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The ABCs of WWW Addresses

You probably know that big companies like Toys "R" Us®, Barnes & Noble®, and Fidelity® Investments have Web sites, but you may be surprised to learn that the majority of domain registrations come from businesses with one to four employees.

"It's an equalizer. It gives small companies many of the same advantages that large companies have had for years," says Ted Grossman, a professor of Internet Technology at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Dentists, attorneys, real estate agents, car dealers, restaurateurs, consultants, and graphic designers are just a few of the businesses populating the Web. Why? It can immediately increase a company's ability to sell outside of its geographical area without hiring a large sales staff or opening another location. Web sites can also improve customer service and communications.

The name game

The first step in getting your company online is selecting a domain name. Naming experts strongly recommend that the Web address you choose reflect the image you want to project, relate to your core business, and be easy to remember.

Namestormers.com, a business specializing in company and brand name development, suggests that you come up with a list of potential Web addresses. Share your ideas with some friends or trusted clients; ask them which Web address they like best.

Then do the memory test. Call your friends a day or two later and ask them if they can remember any of the Web addresses you mentioned. If they can't, you may want to reconsider the address you've selected.

Going... going... gone!

Don't be frustrated if your first choices are taken. According to Namestormers.com, domain names are similar to license plates; "changing only a single letter is all that is often required to make an unregister–able name register–able."

Regardless of the name and domain extension that you choose, be sure to use a domain registrar, such as Register.com that is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non–profit corporation that manages IP address space allocation, domain name management, and other Internet functions.

Better safe than sorry

Many experts also recommend that you do a trademark search. "There isn't a domain name out there today that's worth a penny, if you can't register it as a trademark," says Mark Carr, Director of Namestormers.com.

Here's the potential problem. After much brainstorming, you register the Web site for your snow removal company as BlizzardWizard.net. During the winter months, your clients log on for weather updates, information on how to book your services, and updates about when you'll be able to plow them out on storm days. After months or even years in business, you receive a cease and desist notice. Another company has a trademark for Blizzard Wizard and has filed a complaint against your company for unauthorized use of the name. If the company that owns the trademark can prove that your use of the domain name is damaging its business, you may be forced to forfeit your Web address. At this point, you would have to spend the time and money to begin the naming process from scratch, re–do your company's written materials, and alert your customers to the name change.


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