Getting a domain name for your website is the first step to building your website and ultimately attracting customers from search engines. Let’s first define a domain name.
A domain name is an easy-to-remember address for your business’s home online.
Let’s say my business address is 1234 Chamberlain Street NW, Calgary, AB T3B 0H1 (the address is not real). Every time a potential client calls, I tell them the entire address. It takes time and miscommunication happens. As a result, they can’t find me.
But wouldn’t it be great if I told them “come to Alex’s Place” and the navigator takes them to me?
A similar thing with web network infrastructure. My web assets (images, photos and code) live at 123.456.789.10 (not real). This is called an IP address.
To make it simpler for customer to get to my website, I buy a domain name, like searchfriendly.ca. The domain registrar connects the IP address of my website with my domain name, searchfriednly.ca.
Why should you buy a domain name?
Can you start marketing you business without a domain name? Yes, you can. Create a free profile on the most suitable social network and start posting.
But, it’s highly recommended that you claim your domain name as soon as possible, even if you don’t have your website yet.
Here are four reason why you should buy a domain name for your business as soon as you can.
- A domain name is the first step to you company’s or project’s website.
- A domain name begins a history of authority building for your business online. Remember, social profiles you might have only build the authority for their domains. Read my article on websites vs. social profiles.
- Buying a domain name allows you to set up your business email address. Having a professional email address that matches your domain (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org as opposed to email@example.com) not only looks more credible but also builds trust with your customers.
- Domains don’t cost that much, usually between $20-30 per year. And it’s a great investment into your business.
How does buying a domain name work?
You buy a domain name from a domain registrar (i.e. Namecheap, GoDaddy, Domain.com) for a period of 1 year or longer. The cost starts from around $20/year and increases depending on the domain name and extension (TLD, more on that below).
When buying a domain name, you claim the domain ownership as a business or a person. You need to provide the domain registrar with your real name and contact details.
GoDaddy, for example, offers privacy protection included with your domain purchase. Check to make sure your registry does that, too.
Domain name ownership expires if not auto-renewed. Auto-renewal can be set in domain settings after you purchase the domain.
Once the domain name expires, anyone can register your domain name, including your competitors. Before it expires, your domain registrar will send you a notification. Make sure your contact information at the domain registrar is up to date.
You can buy a domain by itself (the focus of this article) or as a bundle with hosting. Services like Squarespace will offer packages like “prepay for hosting for a year and get a domain free for the first year”. Similar with other companies like Shopify, Weebly, Wix, GoDaddy, WordPress.com.
How to choose a domain registrar?
There are plenty of players in the domain registration field. I recommend you register your domain name with one of the big domain registrars. In Canada it’s GoDaddy, Namecheap and Domains.com.
Beware, there is a lot of smaller domain resellers that will add their higher commission to the price of a domain name. Sometimes, when you choose to transfer your domain to a different registrar, these smaller players will charge you a transfer fee.
When choosing between registrars look at:
- Reputation and Reliability: Pick a registrar with a solid track record for reliability and customer support. Look for user reviews and ratings to gauge their reputation.
- Pricing and Renewal Costs: Compare prices for initial registration and renewal. Some registrars offer low first-year rates but higher renewal fees.
- Domain Management Features: Check if they provide essential features like DNS management, domain forwarding, and privacy protection.
- Customer Support: Good customer service can be crucial. Ensure they offer support through various channels like phone, email, and live chat.
- Security Measures: Look for registrars that offer domain locking, two-factor authentication, and regular security updates to safeguard your domain.
- Additional Services: Some registrars offer extras like website builders, email hosting, or SSL certificates. Consider these if needed.
- Transparency: Make sure the registrar has transparent policies regarding domain transfers, ownership, and renewal terms.
How do you choose a great domain name?
Let’s review some best practices for choosing a domain name.
- Your company/project name. Make sure your domain reflects your company name or project or campaign name. If your company or project name is taken, consider: a) using a verb (i.e. GetMyProduct.com), b) add industry (i.e. TeslaMotors.com), c) add country or location (i.e. mbUSA.com), d) abbreviate (i.e. ifttt.com).
- Avoid dashes/hyphens. Although the registrar will offer options with hyphens, having hyphens in your domain name is not recommended. Mostly because it’s trickier to pronounce (i.e. my hyphen company hyphen domain dot com), avoid hyphens or dashes at all costs.
