“What’s In a Name?” – Better Use of Domain Names, Subdomains & E-mail Addresses

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When setting up an online presence, a business’ first step may be to quickly purchase a domain name. Little thought may be given to selecting one that is effective for that particular business. Granted, the individual making the decision may not understand the true value of a good domain name, how to select it, or how it ought to be used within the Web site or E-mail. On the other hand, even a well-considered domain name that was purchased years ago may have little relevance to the company’s current focus.

However, by investing a few moments of reflection and little or no cost, we can help you improve your company Web site’s professionalism and usability simply by giving proper attention to your domain name, subdomains, and E-mail addresses.  Here’s what to consider.

For help with understanding the fundamental role a domain name plays in your Web site, see our article Constructing Your “Home” – A Primer in Web Site Terms & Concepts.

How to choose an effective domain name

Your domain name can go a long way in promoting your site.

A logical starting point is to purchase the domain version of your full company name, such as This serves to clarify to users the connection between your business and your Web site. If someone knows your company name, they might take a guess at your domain name and type it into their browser. With this in mind, you may find it beneficial to buy up the same domain name both in the .com and .ca versions. Or, if your name may be used as singular or plural, has an alternate spelling, or is commonly misspelled, purchasing these versions can keep typing errors from translating into lost customers. Since domains can be purchased by almost anyone, buying your company name domain also prevents another company (even your competition) from using your company name as their domain name.

You might also purchase any number of secondary domain names which can be configured to direct to your Web site. Perhaps you will select a domain name which reflects your specific service or product line, your company’s commonly used working name, or a meaningful industry-related expression. Think of phrases a user may type into a search engine to find businesses in your market. Using relevant words in your domain name should increase your opportunity to appear in results for searches made for those words.

For example, let’s imagine a fictitious company, “Bob’s Auto Parts” who might purchase as a primary name. But he also might like to get something like as a secondary domain.

An alternative might be a shortened version of the company name, such as, which might prove useful in verbal communication, such as phone conversations or sales calls, where you want the potential user to easily commit the domain to memory without having to write it down.

In any case, the best domain names are short, memorable, and intuitive for the intended audience. Use clear, easy to spell words. This is simpler said than done, since key indicators, like your company name, cannot be changed. But, whenever possible, try to avoid a name that requires explanation. Also avoid hyphens, which are difficult to communicate and recall.

Handling multiple domain names

If you have several domain names for general use, you may choose to direct these to the same main area of your site. If a domain name refers to specific product lines or services you offer, these should be directed to a relevant area of the site so that a user arrives at the information that is pertinent to his visit as quickly as possible. In your advertising, you may choose to advertise particular domain names in ads intended to draw a specific audience.

Creating targeted subdomains

What is a subdomain? It is a domain that is part of a larger domain, or the root domain. When typing in the address bar of your Web browser, you can recognize a subdomain because there is a word attached in front of the standard domain name.

Subdomains can be useful in organizing a large Web site, and for use in a special promotion or product. So, for example, if Bob’s Auto Parts is running a contest, we might create for him for the duration of his event. This makes it easier for a company to promote and direct users to a specific area of their site without having to specify a list of required navigation commands or a long and complicated URL for a user to type.

Subdomains may be used temporarily or permanently, and once you own the domain name, there is no additional public fee to create subdomains on that domain name.

The role of a domain name in E-mail addresses

A domain name composes the root of an E-mail address.  For example,

If you have purchased a unique domain name for your business, by all means please use it for your business E-mail addresses. Generally speaking, not only your primary domain but any other domain which you have purchased can also be employed with E-mail. Doing so creates a polished impression and reinforces your company name and Web site to any persons with whom you correspond.

However, all too often we see companies still using their ISP-issued domain name (like or or other free services like Hotmail or Gmail when they already own a unique business domain name. Using non-business E-mail addresses is a downgrade in your company’s professional image, as it is viewed as the “home made” option. Furthermore, it does nothing to promote your company name or business Web site.

If you choose to set up both your proper domain business E-mail account and your personal or ISP-issued E-mail account on the same computer or user profile, give careful attention to which account you are actually using when sending E-mail. Likewise, if there is more than one person working from the same computer, be very careful to use your own proper E-mail account so as not to cause confusion for recipients.

When composing a message in Outlook 2007, you can check or change which account a message will be sent from by clicking on the “Accounts” button located near the “Send” button. It is a good practice to have a domain-based E-mail account set as the primary account rather than your ISP E-mail account.

Let us help!

Exclusively for our design clients, we offer domain name registration, hosting, and E-mail services at affordable rates. Our experienced advice can help you accomplish more with your domains, subdomains, and E-mail addresses. Hire us for your next Web project.

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