By Erik WongGoDaddy, Tech Consultant 

Owning a business is hard. After months of paperwork, planning, and heavy lifting, you have finally opened your doors, and things are going smoothly. What do you do next? There is, of course, the obligatory celebration (you earned it!), but just because you are up and running doesn’t mean you should just sit back and let the customers trickle in. Heck no! Now is the best time to be proactive, maximize your returns, and take your services to your customers.

Now is the time to get a domain name. If you don’t know what a domain name is, check out Domain Name Basics. While the benefits are numerous, there are a few standout reasons why you should seriously consider registering a domain.

Credibility: The most important reason is credibility. We live in the Internet age, and like it or not, the Web plays an integral role in the human experience. You want to ride the wave of the future, not paddle behind it. A domain (with an attached website) gives your business serious street credit with customers. Nowadays, they expect businesses to have an online presence.

Brand Protection: With more than 23 million small businesses in the United States, there is always a strong possibility of overlap. How many other nail salons in the country share the same name as you? How many corner stores, Italian restaurants, or car dealerships have stumbled into the same catchy moniker? It’s critical to protect your brand by registering at least one domain that represents it. That domain then will help guide customers to a business website that reflects your unique brand.

Search Engine Optimization: Speaking of your competitors — do they already have websites? Are they listed on Google® or Bing®? If they are, you need to catch up. If they’re not, congrats, you’ll have a leg up on them. A well-considered domain—especially a name that strikes a balance between brand recognition and target keywords—can help your business rank higher in search engine results. If you don’t already know the importance of getting found through search engines, check out this post about Search Engine Optimization.

Email: Last, but not least, one of the biggest benefits of having your own domain name is the opportunity to have branded email. This is a big one. Anyone in the world can have a Gmail® or Hotmail® account, but you aren’t just anyone. You’re a business owner, and you mean business! Sometimes the smallest details can make the largest difference in people’s impression of you. Would you rather book your anniversary dinner through “chuckyx13@hotmail.com” or “reservations@examplerestaurant.com?” That’s what I thought.

If you are a business owner without an online presence, hopefully now you understand not only the importance of domain names, but also the vast realm of possibilities they’ll offer your company. Register a domain. Own your future.

Erik Wong with GoDaddyErik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddyand a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com. Connect with Erik on Google+.