All business owners need to have a website that their customers can find easily. Your website’s domain name should be memorable and easy to spell to drive customer traffic and encourage them to buy your products. This article sets out how to choose an effective domain name for your business.

Why is Your Domain Name Important?

Your domain name is part of your business’ online identity. Most domain names for businesses directly reflect the registered business name or company name. Otherwise, customers will find it confusing if your online and offline names are different.  

For example, it would be confusing if your company was called “Aussie Pool Cleaning Services” but your customers can only find you on a website called “aussiecleaners.com”. It would be like opening a shop called “Aussie Pool Cleaning Services” in a shopping mall, but putting “Aussie Cleaners” in the shopping directory.

Therefore, a good domain name helps your customers to find your business online to purchase your products or services. Once you own a domain name, you have exclusive use of the name which cannot be used by anyone else on the internet.

How Do I Choose a Good Domain Name?

Wherever possible, you should match your brand name with your domain so that your customers can easily find you online. Other tips for a good domain name are to:

  • keep your domain name short: A long domain name could be misspelled or incorrectly typed, leading to lost traffic;
  • make the domain name unique: For instance, nike.com, asos.com and theiconic.com.au are all unique and distinctive domain names;
  • avoid hyphens: Choosing a domain name with hyphens allows you to buy a variation of a domain name that is already in use. However, hyphens are rare in website addresses, so many customers could forget to include the hyphen when searching your business; and
  • use keywords relevant to your business or your location. For example, you can direct customers to melbournejewellerydesigners.com.au or  sydneyplumbingservices.com.au. Alternatively, you can use top-level domains that are very specific to your ideal target audience, such as jewellerydesigner.melbourne or plumbingservices.sydney.  

How Do I Ensure My Domain Name is Available?

You should first check if the domain name is available on the internet by using search engines such as Whois Lookup. If someone has already taken your exact domain name, you can consider adding extra words that do not take away from the meaning of your preferred name. Alternatively, you can choose a different top-level domain if your preferred “.com” or “.com.au” is not available.

For example, point-of-sale technology company Square added “up” to their domain name, “squareup.com.au”. Regulation technology company Checkbox has the domain name “checkbox.ai” rather than “checkbox.com”.

If your domain name is available, check if someone has protected the name with a trade mark or has already registered the domain name as an Australian business name or registered company name. You can search the Australian trade mark register as well as the Australian business name register to find out if that is the case. Consider searching overseas trade mark registers as well.

If you discover a trade mark or business name that is already using your proposed domain name, you may need to reconsider your use of the proposed domain name.

Ensure your proposed domain name is available on major social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You want your social media presence to be consistent with your brand and domain name so that your customers can find you more easily.

Once you have decided on your domain name, you should consider registering the name as a trade mark. Trade mark registration will deter others from using the name or registering names that are deceptively similar to your domain name.

Should I Choose a .com or .com.au Extension?

If you are an Australian business that is mostly targeting Australian customers, you should obtain a .com.au domain extension.  To register an Australian domain name, you must have an Australian Business Number (ABN) or have a registered company.

Search engines such as Google prefer to show Australian websites to Australian customers in the first page of search results. From a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, an Australian domain name will allow your Australian customers to discover you more easily.    

If you intend to target overseas customers, you may like to obtain the .com domain name as well. Most businesses obtain the .com and .com.au domain names to prevent other businesses from obtaining an identical or similar domain name to your business. Your customers may also forget to add the “.au” at the end of the website address. Obtaining the .com domain and redirecting the address to your .com.au domain will ensure you won’t lose any valuable customer traffic.  

What if Someone is Already Using My Trade Mark as a Domain Name?

You may wish to register your business name as a trade mark to protect your business’ reputation. The next step would be to buy a domain name that reflects your trade marked business name. However, you may find that someone has already bought your exact domain name matching your business name and trade mark. 

Here are three options if you wish to get your hands on your domain name.

1. File a Complaint Through the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP)

The UDRP for .com domains or the Australian Dispute Resolution Policy (AuDRP) for .com.au domains are online forums that allows people to resolve domain disputes.  

The process is relatively cheaper and faster than going to court.  If you win, you can get your domain name transferred to you. 

2. Buy the Domain Name Directly From the Owner.

You can avoid a lengthy disputes process if you negotiate directly with the domain name owner.

You can discover the owner’s identity and contact details through Whois or a private investigator. However, this option can be quite expensive, especially if a cybersquatter is holding your domain name and would only transfer the name if you pay an exorbitant price. 

3. Sue the Domain Name Owner for Trade Mark Infringement

You could consider going to court if you believe the domain name owner has caused you to lose money or has damaged the reputation of your business. You will have to prove that the domain name is deceptively similar to your trade mark. However, litigation can be expensive, stressful and the result not guaranteed to be in your favour. 

Key Takeaways

A good domain name allows your customers to find you online and drive your online sales. 

Before you buy your domain name, you should ensure the domain name:

  • is available;
  • does not conflict with existing business’ names or trade marks;
  • can be used for different domain extensions such as .com or .com.au; and
  • can be registered as a trade mark for your business.

If you have any questions, get in touch with LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

Sophie Glover
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