- The shorter, the better. Short domain names are easier to spell for you and enter into the browser bar for users. Yes, shorter names are usually taken and cost too much because of the demand. Still, try to get the shortest version from your list of available options.
- Easy to spell. Think of you spelling it for people and people entering it into their browser bars. How easy is it to make a mistake? Choose the option that is easiest to spell.
- TLD considerations. TLD stands for Top-Level Domain. Sometimes, it’s called a domain extension and looks like .com, .net., .org, etc.. Learn more about top-level domains at Wikipedia.
Choose TLDs if your business is targeting a global audience. Use .com for any commercial business, .net if you’re building a network or community, .org if you’re a non-profit or building a website for a cause.
Choose ccTLD (country-code Top-Level Domain) if your business serves a country-specific audience. These domains require proof of residency at registration.
Buying multiple domains is an option many businesses take. It prevents competition from registering your company name. TLDs like .sucks are popular. Buying it prevents the competition or evil-doers from registering yourcompany.sucks and building a website with compromising materials on it.
- Don’t worry about keywords. Keywords in domain names used to affect rankings, but not anymore. You do not need to have a long domain name with keywords in it. Stick to your company name. In fact, Google just updated its SEO starter guide to specifically mention this:
Keywords in the domain name or URL pathSEO Starter Guide
When picking the name of your site, do what’s best for your business. Users will use this name to find you, so we recommend following general marketing best practices. From a ranking perspective, the keywords in the name of the domain (or URL path) alone have hardly any effect…
How to register a domain name?
In this walk-through I’ll use GoDaddy as domain registrar. Other major domain registrars will provide similar domain selection options and steps.
How to register a domain name with GoDaddy?
Total time: 30 minutes
1. Search for the domain name
Visit Domain search at GoDaddy. Enter your desired domain name into the search box. Avoid dashes or hyphens in multi-word domain names. Hit search.
2. Review search results
Scroll through the list of available domains. You will see many options so to narrow your search, move to next step – use filters to narrow your search.
3. Use filters to narrow your search
First, you can filter domain extensions (TLDs) by industry. Then you can apply domain price filter to only show domain under say $30. Finally, you can tune the character limit. Shorter domains are better. See if you can get one of the short ones by using this filter.
4. Add to favourites
Now that you have a filtered list of domain, it’s easier to look through and add domains to favourites by clicking on the heart icon on the left of the domain. Once you’re through the list, go to the Favorites tab in the next step.
5. Review favourites, add to cart
This is a shortlist of your favourite domains. Feel free to un-heart anything that doesn’t fit the bill or is less desirable than the others. Then, click the square button on the right to add the domain to cart. Then proceed to cart.
6. Review domain add-ons
Before you get to the cart, GoDaddy is going to offer additional related services. Domain protection is like insurance. Disaster rarely happens but when it happens you wish you had it. It’s up to you.
Custom email address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org) can be purchased later but it’s cheaper to purchase at this stage than later. Click Continue to Cart once you’re happy with add-ons.
7. Review the cart one last time
This is your cart with all the add-ons (if you added them in previous step). Review it once again, make sure the length of registration is good. Two years is minimum in this case, but if you want your domain long-term, feel free to update the value to three or more years.
Once you’re happy, click I’m Ready to Pay button on the right. It will lead you to account creation page.
8. Create an account
Choose how you’d like to create your account. Options are a) your existing Facebook account, b) your existing Google account and c) create a GoDaddy account with an email address. Either way works. The only recommendation is to create a GoDaddy account under your business as opposed to personal identity.
9. Provide contact details
For generic .com, .net or .info domains you need to provide your name and contact information. Business details are optional but you can enter those in to keep organized and transparent. For ccTLDs (country-code Top-Level Domains) like .ca you will need to provide proof of residency. A Permanent Resident card or a Citizenship certificate are usually the options.
10. Provide payment information
You will need to provide billing information and payment method. If you’re paying with a credit card, your billing address needs to be the same as the address registered with your credit card company. Paying with your PayPal account is also an option.
11. Complete the purchase
The final step is to review all your details including domain package, contact details, billing information and payment method. Once you’re happy with everything, click the big black button to complete the purchase of your domain.
Contact support at any point (lower right corned Contact us). They’re usually great at addressing pre-sale questions.
That is it, you registered a domain name under your (your company) name. Here’s a great place to start to learn more about GoDaddy domains and your next steps after purchasing one – GoDaddy Domains Help.
Have questions? Leave a comment or reply to this message if you read it in your mailbox. I read all replies personally.
See you next week!