Skip to main content

They’re everywhere. In TV ads, magazines, billboardsheckeven food packaging. But what are domain names and why do they matter so much?  

A domain name is one of the single most important things for your business to own. It helps form the foundation of your online identity andyescan be a powerful marketing tool that people instantly associate with you.  

So now comes the real challenge: actually choosing a domain name for your online business.  

In this complete guide, we’ll cover all the basics behind how domain names work, as well as helpful hints and best practices for picking a name that’s both true to your business and billboard-worthy!   

Table of Contents 

What is a domain name? 

Domain names are what allow us to connect to the websites we’re searching for.  

Because we can’t all speak computer fluently, domain names take IP addresses (usually strings of numbers, like 17.122.987.56) and turn them into easily understandable and typable wordslike www.cira.ca!   

Think of domain names kind of like the contact list in your trusty phone.  

It’s going to be far easier (and faster) to find “Cousin Scott” in your contact list, rather than memorizing his phone number. 

What are the parts of a domain name? 

Let’s look at the parts of a domain name using www.cira.ca as an example. 

second level domain vs top level domain

To the right of the dot is CA. This is what’s known as the “top level domain,” or TLD. The TLD can tell you what kind of website it is (commercial, non-profit organization, etc.) or in what country the website is based. In this case, Canada! 

Fun fact: there are over 1,500 TLDs to choose from—and counting!  

To the left of the dot is “cira.” This is the “second level” of the domain name. It usually represents a business, organization or blog. 

What is a third-level or fourth-level domain? 

Third and fourth-level domains are generally used to further categorize and organize websites within a domainlike a dedicated blog or careers section.  

So, for cira.ca—a third-level domain might look something like this: blog.cira.ca.  

A fourth-level domain is a further sub-division of the third-level domain. In our example, adding a fourth-level domain makes our destination that much more specific: resources.blog.cira.ca. 

Who “owns” or is responsible for domain names?  

All domain names are managed by domain registrieslike CIRA (Canada), .IE (Ireland) Registro IT (Italy)and so on. These registries then delegate the sale of domain name registrations to organizations known as registrars (the companies you buy your .CA domain from). 

Your domain and business names should go hand in hand! We’d argue that picking your business name and domain name are equally important. A good, catchy domain name is one of the most essential parts of your brand. It’s how people will come to recognize and identify you on the internet.  

Your domain name also lets customers know at a quick glance what your business is all about and that your website is a safe, trusted space. 

How can you create a good domain name? Shot of a young man using his laptop while working from home

While just about anyone can register a domain name…registering a good domain name takes time and effort.

Here are four tips to follow when choosing a good domain name 

Tip 1: keep your domain name simple, brief and typable.  

Your domain name should be short, simple and something that can be easily typed with minimal risk of misspelling.  

Aim for a sweet spot of between five and 14 characters. Also try to avoid things like repeated letters (fffunzone.ca), random numbers and deliberate misspellings (werkforce vs. workforce or mrketing vs. marketing).  

Tip 2: make your domain name memorable AND a match for your brand or hobby 

Don’t let the short character counts cramp your style! There’s still plenty of room for creativity in coming up with something that sticks in your audience’s mind.  

For example, you might consider making your domain name a catchy call-to-action. Renewable energy dealers Switch Energy did just that with “maketheswitch.ca.”  

Another idea: go with a shortened form of your business name. This will still help drive brand familiarity, while ensuring consistency across your channels.  

Tip 3: sprinkle in keywords and/or locations 

Adding in keywordslike ‘coffee,’ ‘chocolate’ or ‘music’ for exampleare a great way to show search engines and audiences alike what your business is all about and what you offer. For example, check out transcendcoffee.ca, or peacebychocolate.ca.  

You could also add in the location you service—like Toronto-based sustainable urban beekeepers Bee Local 416 did with “beelocal416.ca.”  

Tip 4: don’t let your pursuit of “perfect” get in the way.  

Like we said before, coming up with a unique domain name for your business can be a tall order!  

Don’t beat yourself up if your name isn’t a word-ly masterpiece just yet. Sometimes “good enough” is…well…enough and will get you moving towards other things, like building your website.  

And lookif you’re still feeling a little wobbly about your business and domain name, you can always register multiple domains for one year to cover yourself off. It’s inexpensive peace-of-mind and you can decide not to renew any unneeded domains down the road.  

What are some examples of good domain names? 

Let’s look at some examples of .CA’s and the naming strategies they used to create good domain names: 

  • Dog walking and pet training service Tails on Trails combined their business name with the area they service (Guelph): tailsontrailsguelph.ca 
  • Kingston’s Bread and Butter Bakery and Fine Pastries shortened up their business name to create a catchy, memorable domain name: breadandbutter.ca 
  • Mrs. McGarrigal’s Fine Food and Mustard went the keyword route, locking down mustard.ca for their domain name!  

