Domain name checking and registration in Europe
- Sandra Visser-Meijer
- 9 Oct 2019
- Edited 11 Oct 2023
- 4 min
- Managing and growing
A domain name is the Internet address of your shop. It consists of two parts: the name and the extension. The name you choose is usually the name of your company or shop, followed by an extension that suits your target audience and the country in which you do business. Any domain name you establish may not infringe on trademarks or trade name rights of other companies, and it is important to make sure that overseas customers will also understand your name and that it means what you think it does.
When you start a online shop, you pick a free domain name, which you then buy and register. The name of your website should be relevant and easy to understand, telegraphing exactly what you are selling. Use specific product names in your domain name, such as 'baby clothes' or 'smartphone cases'. If you mainly want to target overseas markets, your domain name should be easy to understand in other countries too.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is a unique address on the Internet. Your domain name is the name of your shop or website and the extension that follows it (the part after the full stop). Your domain name could be based on the products you sell, your own name, your company name, or your brand name. Rothconstruction.com or Gartermedia.eu, for instance, are sound domain names.
Your domain name is not allowed to infringe on the trademark or trade name rights of another company. If you use another company’s brand name or trade name, you could potentially confuse your customers. Just imagine: if there were multiple construction companies named Roth in the same area and one company gets bad press, your customers will not be able to tell which Roth Construction is trustworthy and which one is not.
Checking domain names
You buy domain names from the organisation charged with managing domain names in the country in question. The same organisation will let you check whether the domain name you have in mind is still free. To check, use the WHOIS search on the website of the organisation that manages extensions. If your chosen name already exists, you can buy or claim an existing domain name or choose a different extension. To find out how, read our article on What to do if your domain name has been (in Dutch).
Registering your domain name
The domain name of your shop is registered with the organisation charged with managing domain names in the country in question. In the Netherlands, domain names are managed by Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN). A registrar registers your domain name with the organisation tasked with managing domain names. Registrars are also known as hosting providers. Dutch registrars can also register overseas domain names. The cost of registering a domain name depends on the intended duration and other services you purchase from the provider, such as web hosting.
Domain name fraud
Business owners are often targeted by domain name providers. Scammers may employ aggressive sales tactics to get you to register your domain name with another extension. Read our article on ‘Domain name scams? Do not fall for them’ (in Dutch) and protect yourself.
The extension is the part of a domain name that follows the full stop and is linked to what country and what audience you want to reach. With an extension like .nl or .be, you will mainly reach Dutch or Belgian customers. According to SIDN (in Dutch), the stichting (foundation) tasked with registering domain names in the Netherlands, customers are more likely to buy products from online shops with a domain extension that they are familiar with. If you want to target a foreign market, register your website with a foreign domain extension to increase your findability on search engines like Google.
If you want to target one or more European countries, pick a country-specific domain extension such as .nl, .uk, or .de. Dutch hosting providers can help you set up domain names with non-Dutch extensions, too.
You can also choose an international extension such as .com, .net, .eu or .org.
Companies that operate in multiple countries usually give their online shop a domain name with the .com extension. This extension has an international appeal and is one of the most commonly registered extensions.
All .com domain names are managed by an American company called VeriSign. Use the search bar on the website to check the availability of your domain name. In addition to information about availability, you will also get a list of other available domain names. Under 'Find a registrar‘, you can see a list of possible registrars to choose from based on your location. You do not have to meet specific requirements to register a .com domain: it is free for all.
After .com domains, domain names with a .net extension are the most commonly registered domains worldwide. Originally, this domain extension was intended for international networks, but since the administrator of the .net extension has lifted these restrictions, both private citizens and companies can register .net domain names.
If .com is taken, a .net domain is a good alternative, because it gives you the same international visibility as .com. VeriSign manages the registration of domain names with a .net extension.
Companies that primarily operate in Europe often pick a .eu extension, because it lets them target multiple European countries at once. Domain names with an .eu extension will give your online shop a European look and feel. Following a proposal from the European Commission,
the European Registry of Internet Domain Names (EURid) now manages all .eu domain names. Registering your domain name consists of two steps. First, visit the website and check the availability of your domain name. EURid will not give you a list of similar names that are available if your preferred name is already taken. Next, have an accredited registrar register your domain name. Both companies and private citizens can register a domain name.
The .org extension was originally intended for nonprofit organisations with a specific target audience. Many .com domain names have already been taken, and because of this scarcity, private citizens, commercial, and non-commercial businesses can now also register .org domain names. This extension is not tied to a specific country and can be used internationally.
All .org domain names are managed by an American organisation called the Public Interest Registry (PIR). You can use ‘WHOIS LOOKUP’ on their website to check the availability of your preferred domain name. You will still have to find an accredited registrar to register your domain name.