What are the most important tips for domain registration?
It can be challenging finding a domain name because it should be concise and appealing for potential visitors as well as search engines. We have summarized the most important tips for domain registration.
Registering your own domain¶
Whether it is an online store, blog or a private website, every web project begins with an appropriate domain name. This name consists of a top-level domain (TLD), which ends in .co.uk or .com, and a second-level domain, which is the name part of the domain. The desired name can be found quickly and it barely takes any time to check with the provider whether the desired name is still available.
The provider, also known as a domain registrar then takes over the registration with the relevant domain registry. A specific organization is responsible for taking care of the registration for every TLD.
Before registering a domain, every user should ensure that using the desired domain name does not infringe on any existing domain trademark laws. Domain copyright infringement is one of the most commonly made domain registration errors.
How do you create an optimal second-level domain? And how do you choose the matching top-level domain (without violating trademark and name rights)? We have summarized the most important tips for you in the following sections.
Creating a second-level domain¶
In the US you have relatively free rein when creating a domain name. Some technical requirements must be met, however. You can use letters from A to Z, numbers from 0 to 9 as well as hyphens, although the hyphen cannot be placed at the beginning of the second level domain. Other symbols such as periods, slashes or question marks are not permitted. A domain name is generally expected to consist of up to 63 characters.
It could also be the case that some domain names, which could not be registered several years ago, are now a possibility. An example is a domain name with two characters such as
In addition to second-level domains, there are other domain types that you should know about. Our dedicated article contains more information on the topic.
Internationalized Domain Names were introduced, which make it possible for country-specific special characters to be displayed in the domain name. For Germany, umlauts ä, ü and ö are now allowed, and for France accents are permitted. These special domains first need to be converted, since the DNS system still only recognizes the character encoding ASCII. If, for example, a German company wanted to secure the domain möbelhaus-name.de for their furniture store, the prefix xn would be placed in front of it during registration, the umlaut is omitted and another character string is appended. The umlaut domain is then registered as xn-mbelhaus-name-nda.de.
Choosing a top-level domain¶
The top-level domain forms the highest level of the name resolution and the last section of the domain to the right of the dot. Currently the most commonly used endings are .com, .net, .org and the country-specific suffixes such as .de, .es and .us. They generally vary between:
- generic TLDs: Generic top-level domains give clues about the type of website on offer. Therefore, you would expect a commercial website from .com, whereas .org as a TLD would result in an organization.
- country-specific TLDs: These country-specific TLDs give information about a website’s origin. Usually two letters are used when referring to a country, for example, .de for Germany, .hu for Hungary and .es for Spain.
A further tip for domain registration is that it is wise to secure several domain endings and name variations. Providers often offer cheap plans so it is therefore worthwhile to register your desired name with numerous TLDs. The searchability of a website then increases and all the important domain variations are secured, and, as a result, are not available to third parties.
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New top-level domains belong to the generic TLDs. Since 2013, this new generation of domain extensions has been available, including commercial terms such as .shop and .business and regional locations such as .miami, .nyc, .vegas, .london and .wales. The new TLDs are a good alternative for when your desired name has already been allocated to a current top-level domain, but you still wish to hold on to your selected name.
Using .us as a domain ending¶
Whereas most internet users go for .com, .net or .org, the .us ending is also a possibility in the United States. It was created in 1985 and can be used by any US citizen/resident, US organization, or any foreign organization based in the US. To make sure these rules are adhered to, all contact information must be made public; no anonymous proxy servers can be used when registering the domain and random spot checks are conducted. Despite the fact that this domain ending can be used by practically anyone living in the States, it’s usually state and local governments that choose this option.
When you register a domain, you’re only renting it for a certain period of time. To refer to it as buying a domain is therefore technically incorrect. If the contract is not renewed at the end of the contract period, the domain name becomes free again and can be rented by someone else. When it comes to selling domain names, virtual ownership isn’t transferred from person A to person B, it’s only the registrant that changes.
Switching your provider¶
You should have no problems if you want to change your provider, but want to keep your registered domain. You simply need the authorization code for your domain, which you can request from your current provider. If, for example, you plan to transfer from one provider to IONOS, you will need to fill out a special domain-transfer form to confirm the transfer. All further steps will then be carried out.
How long the domain move takes depends on the particular domain registrar’s rules of procedure. Five to six working days is to be expected with generic TLDs and nTLDs and the subsequent DNS update requires a further 24 to 48 hours.
It is advisable to apply for the domain transfer at least one month before the contract with the old provider expires. If the request arrives too late, you could find that the service period of the respective domain has to be renewed by the current provider before a transfer over to the new provider can take place.
No domain without trademark rights¶
If you decide to sell Adidas shoes in your online store, you might think it makes sense to include the brand name in your domain. You have to be really careful here as it is relatively easy to infringe on trademark and name rights as a domain owner. Use of a brand or company name is only possible with prior consent of the copyright owner. Therefore, explicit written consent should always be sought. You could receive a warning if you use the brand or company’s name in the domain name without permission. Therefore, the object and dispute value should not be underestimated otherwise you could end up with a hefty fine. If you want to protect yourself from fines and legal proceedings, it is best to play it safe and check the desired domain for the following aspects before you register it:
- Brand and company names: It is tempting to use a big brand name for your store in order to attract visitors, but in most cases this is not allowed, even when the brand name would address the target group more easily. Many company names are protected by naming rights and must not be used in third party domain names.
- Names of celebrities: Names of people in the public eye can be protected by naming laws, therefore many first and last names are protected unless they are generic.
- Typing error domains: Typical typing errors such as ebey.com, gogle.com or amason.com are not allowed as domain names as many big brands and names are often protected from similar character sequences so that these kinds of typing errors cannot harm a brand.
- Well-known titles: Whether it is a movie, newspaper or TV series, the title of any well-known publications should not be used in the domain. These terms are usually copyrighted and unauthorized use is not permitted.
City names, authorities and other government entities should be avoided when registering your domain as this could mean your domain violates trademark laws. Basically “A brand violation occurs when someone is profiting from publicity.” Very big, well-known names such as Mercedes or BMW are not obliged to register as brands in order to be protected.
Verifying domain trademark laws¶
The trademark law of a domain refers to commercial website subjects. Private websites without commercial use are excluded from the rules. If you want to make money from your blog or your website, your domain should be chosen in strict compliance with trademark laws. The names and terminologies, which fall within the scope of trademark laws, can be found at appropriate trademark and patent offices. It is easy and free to verify using respective sites. The following sites are suitable for quick research:
- US brands: Trademark Search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Canadian brands: Canadian Trademark Database
- International brands: WIPO International
Similar sounding word marks or similar logos with existing graphic trademarks are a violation of trademark laws.
Checking for similarities cannot be done on the above site, therefore a specialized lawyer should be contacted. This article does not constitute as any legal advice and is not intended to replace any advice from a knowledgeable lawyer.