Whether or not to register a TLD – or Top-Level-Domain – is the newest challenge in front of small business owners. It’s not an easy decision and requires some thought.

Internet domain names are registered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). They have filed 100+ million names which do not admit duplication. So, for example, if the name www.maria’srestaurant.com is already taken, you can’t call your restaurant Maria’s or you need to find an alternative for your domain name. Top-level-domain names will open wider categories and optional choices. A new TLD choice allows you to distinguish your business from others with similar names, others in the alphabet, others without your performance standards. It is a marketing boost. If you are registered, licensed realtor, you can separate yourself from the pack; yours will be an exclusive address in an exclusive directory. And, ICANN will be there to police the exclusivity.

But, clearly, there are critics and those who don’t see the need. There is a short and long-term expense. The cost to apply for the TLD is no big issue, but there are immediate and subsequent costs in marketing materials in advance of, during, and following the re-naming. This involves planning, marketing materials, and stationery and billing. Owners have to decide on the timing for this – and the subsequent value. In addition, apparent changes in direction threaten customer goodwill. Customers establish relationships with websites; they learn to navigate them, know where to find information, know how to contact you through the site. You may not want to jeopardize this.

In a poll offered by The Wall Street Journal, 53% of respondents think the idea of a TLD is a good move while 46% do not. That split indicates some lack of clarity on this issue. Small business owners haven’t had very specific labels in the past. The web address usually ends with a .com, .biz. .net., or .org. TLDs offer very specific identifications, such as, .realtor, .contractor, .restaurant, .florist, and the like.

Every small business has been or will be approached sooner or later to purchase new domain names. There are aggressive and numerous campaigns to sign you up with wildly contrived IDs. They layer on costs for international addresses and renewal fees. The ICANN reputation is singularly positive. It’s history and processes are transparent, and not a bad place to place your trust. The small business owner’s decision is individual: investigate the options, the process, the expense, and the value to your business at this time.


By Steven Schlagel