Welcome to Step 1 of your 2021 online business plan, a strategy for digital business success brought to you by Blacknight.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. On the internet it starts with a domain name, like seánbán.com, or harrysbus.ie. Then you build.
You can’t depend exclusively on a Facebook or Instagram page to run your online business. Why? Because they can (and they do) change the rules at any time to suit themselves. It’s their business, not yours. Of course you should exploit the opportunity they offer you, to show your wares and invite customers. But many companies have learned – to their cost – that social sales channels can dry up overnight.
A domain is the key to online independence and flexibility
Your domain name belongs to you. No matter what kind of website or third-party platform you choose to use, owning your own domain is the key to your online independence and business security. A domain name ensures you have total flexibility in how you operate online, while giving your brand a permanent home.
That flexibility is due to the fact that a domain name is simply an address, nothing more. It’s not a web page, but it can point to one. A domain name is not an ecommerce store, or an email service, or a community message board, or a customer helpdesk, or a streaming service, or a chatroom – but it can be used to identify all these different kinds of internet services and allow users to access them.
What’s more, you can shop around among different third-party service providers (known as ‘hosting’). You can chop and change and choose your hosting as your needs require. You simply update your domain name to point to a new hosting provider. Your customers and end users may have a different user experience, depending on what you change, but they won’t have any trouble finding you, because your domain name will not change.
You can’t do that if your online identity is facebook.com/mybusiness. In fact, if Facebook or a similar platform decides to ban you, you could find yourself cut off from all your customers, with no way to re-establish contact with them.
But if you have your own domain, that’s not a problem. At its simplest, you can have your domain name point to Facebook or YouTube or whatever third-party page you wish. We don’t recommend that, simply because there’s so much more you can do with your own domain name, easily and inexpensively. We’ll explain how in Step 2.
But, more importantly, if you’ve got a domain name you need to make it your brand. Even if you do reach most of your customers through social media platforms, take the opportunity to let them know what your domain name is. Put it on your profile, and encourage people to contact you through it. That way, even if your social presence goes away, you’ve let them know where they can find you at home.
How to choose the right domain extension for your market
We’ll explain more about domains and branding in step 3. But, for now, why not think about your domain name, and what it says about you and your business? If you are selling to the Irish market, then a .IE domain name may be just what you need. If your business is international you might choose a .COM, although the name you want might be unavailable given the international popularity of .COM.
The good news is that there are literally hundreds of other generic and country-code domain extensions which all have their own relative advantages, depending on the type of market you are aiming at. .EU and .CO.UK are popular options, for example, for people who wish to identify with those regions. .ORG is popular with organisations, while .ME has a more individual flavour. At Blacknight, we are the domain experts. You can explore our website, or give us a call in Carlow and we’ll be happy to advise.
Your 2021 Online Business Plan is brought to you by Blacknight.