5 steps to choosing a domain name that works internationally

Your domain could be one of the first impressions consumers have of your business, so choosing one that will advance your global ambitions is vital

This article is sponsored by Verisign.

Registering the domain name of your business is a huge milestone in its formation. This unique internet identity is how customers, both new and existing will find you online, so choosing one that is searchable and represents your brand well is essential.

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If you have global ambitions, then choosing your domain name will require even closer consideration, as ever more factors come into play. The world is a big place and it can be hard to tick all the boxes, attention to detail can be everything.

A website is reachable by anyone with a computer. You just need to have the right address. But with more than 330 million domain names registered in the world today, yours needs to be distinct and compelling if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Here, we look at the five things you must consider if you want to have a domain name with international reach, and why it’s so important to get it right…

Your domain name: the difference between success and failure

A domain name is more than a simple sequence of letters and dots, it is the address of your online destination and where new customers go to find out more about you. When you break into new markets, it could be the first impression they have of your business, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression…

Your domain name should reflect your brand name as closely as possible or at least contain keywords that are relevant to your business if this is not possible.

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Register for a global domain name extension

A .com domain extension is an internationally recognised standard for web addresses. It will give your website and your brand the credibility needed to succeed in new territories, and consumers and other businesses the confidence to trust in your business. A .com domain is used by most of the world’s major brands so you’ll be in good company.

Choose a domain name that translates

We live in a startlingly diverse world, one in which an innocent gesture in one country is the height of rudeness in another. And with around 23 different languages spoken by over half the world’s population (though there are thought to be more than 7,000 in existence), direct translation is not always possible – or advisable.

Even brands using completely made up words can find themselves red-faced after launching in a new market to discover their nonsense word actually means something ridiculous or offensive in the local language. The biggest hurdles come when entering markets with non-Roman languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian or Hebrew. Thorough research into local language, customs and culture is the only way to avoid accidentally creating an offensive brand name or logo.

Poor domain name selection can have disastrous results

China has been subjected to its fair share of brand translation disasters over the years, with some of the world’s biggest brands making the world’s biggest cock-ups.

KFC’s famous “Finger-lickin’ good” slogan was translated into the rather horrifying “Eat your fingers off” when it launched in China in the 1980s, while Mercedes-Benz made a similarly misguided step into the Chinese market under a brand name that translated as “Rush to die”.

Another thing to bear in mind when selecting your domain name is whether it can be misread. Without spaces or capitalisation to signify the beginning and end of words, unintentionally inappropriate (and humorous) names can emerge. There are numerous examples of domain names containing unfortunate phrases.

Your domain name is just the beginning of your global website

So, you’ve chosen the perfect domain name, one that will see your brand gain mass appeal in countries the world over; but this is just the beginning of your journey to building a website with a global outlook.

While Google translate can take care of most of the translation leg work – though not as accurately as professional translation – you can take steps to make your website as internationally friendly as possible.

Create a simple and intuitive experience so visitors to your website understand what you’re selling from a glance and can navigate through the website easily. You should also ensure your website is optimised for speed; it may run fine on your superfast broadband but not everywhere in the world has access to such a service. Make sure images are optimised and test page speed with an online tool.

But remember: it all starts with the right domain name…