Starting a business can be tough—not only do you want to choose the perfect domain name, but also cover all your bases for finding a great registrar, protecting your online brand and marketing your business. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 150 tips, tactics and tools for starting a business in .CA and Canada 🍁. As Canada’s original domain registrar, we’ve been helping Canadian businesses get online since 2000, so we’ve got some solid experience to share.
1. Choose an accredited domain registrar from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — it may be slightly more expensive, but it’s safer.
2. Pick a Top Level Domain (TLD) extension that helps you connect with your audience. For Canadian companies, this is often a .CA domain.
3. Read the fine print, as the registrar is often responsible for drafting the domain holder’s contract.
4. Choose a strong password that you don’t use for anything else.
5. Make sure your registrar takes security seriously, as domain hacks can be devastating.
6. Look for features like 2-factor authentication for enhanced security.
7. Provide the registrar with up-to-date contact information.
8. Make sure your domain name is marked safe in all your email spam filters.
9. After registering, ensure the registrant details in the WHOIS Lookup are properly entered for your domain. Otherwise, you may miss renewals, partnership requests, purchase offers, etc.
10. Make sure you have more than one type of renewal notification set up (phone calls, emails, etc), so that if something fails, you can still be reached through another channel.
11. If someone else is registering your domain for you (e.g. a web designer, business partner or IT person), make sure you are still listed as the registrant.
12. Make sure you have WHOIS privacy service enabled, or anyone can perform a search on your domain and access your personal information.
13. But don’t give inaccurate information when registering – the registrar can suspend your domain if you do and it can muddy the waters of ownership.
14. Register your domain for the length of time that makes most sense for your business. You can usually register domains for between one to ten years.
15. Note that Google often prefers to suggest domains that have been bought for longer periods of time to shorter “doorway” domains.
16. Remember to set a reminder for when your domain is about to run out, because someone may jump at the opportunity to buy it.
17. If you happen to miss your renewal date for some reason, there is a renewal grace period for most domains, but the length depends on the registrar. After the renewal grace period ends, the name is put under a registrar hold for 30 to 45 calendar days, during which time it can be renewed under a redemption fee (usually $100, but it varies depending on the registrar — as with renewal pricing, it’s good to know what your future costs might be well in advance!)
Find a unique .CA domain name
18. Check the WHOis database, which lists every registered domain name in the world — that way you can make sure your domain is interesting, brandable and different from the competition. You can do this right on Webnames.ca.
19. There are over 2.5 million .CA domains registered, but that still leaves lots of room to find a great domain. Be sure to also consider premium aftermarket domains.
20. When you register a .CA domain, special French characters (e.g.: é) are reserved for you, meaning you can use them in any French versions of your site. Merci, CIRA!
21. Check out additional resources for .CA domains. There are many registered domains that are expiring and can be pre-booked for registration.
22. If your desired domain name is taken, consider contacting the holder. They might be willing to sell.
23. If they’re not willing to sell, keep in mind that the original owner might not renew their domain name. It could become available for pre-booking on CIRA’s expiring .CA list, or at auction after the registrar hold period elapses. If the name isn’t bought at auction, some registrars attempt to sell it in a “fire sale” or “closeout sale”.
24. If your domain is taken, it may be available on the domain aftermarket. Rather than registering these domains immediately through a regular domain search, these domains are often sold by domain name speculators (think: internet real estate investors).
25. Many aftermarket names are actually considered premium domains — meaning they’ll be highly marketable and ideal for branding.
26. You can find thousands of aftermarket domains for sale directly through the Webnames website.
27. Look into the ownership history of the domain you are purchasing. You can do this through the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)’s WHOIS Lookup. Free tools such as TheWaybackMachine can help you to familiarize yourself with the domain’s history.
28. The past can come back to haunt you — when you’re checking the history of your domain ensure that it never had any sensitive or malicious content, as it may be blacklisted on certain search engines.
Optimize your domain for SEO
29. Keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. Think about what name will give you the most hits, but avoid over-cramming your name with search terms.
30. Your domain name should be easy to pronounce, so that you can gain traffic through word-of-mouth.
31. Your domain name should be easy to spell, so that you don’t lose traffic to typos.
32. Try to choose words that don’t have repeating letters side-by-side for the above reasons.
33. Don’t overcomplicate things — avoid using numbers, hyphens and abbreviations.
34. Consider including a keyword or location in your domain name, but avoid exact match domains.
35. Keep in mind that in 2012, Google launched the EMD Update, a filter which prevents poor quality sites from ranking well in search just because their domains are filled with popular search terms.
36. Short names can be more effective — the catchier the better!
Optimize your content for SEO
37. Using the phrase “how to” as a title for posts is a simple way to drive SEO and web hits.
38. Pages generate less hits if they are copied from others, so original content is important.
39. Commit to being an active publisher. A site with only old posts is deemed less trustworthy in search.
40. Include a contact form where users can easily reach out.
41. Create posts that appeal specifically to your Canadian audience.
42. Google gives a slight boost to local search results: create posts that people in your area will be interested in.
43. If you are optimizing your site for local SEO, use geotargeted keywords.
44. You should also claim your business on Google My Business listings.
45. Market yourself as the go-to place for information about your chosen topic.
46. Write about trending topics to generate more web traffic.
47. It gives credibility to your business to have a photo of the founder or team behind the site — you want your content to appear trustworthy, so that more users engage with it and are willing to share it on their social channels.
