bad choice.
For starters, you’ll have to choose a domain extension, such as .ca, .com or one of the many other possibilities. The .com domain extension is usually the most desired. Unfortunately, that means the domain name you want may already be owned by someone else (there are well over 100 million domain names that use .com). You may want a different domain extension for other reasons too, such as geographic (if your target market is primarily in one country or province) or to further describe the type of website (such as .org for charities or .shop for a store).
When You’re Not Ready for a Website
If you’re not ready to go live with a website, your own domain name can still be used for secure, custom email addresses, or to protect your brand name. You’ll also have it on hand for printed materials, such as business cards, or even signage. Email-only services are often available through your website host or registrar.
Following are some points to keep in mind as you search for the best domain name for your Canadian business. Run your name choices through a domain search tool to see what’s available and make a list of alternatives. Most domain search tools will offer a list of alternatives for you to consider.
- The shorter, the better, as long as you’re not sacrificing brand recognition. About half of currently registered .CA domain names are between five and 12 characters long.
- If your target market is local or primarily in Canada, consider .ca or provincial extensions, such as bc.ca. Location extensions are referred to as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). These extensions tell both search engines and consumers where you are. In fact, several studies have shown most Canadians trust websites more if they have a .ca extension. Google has the option of setting your target market country, however, so you don’t necessarily have to use .ca. If you intend to target markets outside of Canada, you may want to go with a .com or other domain extension so you’re more visible to searchers world-wide. For more information, read Should you Register a .ca Domain for your Canadian Business?
- French characters and ligatures (é, ë, ê, è, â, à, æ, ô, œ, ù, û, ü, ç, î, ï, ÿ) are permitted by The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) for .ca domains, but not all registrars accommodate it. You can check for advanced options during the registration process or just send an email to find out.
- Make sure you’re not infringing on a copyright or registered trademark by searching Canadian databases and conducting a corporate name search.
- If you can’t find the exact match you’re looking for, there is some wiggle room. It may not be as short or memorable, but it shouldn’t effect your branding too much. For example, Staples.ca could have been StaplesOfficeSupplies.ca. You can also add “Canada” or wherever your service area is.
- If at all possible, try to stay away from abbreviations (unless it’s part of your branding), hyphens, and alternate spelling like using “2” instead of “to” unless it’s part of your brand name. That said, if a hyphen stands between you and the perfect name, do what you must if there are no copyright/trademark issues.
- Keywords in your domain name may help you rank better in search engines. However, the tactic doesn’t have the same level of impact as it used to and might even make your site look spammy if you go overboard.
- Do a general search of the internet to make sure there are no undesirable alternative meanings to your chosen names. If you sell internationally, check for issues with cultural interpretations.
- If the domain name you really want is taken or there are no other viable options, you can consider purchasing an existing domain instead. Do a search and see if the person who owns the domain is using it or go through brokerage website like Buy Domains to find something suitable.
Once you’ve settled on a domain name, you’ll need to register it. A registered domain makes it officially yours as long as you continue to renew it for the specified time (usually up to five years).
As your business evolves, you may want to register more domain names for different product lines, ad campaigns or locations, or do so to protect your name in general. Otherwise, you may register mybrandname.com only to have someone register mybrandname.ca, for example. Registering with all domain extensions isn’t practical, but you can check the most common alternatives in Canada (.net, .org, .com, .ca and provincial extensions) and decide if you want those too.
What Does a Domain Name Cost in Canada?
Some web hosts offer a free domain name when you host your website with them. Our host, Green Geeks, offers free registration for a year. Otherwise, the cost of registration varies by domain extension, but is usually less than $25 CAD for a year. The majority of registrars will charge extra for domain privacy, which shields your contact information to avoid spam & scams.
Most registrars, even Canadian ones, will charge in US dollars. I recently purchased CanadianDigitalMedia.com for $26.23 CAD (including domain privacy) from HostPapa. They’re one of the few registrars/hosts that charge in Canadian dollars.
A Note of Caution
Never let someone else have control over your domain name or website hosting. If you allow a contractor/designer to retain control of your internet property, you’re stuck with them. You’ll also need the information and access to accounts periodically for reasons that don’t involve the contractor.
It’s important to change your passwords when a contractor has completed a task or an employee leaves. Choose a long password with both lowercase and uppercase letters, characters and numbers. Doing so will help to protect your website from hackers too.
Where to Register Your Domain Name
Following are companies we’ve worked with that provide Canadian-friendly domain registration, including the .ca option. They also offer website hosting if you’re in the market for it.
HostUpon (Based in Canada)
HostPapa (Based in Canada & Canadian currency)
For more information about finding a Canadian-friendly website host (through which you can also register your domain), we encourage you to use our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.
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Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.
Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.