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Are you an aspiring entrepreneur who is ready to take that great idea and turn it into a business?

In this free guide, you'll learn how to choose a business name, pick the perfect domain name for your business, build a website and more! 

Contents

Chapter 1: Naming your business

Choosing a name for your business 

So, you want to start a business but don’t quite know where to start. You are in the right place! The first step is to pick a name for your business. This is the building block of your brand and will reflect your business for years to come.  

Stuck on how to pick a great name? Here are ways to generate business name ideas:  

  • Think about the product or service you are offering. 

  • Consider using your personal name. 

When choosing a name, remember to... 

Ensure it’s easy to pronounce and remember. 

Avoid hard to spell names. 

Pick a name that won’t limit your growth if you plan on expanding.

Researching your business name 

You have ideas for a business name, but before you register it with the government and order 1,000 business cards, do a search of the following: 

  • The general web. Search for your business name ideas on the web to check if an existing business is already using it or if there’s an alternative meaning you didn’t know about. 

  • Registered business names and trademarks. Order a Nuans report to search existing Canadian corporate names, and conduct a search of registered trademarks in Canada on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website. 

  • Domain names. You can search for available .CA domain names using a tool called WHOIS. If the one you want is taken, you may want to look at alternatives - we'll get into that later. 

  • Social media handles. Which social media platforms are you going to use to promote your business? Find what handles are available.

Girl smiling while using her laptop

Tip: Registering a domain name should be one of the first steps in setting up your business. 

Register your domain name before anything is publicly announced and before you register with the government. This ensures you can claim the domain name you want, before someone beats you to it.

A women is signing documents while sitting at a table with a man

Register your business name and trademark

Once you find the perfect business name, and ideally after you have registered your domain, it is time to register it with the government. Failing to register your business name can result in significant fines and other legal issues.  

You should also consider registering a trademark to protect your brand. Trademarks are elements that make your business unique such as words, slogans, designs and more. Registering your trademarks shows that it is yours and prevents competitors from using it or something similar. 

Chapter 2: Getting a domain name

Why domain names matter to businesses 

You have a business name and now you want to get a website for your business. Not so fast! The first step is to register your domain name. Before you even start building your website, secure your domain name so you can protect your brand and take your name off the market. A .CA domain will also let customers know that your website is safe, credible and trusted.  

Registering a .CA domain name is quick, easy, and is a relatively small expense. 

Woman holding a pottery cup while leaning over a laptop

Our owner was early into realizing the importance of having a domain name, URL, and website for the purpose of branding and being very easy to find online.

Chad Heron Vice President, cows.ca

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the address that helps users connect to the websites they are looking for. Instead of having to remember an Internet Protocol (IP) address (something like 11.11.11.111), a domain name translates that long string of numbers into a simple web address like cira.ca. 

When choosing a domain name, you must pick an appropriate extension - the section of your domain name after the dot. Some domain extensions are affiliated with countries like .CA for Canada or .fr for France.  


Why .CA domains are great for Canadian businesses 

One way to attract Canadians to your business is to offer free samples of maple syrup. Problem is, that could get expensive (and messy) after a while. A much better approach is to choose a .CA domain for your website. Here’s a few reasons why: 

The Canadian connection

The .CA domain name means the business is 100% Canadian, because in order to register a .CA domain, individuals, businesses or organizations must meet CIRA’s Canadian Presence Requirements

User preference 

Canadians are 4x more likely to prefer .CA than .com websites for shopping when they have a choice.* 

*Strategic Counsel, 2020 

Shopping 

A .CA domain tells customers that: 

...you charge in CAD dollars 

...you ship to Canada 

...you pay and collect Canadian taxes 

SEO advantage 

Using a .CA domain means Canadian businesses see an increase in search. For searches in Canada about Canadian topics, search engines like Google tend to favour local results which can lead to increased website traffic and leads. 

Trust 

.CA is an established top-level domain and recognized as a safe, secure and trusted resource for Canadians. CIRA has been managing the registry since 2000. 

5 reasons why Canadians trust .CA domains 

Availability

Avoid thatreallylongdomainname.com. You might have a better chance of getting the domain name you really want in a .CA.

How to choose a domain name for your business

You can take the traditional route and match your domain name to your business name. However, there are a few other variations you can try if you want a catchy domain name or if the name you want is already taken.  

