What is a Domain Name?
One of the most important parts of your website is your domain name. You register a domain name through a registrar who acts as a middleman between you and ICANN, the group who maintains the internet domain name servers. Registrars are accredited by ICANN and certified to sell domain names.
Domain names are human readable names that link to an IP address. When you enter a domain name into your browser, it contacts the DNS servers, translates the domain name to an IP address and routes your request to the web server assigned to that IP address.
Below we’ll take a look at how to find and register the best domain name. Feel free to learn more about what domain names are before you proceed.
Finding a Good Domain Name
It’s important to find a good domain name. Your domain name is how people find you and it’s the first impression they get from your website.
Keep in mind, your domain name doesn’t have to be perfect. As you build your website, it’ll draw its identity more from how you brand it than the actual domain name.
Take GoDaddy for instance, why would someone choose that name? Well someone did and turned it into a household name.
Good domain names:
- Summarize the theme of your site
Many times, your website name is the first impression people get before they see your site. If your site name catches their attention in a way that describes what they’re looking for they’re more likely to click on it.
- Use .com whenever possible
People remember .com more than any other extension. If someone remembers your website name but not the extension, which extension do you think they’re going to try first? If .com isn’t available, and you need to use another extension use .net or .org.
- Use keywords or search phrases
If people are searching for certain keywords or search phrases, they’re more likely to click on a link that describes what they’re searching for. Also, if it’s feasible to put your location in the domain, that will help target your traffic. Example seattleflowers.com.
- Create a brand
Branding can help you stand out in a crowd and good branding is memorable.
Mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
- Don’t use others brand names or trademarks
If your domain name is similar to a trademark or patent, you could risk losing it. That’s not something you want to do if you’ve put time, hard work and money behind your website.
- Hyphens and numbers get confusing
Hyphens will confuse people because people might type the name without the hyphens or not know whether to spell out or enter the actual number.
- Making it difficult to spell
When creating any type of product, you want to make it as easy as possible to use. If your domain name is hard to spell people have to think about it. Don’t make your domain difficult to use.
- Waiting too long to register the domain name
Remember, your domain name doesn’t have to be perfect because the way you brand and market it is going to overshadow the actual name.
Tools to Help you Find a Domain Name
This is a simple but effective tool. Use the A-Z search links to find words. After clicking on a word, click the drop-down arrow next to it and select synonyms. This will redirect you to thesaurus.com where you’ll see a list of similar words.
Type some keywords in the search bar and instantdomainsearch will display domain name suggestions for you. You can use the filters below the search box to view domain names that are for sale or get a deal on a domain name that has expired.
- Name Mesh
Similar to Instantdomainsearch but it breaks suggested domain names into categories. Some of the categories include Common, SEO and Premium domain names.
- WhoIs Search
If you want to know who a domain name is registered too, a whois search will tell you. Simply type in a domain name that is registered and look it up. Note: If domain privacy is enabled, you won’t be able to see the persons personal information. The domain name will be masked with the registrar’s information. We talk more about domain privacy below.
Domain Name Privacy
The rate you pay for your domain name may include more than just the domain name. While you might not need most of the add-ons presented to you when registering a domain name; one important add-on you should consider is Domain Privacy.
What’s Domain Privacy?
When you register a domain name, you’ll have to provide personal information about yourself. This will include your name, address, phone number, email address etc. This information will freely be available on the internet. People can find it by doing a whois search on your domain name. While a business might not mind this, others might not want their personal information out there. Domain Privacy masks your personal information by replacing it with your registrar’s information.
How much does Domain Privacy Cost?
Many times, there’s an additional charge for Domain Privacy, that’s separate from the cost of your domain name. The cost of domain privacy can vary depending on where you purchase your domain name. NameCheap offers domain privacy called WhoIs Guard for free. As of this writing it was advertised as free for life on their website. Other companies can charge between $9.95 – $14.95.
How Much Will It Cost to Register a Domain Name?
The cost of a domain name will depend on several factors. Let’s take a look at some of the things that factor into the overall cost of a domain name.
Top-level Domains (TLDs) Have Different Pricing
A top-level domain is what comes after the dot. The most common top-level domains are:
While you see those the most, there are over 1000 top level domain names and they all vary in the cost to register them. Generally, .com is going to be the cheapest to register. The less common the domain name, the more you can expect to pay for it.
Domain Name Privacy Can Cost Extra
Domain Name Privacy is so common that you have to consider it when you’re looking at the overall cost of a domain name. Domain Privacy could potentially add around $10 to the overall cost of your domain name. In the past, registrars charged for domain privacy but in recent years there are more and more registrars offering this service for free.
The Length of Time You Register a Domain Name
Some if not all domain name registrars offer a discount if you commit to a longer time period with them. The longer you sign up for, the more you could save.
The Initial Price vs the Renewal Price
If you plan on having your domain name for more than a year, there are two prices you should consider. The introductory price and the renewal price. Most companies will have a lower introductory price. After a year, the renewal price will kick in which can be significantly higher.
Here are some examples of introductory vs renewal prices.
First Year and Renewal Prices for Popular Registrars
Promotions can Lower the Initial Price
Sometimes registrars have promotions or coupons codes that allow you to register for a lower price. Go Daddy has a promotion that allows you to register .com domain names for .99 cents. Google: “Godaddy 99 cent .com domain names” to find this promotion.
Free Domain Names – Read the Fine Print
Many web hosts offer a free domain name when you sign up for web hosting. Make sure to read the fine print before you register a domain name with a web hosting company.
- The free domain name probably doesn’t include the cost of domain privacy.
- Cancel your hosting plan during the trial period and you’ll probably be charged full price for the domain name.
- After you register a domain name for the first time or after you transfer it, there’s a 60-day waiting period. You’ll still be able to use it, but you won’t be able to transfer it away from the web hosting company.
- You’ll lose any time left on your domain name when you transfer. You’ll have to pay for a full year at the new registrar.
Before you except a free domain name, read the fine print and make sure you understand the terms. This will help you avoid running into frustrating surprises down the road.
Where to Register a Domain Name
When you sign up for a web hosting account, you’ll probably be offered a free domain name for a year. While its ok to take this option, I’d recommend keeping your domain name separate from your hosting account.
Third parties generally offer lower renewal rates, especially if you want domain privacy; and keeping your domain name separate from your hosting account is considered best practice.
Here’s where I like to register my domain names:
Namecheap: They have some of the best domain name prices online. Especially if you purchase domain privacy (called WhoisGuard) which is free forever at the time of this writing. In addition, they have a pretty simple to use interface and their customer service responds pretty fast.
GoDaddy: Renewal rates are higher than Name Cheap, but they have .99 cent domain name promos. If you want to keep your domain name separate from your hosting account but the free domain sounds attractive, GoDaddy is a good alternative. Search Google for “GoDaddy .99 cent domain names” and click the first link.