My column in today’s Northwest Herald talks about how a professional email address can boost your business. By professional I mean creating a custom domain name (the part after the @ symbol). Many people simply use the email address offered by their Internet providers (ending in @comcast.net or @aol.com), but why pass up the opportunity to get your business name in front of people? A custom address looks more professional and helps you advertise. Setting up your own domain name is inexpensive, and you don’t have to change the way you read your email. Plus, if you change email providers you don’t have to tell everyone; simply redirect your custom email to your new address. It’s like having a post office box that stays constant even if you move.
After choosing your domain name, you register it with a domain registrar. There are many out there, so check online reviews and ask your colleagues for recommendations. Some have better service and prices than others. Domains need to be renewed yearly, although you can sign up for multiple years in advance and often receive a discount. Stay on top of renewal. You don’t want a cybersquatter to yank your hard-earned domain out from under you. Next, you need to choose your new email address and point it to your existing one. It’s common to have an “info” address, like email@example.com. You may also want to set up addresses for employees, but be sure to follow the same standard for everyone (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com) or it may be confusing to potential customers.
Choosing the right name is probably the hardest part of the process. Since many domain names are taken, you want to choose a name that represents your business, but isn’t too long or too vague. Some of the common questions I get on choosing the right domain name are:
- Should I pick a .com domain or a .net domain?
In general I recommend .com (unless you are an organization in which case .org would be appropriate). A lot of people don’t even look at the last part of the address, assuming it’s .com, so if yours is .net you’ll spend a lot of time reminding people. You can always hedge your bets and register both the .com and .net versions of your domain.
- What do I do if someone else has taken my company name as their domain?
You probably don’t have much recourse, unless you happen to have the name trademarked (and even then it may be a struggle). Your best bet is to choose a different name. If all variations of your company’s name are taken you could try combining the name with what you sell: mycompanywidgets.com instead of mycompanyname.com. Or you could add the location: mycompanychicago.com.
- Can I use the same domain for my web site?
Absolutely! In fact this is one of the nice things about having your own domain, it serves for both your web site and your email address. If you don’t have a web site yet, registering your domain reserves that name so you can use it down the road. When you’re ready all you have to do is point your domain to your web site host.
- Can I direct my firstname.lastname@example.org address to more than one person?
Yes. Follow your domain registrar’s instructions. Usually what you do is enter the email addresses with commas between them. Then messages to email@example.com will automatically go to those addresses.