Domain names 101: Tips for choosing an online home for your small business

Digital building blocks

The average person does not give a lot of thought to domain names. If you’re like me (well, before I started working in the domain name industry), you might have noticed when a website has a clever domain name. You might know that .com is the most common domain extension and that .ca = a Canadian website.

You also know that if you’re starting your own business in 2018, you know that you’ll need to create a website and in turn find an online home – and get a domain name – for that website.

The good news is, as I mentioned, is that it’s 2018. You don’t need to be an technical expert with experience in HTML or CSS to build a slick website anymore, and now there are handy tools and templates to choose from thanks to platforms like Website Builder. And with this basic understanding of domain names, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge you need to make the right decision for your small business.

Let’s take a look at Domain Names 101.

There are two main parts of a domain name: the second-level and top-level

Domain Names 101 Two Levels

A domain name is an easy to remember name that translates into an Internet Protocol (IP) address. That unique string of numbers, letters, and hyphens into a web browser (like Chrome or Safari) that connects you to the website you were looking for? That’s a domain name.

There are two primary parts of a domain name, and therefore two sets of decisions you’ll need to make when you go to register one. I’ll use as an example to show you what the two components are.

Second-level domain: peacebychocolate

For the “left of the dot” – which is technically called the second-level domain – your options are pretty much limitless. You can use a domain name generator to check what domain names are available. Additionally, there are a number of good practices when choosing the second-level domain for your business that you should consider. A good second-level domain is memorable, on-brand, easy to spell and descriptive, and perhaps contains a keyword or two.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be doing yourself a favour and making it easy for your customers to find your website.

If you’ve already locked down a name for your business itself, obviously your business name is an ideal choice for the domain name as well. But if you haven’t yet, some small businesses take a different approach and base their business name on an available domain name that they like.

Domain Names 101 TLD Example

Top-level domain: .ca

The “right of the dot” is also known as the domain name extension or top-level domain (TLD). The top-level domain can be further broken down into country code top-level domains (Canada’s is .ca) or a generic TLD like .com.

TLDs have different implications – some country code TLDs (also called ccTLDs) might have presence requirements for the location they represent. Additionally, your choice of a domain name has implications on search engine optimization.

Your domain name should align with your brand and the needs of the target audience of your business.


Yes, there are a number of decisions to make – starting a new business can be full of tough decisions! You’ll be pleased to know that there’s at least one thing that makes this step easier: you don’t have to get stuck by picking just one perfect domain name.

Creating a domain name portfolio for your business

Domain names generally aren’t that expensive and you thankfully don’t have to build a website for every one you register – you can easily forward multiple other domains to your main domain.

Your businesses’ domain name portfolio can include things like your product names and any potentially common misspellings of your main domain name. Creating a portfolio lets you control the content that appears on those domain names, and having a portfolio of domains can increase traffic to your website and can help you protect your brand.

Creating a portfolio lets you control the content that appears on your domain names.


Another way to build to your domain portfolio is to harness the power of a memorable and catchy domain name with a campaign domain name. In this case, you’d get a unique domain for an event or special promotion. This tactic often involves setting up a new website with a specific purpose for that particular campaign or event (people in the business often call this a “microsite.”) A microsite keeps things clean and simple with a focused message for your customers, and doesn’t clutter your main domain with content that is only going to be relevant for a particular period of time.

What do you do after you register a domain name?

So you have a good domain name and have started building a portfolio. Now what?

Most obviously, you can now start building your website. Getting your website is a serious step in legitimizing your business. Congrats!

With a domain name you can also set up custom email addresses that look professional and add credibility to your growing business.

You should also reap the benefits of picking out a great domain name by getting the word out there – make sure to put your domain name on your storefront window and on any print materials like menus, business cards or brochures. Your domain name is the gateway to the online representation to your business.

In wrapping up Domain Names 101, remember that a good domain name is a part of your brand, adds credibility to your business, and helps drive more people to your website. With a basic understanding of what a good domain name can do for your business, you can make the right decision in finding a home online.

Erin Hutchison
Despite not being a big fan of winter, Erin is a proud Canadian who is an above-average crokinole player and poutine enthusiast. She works as a communications specialist at CIRA, Canada’s domain name registry, and specializes in writing content that helps Canadian businesses and individuals establish an online presence. In her spare time, you can find Erin losing at weekly pub trivia or planning her next vacation to a warmer place.