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Domain names: how to choose, register, and protect your online presence

Everyone looks to the internet first when searching for information, and that means businesses are setting up websites to promote their existence and services. But while it may be easy to just find a template website and input your content, finding – and securing - a domain name that truly reflects your business can be a lot harder. 

Choosing a domain name

Your domain name needs to fit your business, especially if your exact business name has already been used by someone else for a domain. It also needs to be easy to find, promote, remember and type, so keep it short and try to avoid unusual spellings. 

Numbers can be tricky because potential customers may be confused as to whether you’re spelling the number out (seven) or using the numeral (7). If having a number is important, then consider registering both versions so you don’t lose out on customers. 

Keep in mind that not only may your business name have already been taken, but some of your other choices may not be available either. When you register your domain name, you will have to input your choice and you will then be informed as to its availability. It is best to keep an open mind, and have several name options that you like, when you go to register your domain name.

Registering your domain name

Once your domain name is chosen, you will need to register it with an accredited registrar. If you want to register a .ca domain name, then you have to go through a registrar accredited by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA). Any of those registrars can also register domain names at .com, .biz, .org, etc.

When picking your registrar, consider the services they offer – for example, do you want e-mail hosting or for your website to be in two languages? Do you want website templates that you can just drop your content into, or will the site be built from scratch?

Many companies offer both domain name registration and website hosting services. You will need to decide whether you want the convenience of a bundled service, or prefer to separate services so that one company doesn’t control your whole website. 

Protecting your domain name

You might think that once you have your domain name registered you are protected, but there are a few more things to keep in mind. If you’ve registered a .ca domain name, you may want to consider also registering at .com if it’s available. That way, another company with a similar name can’t take it - and neither can a scam artist looking to make money off you. 

If you receive an e-mail from a company threatening to sell similar domain names to other businesses unless you buy them first, do not respond! Instead report it to the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre.

There have also been instances where a domain name registry has sent a fake renewal notice. If you receive a domain name renewal notice, follow the advice of the Competition Bureau’s Little Black Book of Scams

  • Check that the domain name on the renewal notice matches your current domain name exactly. Look for small differences such as .com instead of .ca, or missing characters in the URL address. 
  • Verify that the renewal notice comes from the company with whom you registered your domain name.
  • Look in your records for the actual expiry date of your existing domain name. 

Monitor your business’s online presence – be aware of websites with similar domain names that may be trying to take your customers, or that could impact your company’s reputation. 

An online presence is a must in this digital world, but you also need to protect your business and its reputation. If you have further questions about domain names, websites or any other business matter, please contact your CFIB counsellor at 1-888-234-2232.