48. Telling a personal story can also help users identify with you and your product. High-quality content should be made primarily for users, not for search engines. Your content will perform better on SERPs if it is proven to provide valuable information to web users.
49. Create evergreen content that answers questions that web users frequently have. Content that stays relevant and “supplies a demand” will help drive readers to your site.
50. Your landing page should have at least 250 words on it and include key search terms.
51. Consider how the user will find and use your site — are your pages easy to navigate to/between?
52. The text on your site should be easy to read.
54. Make sure you have a strong title-tag (the HTML element that specifies the title of a web page).
55. Google typically displays the first 50-60 characters of a title tag, so keep it short and sweet.
56. Include the keyword as the first word in the title tag, to generate hits based on SEO.
57. Also include the keyword in the description tag and the H1 tag.
58. This may seem like overkill, but the keyword should be one of the most frequently used words/phrases on the site.
59. If you have a strong, recognizable brand name, include it in your title tags to help boost click-through rates.
60. Google uses page-loading speed as a ranking factor. This is based on your site’s code and file size, so make sure they are well optimized.
61. Duplicate content on your site can negatively affect its search engine results.
62. Make sure to fill out all the information on each image on your site, such as file name, alt text, title, description and caption.
63. Sometimes Google and other search engines show the date of the last update on a page, so it’s beneficial to regularly update content.
64. A mix of evergreen and fresh content is crucial to maintaining a strong web presence.
65. Different types of content will require different degrees of freshness. New content invites more frequent indexing by search engines, which can benefit your search rank for news, recent events, recurring updates (e.g. sports scores) and trending topics.
66. Websites are initially given a “freshness” score based on the date they are published. This score is also influenced by links from other fresh pages, engagement metrics and substantial changes to the article.
67. Keyword research is important! Place keywords in the order that they will likely be searched for.
68. Linking out to external websites can help incentivize links in and make your website a more valuable and comprehensive resource for your visitors.
69. Broken links signal a neglected site.
70. The number of internal links pointing to a specific page in a site designates that page’s importance compared to others.
71. Bullets and numbered lists can make your content more reader-friendly.
72. An older page that’s updated regularly can perform better than a new page — keep links up to date and pay attention to how content performs across your site.
73. TrustRank positions your site according to how trustworthy search engines deem it.
74. Breadcrumb navigation can be a helpful tool for users to navigate through your site.
Establish your logo and design
75. If you create a logo for your site, it’s better to do it from scratch, as logos designed from templates can cause disputes.
76. It’s easy to assume an image on Google is up for grabs, but that’s not often the case, and putting images on your site that aren’t yours can result in copyright infringement.
78. Make sure you give credit to the author/photographer of any royalty-free images you use.
79. If you are going to use another company’s logo on your page (for instance, when showcasing your clients), make sure the logo links to that company’s page and is not altered in any way.
80. There are intellectual property rights around industrial designs, which could include your website logo or design. Be sure to register any design elements that are essential to your brand.
81. Try to use images that mean something, not stock photos.
82. Whenever possible, opt to use images of your own team, customers and products for authenticity.
83. Produce and publish high-quality videos to grab users’ attention.
84. If you use videos for your site, keep in mind that Google prefers YouTube (probably because it owns YouTube).
85. You can browse pre-made website templates to get inspiration for the look you’re going for.
86. But stay away from free themes, since they often aren’t secure and may contain problematic code.
Market and protect your brand identity
87. To protect your brand identity, register close variations of your name so competitors don’t snatch them up.
88. You will also want to register and redirect possible misspellings of your chosen domain name to your proper site.
89. If possible, also register the .COM of the same name so nobody can steal your idea.
90. If you are able to secure them, it’s a good idea to redirect the .COM (and other versions, like .UK, or .NET), to your actual site. This is called domain forwarding.
91. There are TLDs other than .CA and .COM that are useful. They can be used as a branch-off from your .CA name, to redirect traffic to your main site. Many of the new gTLDs can be used for specific branding or marketing campaigns — think about using .review, .social, or .shop for specific aspects of your business.
92. For example, if you run a law firm, you can also buy a .lawyer domain name, like lawbyclarke.lawyer, and redirect traffic to your primary lawbyclarke.ca domain. This is true for many other industries (e.g. .realty for real estate, .doctor for healthcare, .beer for breweries and so on).
94. Display testimonials from Canadians who have used and enjoyed your product or service.
95. Facebook is ideal for targeted marketing; ads on this platform will increase awareness of your brand and your click rate.
96. When considering using Groupon or a similar service, weigh the pros and cons.
97. Know your unique selling proposition (USP) and how to use it to its fullest.
Take mobile into account
98. Make sure your site is mobile friendly.
99. There are a few ways to do this. One is to use responsive web design. Responsive web design uses the same URL across devices, and serves the same content to users regardless of the device.
