A lot goes into setting up a business. Conducting market research, writing a business plan, renting a space, getting your tax IDs, etc. Picking a business name is one task on an endless list.
For that reason, it’s easy to forget to check whether the associated domain name is available before formalizing your business name. If that’s the case, you may consider getting a DBA. But do you need a DBA for a website? Let’s explore.
Do I Need a Website for My Business?
About 76% of consumers search online for a local business before visiting its in-person store. With most consumers looking online for products or services, setting up a website for your business is smart. It makes it easier for people to find your business.
A business website also can be a good marketing move. Nowadays, many businesses do sales online. It may not be 100% of your total business, but it’s at least a chunk. Consider that e-commerce grew 14% in 2020 and 2021, with $1 in every $5 spent on an online sale.
Websites open your business to broader markets and ensure you have both online and in-person traffic. However, when you set up a business website, a few problems may arise that will determine whether you need a DBA.
Do I Need a DBA for My Business Website?
You don’t need a DBA for your company website if you don’t use that alternate name in any marketing, sales, branding, or social materials. You have no reason to file for a DBA if you aren’t making any money off the website and use it purely as a domain name.
However, there are some scenarios where you would need to file for a DBA for your website:
- Your business name suggests that there are multiple business owners.
- Your business’s name and your name aren’t the same.
- Your LLC’s name is different than your business’s name, or you have multiple businesses under the same LLC.
- Your website and company names don’t match, and you use the domain title in your marketing materials.
There are other reasons to file for a DBA for a website. A DBA lets you run two separate businesses under the same title without creating a distinct financial and legal entity for each company.
When Do You Need to File a DBA for Your Website Domain?
Suppose you open a restaurant named Annie’s Place in Dallas, Texas. You create a legal business structure with Annie’s Place as the official name of your company.
However, when creating a domain name, you find someone already has taken anniesplace.com. In this situation, you’ll need to seek an alternative.
You might create a website for your restaurant under the domain name anniesbarandgrill.com. If you only use the name for the website and you don’t advertise it anywhere or use it for marketing, you won’t need a DBA.
Let’s say, though, that you decide to use “Annie’s Bar and Grill” on marketing, sales, social, or branding materials. You might sell T-shirts and other merchandise with this other assumed name.
If you make any money off the domain name, you need a DBA. A DBA clarifies the legal connection between your business entity and the domain. DBA—which stands for Doing Business As—shows you’re doing business under the registered entity name and doing business as the domain name.
Fortunately, in most states getting a DBA takes only a few minutes and will cost you no more than $50. It’s a cheap and easy way to cover all your legal bases.
Does My Website Name Need To Match My Business Name?
There is no legal requirement that the name of your website matches your business name. However, there are benefits of having matching domain and business names.
For one, a matching website name creates brand consistency. For example, let’s say your Dallas location for Annie’s Place bar and grill is doing so well that you decide to open a second location in Phoenix, AZ.
You wouldn’t want to register the domain www.phoenixbarandgrill.com, even if someone already has taken www.anniesplace.com. There’s nothing in the URL to connect it to your entity. Instead, something like www.anniesplacephoenix.com will make it easier to show the connection between your Dallas and Phoenix stores and maintain brand continuity across domains.
There are other benefits to matching your domain and business name:
- It allows patrons to find your website easily. One in four shoppers is unlikely to visit a store if they can’t find the website, so this is important.
- Brand continuity fosters trust among consumers that the website they’ve found is a legitimate digital outpost of your brick-and-mortar.
- If your business name is a part of your domain name, you can promote the website using your business name as the keyword.
On the other hand, search engines have become so sophisticated that it’s pretty easy to find most business websites, even if the domain doesn’t completely match the entity name. What matters more is the content on your website. And there are benefits to having diverging business and domain names.
If My Business Has Multiple Domains, Do I Need a DBA for Each One?
If your LLC and business’s names don’t match, or you’re running multiple businesses under the same LLC, you’ll want to file for a DBA.
The same goes for if you run multiple websites for the same business. Say you’re a general contractor and have separate websites advertising the services you offer for roofing, plumbing, landscaping, and electrical work. The benefit here is attracting customers with different needs using different search criteria to find help.
Creating DBAs for each domain name allows you to use those distinct names on your marketing materials and social channels. You wouldn’t be able to set up a social media account under the company name represented by your domain without a DBA.
Can a DBA Protect Your Website’s Name?
Unfortunately, DBAs don’t give you legal protections if others want to use the same domain names.
DBAs don’t give you “naming rights.” If you’re incorporated under a specific business name, you can take competitors who try to rip you off to court. But you can’t do the same if it’s the DBA that another competitor has copied. You can rectify the lack of naming rights by registering a trademark, but that process is longer, more complicated, and often costlier.
How Do I File a DBA?
You must contact your local or county business agency to file for a DBA. Some localities require you to go through the state, but you can usually find a local office that will provide you with the necessary paperwork and able to tender your filing fee.
Some states and counties also require you to publish your DBA filing in a local newspaper with sufficient circulation to announce your entity name.
Make sure to ask what documents you need to bring in to prove your business’s good financial and legal standing.
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