See how other businesses have used different name formats for their domain: 

Business name Naming strategy Domain name
Peace by Chocolate  Business name  peacebychocolate.ca 
Kichesippi Brewing Company  One letter from business name + product  kbeer.ca 
Mountain Equipment Co-op  Abbreviation  mec.ca 
Mrs. McGarrigal's Fine Food and Mustard  Product keyword  mustard.ca 
Switch Energy  Catchy call-to-action  maketheswitch.ca 
Bread and Butter Bakery and Fine Pastries  Short version of business name  breadandbutter.ca 
Number 9 Audio Group  Letter + number  number9.ca 
Tails and Trails   Business name + serviced location  tailsandtrailsnl.ca 

 

Tip: Try to register a short domain name if possible. 

Shorter domain names are easier to remember and type into a web browser. About half of currently registered .CA domain names are between five and 12 characters long.* 

- *.CA Insights Report

 


Curious if your business name is available?

Use our search tool to see if your domain name is available as a .CA.

 

Is your domain name already taken?

Here are your options

Want to register your domain name?

 Learn more


Do you need more than one domain name?

Domain names are relatively inexpensive, (it's the hosting and other add-ons that add up), so registering additional ones and redirecting them to your main site can help you protect your brand and capture additional traffic. Here are some examples of businesses using a domain portfolio: 

Your domain contains a word that's commonly misspelled or spelled differently in American English: 

neighborhoodcoffee.ca 

neighbourhoodcoffee.ca

You want to claim/reserve other domain extensions but keep your primary domain proudly Canadian: 

ratehub.com 

ratehub.ca

You want to use a short, catchy domain in print material or for a campaign: 

rd.ca 

readersdigest.ca

You have an Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) with accented characters but want to forward it to the non-IDN version:

cirà.ca 

cira.ca

Chapter 3: Branding your business

woman business owner writing on a sign outside her storefront

Importance of branding 

Before you build a website or start printing business cards, it is important to think about your brand identity. Branding is all about setting yourself apart from your competitors and building a reputation. Your brand is how people perceive your business, so it is an important aspect to plan out. 

Follow these steps to begin building your brand: 

  • Determine your target audience. Research who your potential customers are and what they are interested in. This helps your business cater to these audiences effectively. 

  • Find a brand voice and personality. Think of your brand as a person. How would they act? Write 3 to 5 adjectives that describe your business. Let these set the stage for your voice and tone on social media and in writing. 

  • Choose colours. Think about how you want to visually represent your brand. Canva.ca guides you through the process of picking the right colour palette for your business.

  • Select fonts. Pick two fonts at most, one for headings and another for body text. The chosen fonts should be clear and easy to read. Try to avoid fonts for body text that use a cursive script or all capitals. For text colour, keep it simple and always make sure it contrasts with the background colour. 

  • Create a logo. This will represent your brand and be used in many areas of your business. Create a logo that is unique and captures what your business is all about. 

  • Register trademarks. Anything that you create like slogans, logos, and product or service names should be registered as trademarks with the government to protect your branding. 

Tip: When branding your business, consistency is key.

You can’t build a brand without maintaining consistency as you extend your brand to every part of your business like your website, promotional materials and product packaging.  


Design your logo 

Having a logo for your business is a key component to branding and recognition. A logo helps build recognition amongst customers and promotes your business. 

Don't have design experience? Don't worry, building a great logo for your business is easy and there are many free tools that can help. Before you start building your logo, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Know your brand colours. 

  • Keep it simple and clean. 

  • Use a transparent background. 

  • Ensure it is scalable for any size. 

man drawing on a tilted table

Choose a logo type... 

You have a few options when designing your logo. Think about which style fits your brand the best: 

Wordmark logo 

A unique text-only logo using your business name 

Pictorial mark logo 

An icon-based logo that represents your business 

Combination of both 

Combination of words, acronyms, or initials presented as an icon

a computer that has a logo being designed on it

Building your logo 

You can hire a professional designer to create your custom logo, or you can create it yourself. This decision depends on how much money and time you have to spend on the process. 

Here are some great, free tools to get you started: 

  • Vistaprint.ca. Choose an icon, enter your business name and secondary text and let Vistaprint create logo design ideas for you. Once you find one you like, you can further edit it and customize it to your liking. 

  • Canva.ca. Pick from thousands of professional templates or create your own, custom logo from scratch. Canva also offers a logo generator which makes it even easier to design your own logo. 

Things you can do with your logo: 

Make business cards 

Add it to your website 

Customize stationery and product packaging 


Before you build your logo, see if your domain name is available

Use our search tool to see if your domain name is available as a .CA.

Chapter 4: Designing a website

Why you need a website for your business

Having a website is critical for business success, regardless of the industry it falls in. A website establishes a digital presence for your business and generates additional leads. In today's age, most perspective customers check to see if you have a website before they make a purchase. 

