The 5 things you MUST do before starting an online business

It’s possible to get your business online in a matter of hours, but is your domain name available? And have you found a reliable web host?

This article is sponsored by Verisign

Starting your own business doesn’t mean you need to buy a physical retail store, warehouse, or share office space with another company in order to save money. You can run your business online, from your home, in a very cost-effective way.

In fact, once you have your business idea, you can probably get your company up and online in a matter of hours, days, or weeks – depending on how sophisticated your website needs to be.

However, before you get to the stage where you’re building a website, you should check off the following five steps to ensure your new business gets off to a good start:

1. Check your domain name

Your domain name is important; it’s what people – and your prospective customers – type into an Internet browser to get to your page. And because of this, your domain name should preferably be simple, and memorable, so that people can easily come back time and time again.

It’s worth noting that you may need to be flexible when it comes to the search of your domain name – be prepared to get creative, or at least more niche or specific. Inserting a keyword that’s relevant to your business into your domain name might help secure a URL and may also help your business become recognised more quickly: ‘SecureServers’ rather than just ‘Servers’, for example.

This flexibility might also mean you need to hold off from printing your business cards or registering a company name. Matching your domain and business names is generally considered good practice as it can help with brand identification – although not absolutely essential.

Finding available domain names is achieved through a domain name registrar and performing a domain name search.

2. Registering your domain name

When searching for available domain names, be sure to check that the .com domain extension is available first, as .com domain names are some of the world’s most recognised web addresses – they are both trusted and reliable and can show that your website isn’t just focused on one region or sector alone.

During your domain name research registrars will often show you similar and available domain names, which may help when trying to decide on a final domain name. They’ll also show you different extensions, too, which may help you to plan ahead.

3. Plan ahead

To avoid losing potential customers due to misspellings or people typing in the wrong extensions, companies often register several variations of their domain name to help ensure that customers trying to reach their site land on the right page. By registering your business name on the most common extensions you can help reduce visitor confusion.

This can also help when preparing, or thinking ahead, to expand into other markets or when offering other products. Fortunately, domain name registrars make registering in bulk easy, often offering other extensions for a discount at point of purchase; saving you time and money in the future and maybe even paving the way for future growth.

4. Find a reliable web host

Web hosting is essential if you want a website, as without web hosting your website will have nowhere to ‘live’.

In addition to supplying you with a domain name, many registrars, such as GoDaddy, 1-2-3 Reg, and names.co.uk, also offer web hosting. Depending on the size of your business and needs, this may be the best option as it’s often easier for small businesses to deal with one company for support, etc.

Alternatively, many other options are available to tailor your website to your needs. Research within each of those registrar’s websites which options are best for you, your small business, and what might be affordable.

5. Diverting your website to your social channels (if needed)

If you’ve registered a domain name and haven’t yet built a website, it’s possible to direct any domain name requests to a social channel.

For instance, many small businesses may decide to start their online business as a Facebook page. If you’ve registered a domain name, your registrar should have an option to divert any .com website requests to your social network page.

This can allow you to generate traffic and to promote your website – to give people the confidence that you have an online presence – while you work on building your website and still offer your services online.

This article is a part of the ‘Getting Online’ series sponsored by Verisign. For more information from Verisign on how to get your business online, click here.