Is .CA right for my business? 

Who can use a .CA domain? 

Looknot just anyone can register a .CA domain. To claim and use a .CA, you must be a Canadian citizen or permanent residentno “ifs” “ands” or “sorry-’bout-thats.”  

You also need to meet Canadian presence requirements!  

What are Canadian presence requirements?  

In a nutshell, Canadian presence requirements help ensure that you and your business actually live and operate within Canadanot Croatiaor anywhere else on the planet.  

What is a registrar? 

Domain name registrars are the companies who register and reserve domain names. They’re who you go through to buy your .CA.  

Not just anyone can become a registrar, though. All registrars need to apply, meet Canadian presence requirements and be up to snuff from a technical standpoint.   

How to choose a registrar? 

Consider what you’re looking for. Do you just need to register your domain name and nothing else, or do you require more in-depth services, like web and email hosting, or a website builder tool? Many registrars offer a whole range of services that can be bundled together.  

If price is a factor, know that .CA domains are among the most affordable out there, and registrars will frequently have sales and promotions for you to pounce on!  

We also recommend doing your homework and looking at reviews of different registrars. What kind of technical service and support do they provide? Are they reliable, or can you expect a lot of hiccups? Just because something is cheap doesn’t make it good.   

Benefits of registering a .CA domain 

Canadian .CA Shopping

We’ll come out and say it. By registering a .CA domain, you’re making one of the single best decisions for you and your business!

Here’s a few reasons to choose .CA 

  • Canadians prefer dealing with Canadian websites. A recent Strategic Counsel survey found that 84 per cent of Canadians prefer shopping on sites with .CA domains. What’s more—.CA tells potential shoppers that site is more likely to offer Canadian shipping, display their prices in Canadian dollars—and more!
  • Reap those local SEO benefits. Your .CA domain tells search engines that you and your website are Canadian, which means you rank higher for visitors looking for local Canadian businesses.
  • .CA means Canadian—full stop. We enforce Canadian presence requirements, which means only Canadians can register a .CA. This provides peace-of-mind that a .CA site is a local Canadian individual or business!  

How to register a .CA domain name

  1. Start by doing a quick search. Use our domain search tool below to see if your domain name is still available.
  2. Choose the best domain registrar. Once you search for your domain, you’ll be shown a few options for registrars (the people who sell domain registrations). Do a little comparison shopping by looking at pricing, promotions and customer reviews—then make your choice!
  3. Buy your .CA! Once you’ve picked a registrar, all you need to do is go through their platform, decide how long you want to register your domain for (one – 10 years), pay up and complete your registration.  

Check out our few other helpful tips on how to register a .CA domain. 

Check domain name availability 

Do a quick search to see if your desired .CA is available today! 

 

A .CA domain declares your business is proudly Canadian

Congrats! If you’ve made it here, you’ve just skated your way through one of the single-most important building blocks to making your digital dreams a reality.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s look at your options!  

  • First off, you could launch your website with an alternative domain name. There are plenty of ways to get creative and still come up with a domain name that’s punchy, memorable and that speaks to your brand.  
  • Check the expiry data of the registered domain. You can see if the domain’s expiry date is coming up soon via CIRA’s domain search by clicking the “Domain info” tab. Keep an eye on the domain, and try to scoop it up during a To-Be-Released Session, or see if it eventually makes its way back to the open market. 
  • Try to buy the domain off the current registrant. You can find out who has registered your desired domain with a quick WHOIS lookup. Depending on the person, they might be willing to negotiate a price with you.  

Registering multiple domains is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to protect your brandand get creative with your marketing. Here are a few reasons why:  

  • We recommend registering multiple variations of your domain nameespecially if there are common misspellings (or alternate spellings) of your domain name that a competitor could scoop up and try to pass off as you. Even if you don’t end up using those other domain names, think of them as cheap insurance!  
     
    ALSO: Depending on the registrar you go with, registering multiple domains could net you some sweet bulk discounts! We do love a good deal, don’t we?  
     
  • Those other domain names you’ve registered could come in handy for things like product launches, creative campaigns or events. You could do anything from building a dedicated registration or ticket portal, to hosting a photo gallery!  

The short answer: yesvery! The Spamhaus Project, an international non-profit that keeps tabs on things like spam, phishing and cybercrime, found that .CA is one of the least-abused domains in all of the interweb!  

In fact, only 0.05 per cent of all .CA domains are used maliciously for villainous things like sending spam and malware.  

Loading…