Desktop computer displaying a shopping website

Here are a few of the many reasons why every business needs a website: 

  • Credibility. Without a website, people may question the legitimacy of your business. A professional website provides a great first impression to perspective customers and shows that you’re a real business. 

  • Customer service. Websites save you time by answering your customer’s frequently asked questions like your business hours, location and contact information. Providing this information is critical on any website to ensure great user experience. 

  • Brand. A website communicates to your perspective customers what your business is all about. It tells them who you are, what you stand for and what you have to offer. Customer testimonials and reviews are a great piece of content to feature on your website to further show off your brand’s value. 

  • Exposure. Building a website and optimizing it for SEO will help your business get found online. This means that when people are searching for a product or service, there is a chance your website will be amongst the Google search results. 

6 in 10 Canadians are more likely to do business with companies who have a website*.

-*CIRA Factbook 2020

The process of getting a website

The first step to getting a website for your business is deciding if you will build it yourself or hire someone to do it. If you decide to build it yourself, the good news is that building a website yourself has never been easier. 

Learn more about how you can build a website on these popular platforms: 

Tip: Don't rely on the free domain extensions web building platforms provide you.

We know free things are nice, but they don't always benefit you. Using a free domain extension like yourwebsite.wordpress.com will make it hard for your website to be found online. Best practice is to register your own domain name. 


Best practices when designing a website

We aren’t all website designing pros, and that's okay! Whether you’re building it yourself or hiring somebody to do it for you, you can create an amazing and effective website for your business.

Follow the checklist below to ensure you optimize your website and provide a great user experience for your customers. 

woman with her back to the camera using her laptop

Website designing checklist

1. Stick to a colour palette. Make sure to incorporate your brand colours and stick to a few colours. Ensure that these colours are easy on the eye and complement each other. 

2. No clutter. Leave room for content to breath on the page and include white space. This makes it easier for users to focus, process information, and understand what is important. 

3. Break up text. No one wants to read an essay, so make sure to break up your written content into short paragraphs, accompanied with headers. This helps customers skim the content to find what they need quickly.  

4. Proofread, proofread, proofread. When writing content for your site, read it over several times. Have a friend that's a great writer or editor? See if they can be a second set of eyes.  Misspelled words give the impression to your customers that you don't pay attention to your content. 

5. Keep your navigation simple. A maximum of six to seven categories should be used in your navigation. Common practice is to put the most important items at the beginning, the least important items in the middle and the “Contact” page last as this is the standard location. 

6. Include a "Contact Us" section. Make sure to have your business location, store hours and contact details listed and kept up to date. These are frequently looked at by customers so it's important that they are easy to find. 

7. Don't make users scroll for years. Users want a fast and enjoyable user experience so ensure you keep short pages and make your navigation elements clear. 

8. Link social media accounts. Provide accessible links to your social media accounts to generate traffic and help build your business credibility. Social media accounts are a great way to showcase your products or services. 

9. Test site functionality often. It is critical that customers have a good user experience with your site. Make sure all items on your website work properly and test items like links, pages, buttons and forms.  

10. Optimize for mobile. Seventy-two percent of Canadians are most likely to connect to the internet using a smartphone or mobile device. This is why you need to ensure your website is mobile-friendly. This may mean altering or removing some elements so users have a seamless experience.

While you're thinking of getting a website, publish a "coming soon" page

If you're not ready to build a complete website, consider launching a "coming soon" page with some information to tease your audience. This helps with:

Hiding the construction process

No one wants to use a website that's half finished. A "coming soon" page provides credibility and maintains a professional appearance while the rest of your website is under construction.

Building SEO early

It can take a while after you launch your website before it begins to rank well on search engines. A "coming soon" page helps search engines index and rank your website before you officially launch it.

Kickstarting lead generation

You can lose precious leads while waiting to launch your website. Capture these leads early with a coming soon page. Add an email subscription form so you can notify customers about your website launch. 

Chapter 5: About CIRA

Hello from Ottawa! We’re the Canadian Internet Registration Authority — but you can call us CIRA. We’re the folks who manage the .CA domain name registry on behalf of all Canadians. 

We’re a not-for-profit, member-based organization that that is helping build a better online Canada.

Four CIRA employees sitting in a row working on laptops while smiling

185 projects funded through our grants

Read about the projects

More than 3 million .CA domains registered

Get your .CA today

More than 15,000 CIRA members

Become a member

100,000 new cybersecurity threats blocked daily by CIRA DNS Firewall

Find out how Firewall can help you

More than 1 million internet performance tests conducted 

Test your connection now

10 Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) nation-wide

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