Nearly every business and organization has a website. Many individuals also choose to claim their own space on the internet. But before you build a website, you’ll need a domain name – a unique website address that people will type into their browser to access your site. Whether you’re buying an entirely new domain name or purchasing a domain that someone already owns, we’ll walk you through the process of buying and registering a domain name.
Steps to Buying a Domain Name
1. Think of your ideal domain name.
You want your domain name to be easy for people to remember and easy for people to type. It’s usually best if it speaks to the service or products your site offers; if it’s a website for your business, it’s best if the domain includes either the company name or the keywords relevant to your business. Poke around similar and competing websites. Avoid awkward spellings, special characters, and numbers wherever possible. Ask friends, family members, and colleagues for their opinions as you brainstorm. Then, look on social media platforms to ensure the name isn’t in use elsewhere and go to www.uspto.gov to check for any trademark infringement issues.
2. Find a reliable domain registrar.
Domain registrars are companies that sell domain names. Most offer renewable, annual contracts. Some of the most popular domain registrars are Google Domains, GoDaddy, HostGator, Bluehost, Namecheap, and 1 on 1 IONOS. Website building platforms like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace sell domains as part of a package, which makes it easy to connect your website to your chosen domain name. You can head to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to find a list of accredited domain registrars. That way, you can be sure you are working with a reputable company.
3. Run a search.
Use the domain name search or checker tool on your chosen registrar’s website. This will help you determine whether your domain name is already owned. It will also show a list of available domain names related to your desired name. If your desired domain name is taken, you can try variations in Top Level Domain (TLD), like using .net or .org instead of .com. Name Station, Wordoid, and Domainr can help with domain name generation if you’re stuck or need a small adjustment.
If your chosen name is taken, but you’re not willing to compromise, you might look into whether it’s available for purchase from the current owner.
4. Complete the paperwork.
Once you’ve found an available domain name, it’s time to claim it for yourself. If buying from a registrar, you’ll have to fill in a range of forms with personal information and contact details. This is also where you’ll complete the domain name payment.
Buying from an individual owner is a little different. The official WHOIS domain ownership directory will help you find the seller, then you can work with a domain escrow service to purchase the name. Some registrars also offer escrow services, while sites like Escrow.com and Sedo are geared toward buying, selling, and transferring domain name ownership exclusively. You and the seller will have to determine the terms of the transaction, but carry it out after creating accounts on the escrow site. You can decide beforehand whether the escrow fee is paid by buyer, paid by seller, or split between the two.
5. Verify the ownership of your new domain.
The final step of buying a domain name is verifying your ownership. Usually, the registrar or escrow service will send an email within an hour after you complete the forms. In the event that a verification does not arrive promptly, you can reach out and request an update. Make sure the ownership of the domain name is properly listed in the WHOIS directory to confirm that you’ve secured ownership.
6. Park your domain or link your site.
If you already have a website, you can use the domain registrar’s manager to enter your current web host servers to connect your site to the domain name. Haven’t made your website yet? Your domain registrar can park your domain name, keeping it reserved until you have a website to link. Website builders can be a great resource if you don’t have developing skills yourself.
Why You Need to Buy a Domain Name
A domain name sends a signal to internet users and search engines. Whether you plan to use it primarily as an e-commerce site, the online presence of a brick-and-mortar business, a marketing campaign or a custom email address, it’s a term that will define you. So why do you need to buy a domain in the first place? For one, having a registered domain name and site-specific email address adds credibility to your brand. It also makes it easier for customers, readers, or users to find your site, and provides control over what search engine users see when they search your company, organization, or name. You can change your hosting provider, site design, and even what your site does, but your domain name will stay the same unless you purchase another one.
How Much a Domain Name Should Cost
Back in the early days of the internet, there was a standardized cost of about $70 with $35 annual renewal fee. Now, there’s no one answer for how much a domain name should cost. As a general rule, you can get a domain from a registrar for around $15 a year, but the actual price you pay can vary significantly. Sometimes you can get a domain for free as part of a hosting package; on the other end of the spectrum, you can pay tens of thousands of dollars to secure a high-value domain from its current owners. As with art, the value of a domain name is however much a buyer will pay for it.
Factors that determine the cost of a domain name include:
- Your choice of TLD or extension. Most users expect a .com extension, but personalized TLDs can also be very valuable.
- The name itself. Using popular keywords or phrases will make domain names more expensive. The spelling, order, and combination of words and phrases make a difference too.
- SEO factors. The general search ranking, site domain score, monthly keyword searches, and cost per click can all impact the price of a domain name.
- Whether the domain has been live. Newer domains don’t usually cost as much as those that have already been owned and hosted a site.
- Domain registrar discounts. Oftentimes, these sites will provide a special price at different times of the year or if you purchase multiple aspects of their service. Generally, shorter domains with well-known words cost more. Completely original names typically range between $2 and $20 per year. However, domain name prices fluctuate often. The price for the same name could even be different from one registrar to another. Appraisal sites like estibot can help you get an estimate for the current cost of any given name. The more flexible you are about the name, the better deal you’re likely to get. You can also pay more for extra benefits, like private domain registration. Usually around $10 or $15 a year, this protects your private information (like email address, home address, telephone number, and ownership details stored in WHOIS) from the general public.
Your Online Identity
A domain name is one of the most important aspects of a website. Think of it as your identity. All of your website’s pages will have the domain name in their address. No matter what step you’re at in your project, you should be proactive about purchasing the right name with a fitting TLD. It’s a small investment that can greatly improve your digital presence. Consider also buying common errors and variations of your domain name as well, then redirecting them to your primary site. This ensures all potential traffic reaches you.
Resources for Business Owners
- If you’re like many business owners, you have unique financial needs and goals. Fortunately, many financial advisors specialize in working with business owners, and can put together a plan that makes sense for you. Finding the right advisor is easy with our free financial advisor matching service; just answer a few questions and we’ll match you with up to three advisors right in your area.
- Want to open a dedicated bank account for your small business? Check out our list of the best bank accounts for small businesses.
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