SME solutions
    16 October 2018

    James Francis

    Web domains and your business

    Getting your own business domain is easy, cheap and smart.

    When you ask for a business’ email address, what impresses you more: a free email service like plumberpete3563@freemail.com or something more professional such as pete@plumberpete.co.za?

    The answer is obvious. Having your own web domain makes a huge difference. When a business has a proper domain, it expresses reliability, trustworthiness and stability, not to mention reinforces your brand.

    'Owning a domain is as important as legally registering your company,' Athena Turner, Hetzner’s brand manager, told Vodacom Now. 'It’s a key ingredient to successfully branding your business as a domain lends credibility and legitimacy, especially for small businesses that may not have a bricks-and-mortar, branded store or office. Having a domain and email address linked to your business gives customers confidence in your offering, making it more likely for them to use your service or purchase your product.'

    Then why do so many businesses not have a web domain? It’s likely that they don’t realise it’s actually quite not expensive at all and requires little administration. Let’s take a closer look at what a web domain involves.

    You and your domain

    First, it’s important to know that if you have a web domain, you are not required to have a website. It would be a good idea to do so, even just to have a page with contact details. But a domain can be used for email without there being a website.

    Web domains can be practically any word or number, providing they have not been taken before. There are also limits on certain symbols: for example, you can have a dash in a domain (my-domain.com), but not most other symbols such as & and @. Every domain is unique: mydomain.com and my-domain.com are two different domains.

    Domains also differ based on their suffix - that’s the bit at the end such as .com and .net. Suffixes can also have a country element, such as ‘za’. Such country domains are very popular, said Turner:

    'You may find that most of the .com options for your prefered brand name are already taken, which could be reason enough to try out a few of the new extensions that are trending currently. Having said that, the traditional options like co.za and .com are the ones that most South African internet users know and recognise. At Hetzner, .co.za domains remain the most popular with 74% of customers opting for this domain extension. While 17% of customers select the .com domain extension.'

    In most such cases, there will be other parts that designate the specific purpose of the domain. For example, co.za is typically for companies, while ac.za is used by universities. You can browse the various options through a domain search engine that can be found at domain hosts. This is also a good place to find out if the domain you want hasn’t been taken already.

    How domain costs work

    You never actually own a domain. Instead, you pay to become the domain registrar, which entitles you to use the domain exclusively for a specified period. Typically this is renewed annually, but you can register a domain for multiple years.

    Costs vary from a few dozen rands to a few hundred annually. This depends on the suffix you take - a .com is more expensive than a .co.za.

    'When you register a domain, you become the domain registrant - technically, domains are never owned. They are leased from a registry and have to be renewed on an annual basis in most cases. While the British domain extension ‘.co.uk’ is renewed every two years.'

    You will receive notification for the renewal and most domain hosts offer an automatic renewal service.

    Once you are registered, you can use the domain for what you want. You don’t pay extra registration feed for every email address or every website. Those are services with their own costs, but once you pay your annual registration fee, you have full usage rights for your domain.

    Vodacom Web Domain Service is a comprehensive service that meets all your domain-related requirements. Get a wide range of domain-related offerings such as domain registration, domain parking, domain search, domain renewal, domain transfer, domain reservation, domain lookup and domain forwarding.

    Domains and brands

    Domains represent your brand. But registering a domain is not the same as registering a brand and is not considered legal proof of ownership. In the same trend, it is possible for someone to register a domain that you would consider your brand.

    Just because a domain is the same as your brand doesn't automatically entitle you to it. If someone else registers a domain similar to your brand, it will take a lot of effort to change the ownership unless they fail to renew it. In the worst examples this is done intentionally and the person might pressure you to pay them to hand over the domain - a practice called 'cyber squatting'. So it’s important to register domains that correspond with your business name and brand before someone else does. As a business expense, it’s one of the lowest cost and highest value branding moves you’ll make!

    So getting a domain is simple: find out if your choice of name and suffix are available by using a domain host’s search engine, then register it and pay the annual fee. That’s it - you now have a legitimate web domain!

    The question is: what do you do now? Keep an eye out here on Vodacom Now. We’ll soon look at setting up your business email and really getting the best from your domain.

    James Francis