100. The other way is to create a dedicated mobile site. A dedicated mobile site lives on a subdomain of your main site and is designed specifically for mobile.
101. When using a dedicated mobile site, keep in mind that having multiple URLs for your website makes link development more difficult to manage.
102. Choosing whether or not to develop a mobile app will depend on your goals. If you want to provide valuable content to your audience, then a mobile site is likely sufficient. If you have a specific purpose that cannot be accomplished with a mobile website (such as interactivity or access to offline content), a mobile app may be more beneficial.
Know the Canadian business landscape
103. In general, all existing laws that apply to traditional commerce apply to business conducted via the Internet.
104. That means you’ll want to read the Canadian government small business checklist.
105. First things first, register your business online.
106. Understand that each province has different tax laws for businesses.
107. If you choose to register as a corporation in a province, keep in mind that each province has different rules that apply.
108. The federal rules for incorporating differ from provincial ones.
109. There are also unique rules for incorporating as a non-profit.
110. Protect your business from marketers and spam by opting for privacy.
111. Make sure you’re informed on how to start a business in Canada. The Canadian government’s Canada Revenue Agency and Innovation, Science and Economic Development resources are a great place to start.
112. You can also learn these details for specific provinces and cities.
113. Canada Business Network centres are located in each province and provide resources to starting a business in each area.
114. Write a business plan to ensure your domain selection aligns with your business goals and your vision for the company.
115. Consider which of the four types of business structure (sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and cooperative) work the best for you.
116. If you change your mind, you can also change the type of business you operate.
117. The Canada Business Network can help with any questions you have about starting your business.
118. Find out what permits you will need for your business.
119. Permits vary according to city and province.
120. The number of permits varies depending on the job you need done. For example, in B.C. you need six permits to export goods.
121. Consult online services such as BizPal.ca, which helps business owners determine which permits and licenses are required for their business.
122. Remember that you don’t need to purchase or use the same domain name as your registered business name (though it helps to buy it).
123. If you’re the face of your business, do lots of networking, or have an active presence on social networks, register your name as a domain. That way, you gain control of your personal brand and your website will hopefully be the first thing people see why they search your name.
124. Even if you never plan on using a website under your name, you should register it anyways to protect your brand.
Consider trademark rules and regulations
125. Find out if and how the Copyright Act of Canada applies to you, and ensure your domain follows the rules set out in the Canadian Trade-Marks Act to avoid unnecessary legal drama.
127. Research the strength of trademarks to find a suitable one.
129. Be careful to avoid trademark infringement, which occurs when one party utilizes the mark of another in such a way as to create a likelihood of confusion.
130. Just because your domain is a generic word, doesn’t mean that it is not infringing a trademark. For example, using the word “Canucks” in your domain may put you straight in the penalty box.
132. Keep clear records of all your domain registrations, including any emails sent by your registrar.
133. Checking into the domain’s previous registration and ownership can save you from possible trademark squabbles.
134. Discover why patents are important and whether you should file for one.
Research available funding, grants and tax rebates
135. Check out which government grants and/or contributions apply to you. These don’t need to be repaid.
136. There are also government loans and loan guarantees that do need to be repaid.
137. Alternatively, you can go the private route and seek funding through debt or equity financing.
138. CIRA, the registry behind .CA, has a Community Investment Program that seeks to improve Canada’s web infrastructure and media literacy, help Canadian non-profits who deliver online services and support academics researching digital issues.
139. The Canadian Business Network provides a number of opportunities to receive financial assistance as you launch your .CA business.
140. You should also know which tax refunds you can claim on business expenditures.
141. Concierge, a government resource, is designed to empower Canadians to innovate. Use it as a one-stop-shop for funding, expertise and facilities that help you grow your business.
Be proudly Canadian
142. The majority of Canadians still use a desktop or laptop to access the internet (67%) — this is uniquely Canadian, as the mobile use dominates almost everywhere else.
143. However, 41% of Canadians between the ages 18 and 34 use a mobile phone to access the internet most often, so the times are a changin’.
144. 9% of Canadians report having 10 or more internet-connected devices in their households.
145. Canadians are statistically more likely to choose Canadian websites for products and services.
146. If the .CA for your desired domain is not available, consider .hockey, .beer, .quebec or .ski as other domain extensions that fellow Canadians will appreciate.
147. Websites that end in .CA have a better chance of getting found by Canadians on major search engines, meaning you can more easily reach your local audience!
148. Having a .CA domain is kind of like putting a Canadian flag on your backpack — it helps people immediately know that you’re from Canada and proud of it. Of course, flying the Canadian flag on your site doesn’t hurt (just make sure you get a non-copyrighted version!).
149. Did you know? The average Canadian spends 45 hours online per month, more than any other nation!
150. Through CIRA, a portion of proceeds from all .CA registrations goes towards funding projects that give back to Canadian communities and help marginalized groups get online. By registering a .CA, you’re creating a better country for all Canadians — thank you!
Webnames is Canada’s original domain registrar and a one-stop convenience for the online needs of individuals, small businesses, nonprofit organizations and corporations. Join the .CA landscape and check to see if your domain name is available today.
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