If you’re going to start an online business, then one of the first things you’ll need to do is buy a domain name. This post will teach you all the basics – where to go and how to get set up the right way!
Do You Really Need My Own Domain Name?
I really think anyone who starts an online business should be willing to spend the $10 or so it costs a year to purchase their own domain name. Although there are free blogging sites like Blogger, Weebly and WordPress.com that let you blog without one, I don’t recommend going down that route.
Firstly, it doesn’t look professional. I recently came across an online consultant claiming to teach people about online business from their years of experience, yet they didn’t even have their own domain name! Maybe they did have some great stuff to teach, but personally, I wouldn’t trust someone who claims to have a successful, professional business when they can’t even spend $10 a year!
Secondly, I don’t really believe in using blog services like WordPress.com and Blogger. You can click here to read more in a separate post I wrote about WordPress. In short, there are too many rules and regulations, you don’t have as much freedom to create the exact kind of website you want, and you may even be at risk of having it shut down if you do something against those rules.
So I hope I’ve convinced you that a domain name is the way to go!Click here to download my free blog-naming worksheets and checklist
How Domain Registration Works
When you register a domain name, you aren’t buying it outright forever. You are simply paying to “rent” it for a certain period of time (minimum of a year). Once the time period expires, the domain then goes up for sale again to anyone else who may want to register it.
There isn’t a fixed price for buying domain names – it depends where you shop (see below) – but generally they are around $10-$15 for a year. You can choose to order more than a year upfront, or you can renew once the time period expires (and most registrars give you the option of linking a credit card to auto-renew).
Sometimes you’ll search for a domain and find it costs hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. This is usually because there are people who buy up domains using popular words and then try to make a profit by selling them on. You can totally pay extra if you’re really tied to a specific domain name, but just know that you are paying a premium price!
How to Choose Your Domain Name
Probably the longest step in the process of buying your domain name is choosing what it should be in the first place! If you’re going with your own name, then it’s simple. However, if you’re trying to come up with a name for your blog or business then click here to read a post I did that covers brainstorming techniques and also lists a few helpful websites that’ll help you come up with extra ideas.
(Bonus tip: even if you don’t want to use your real name as your domain name, go ahead and register yourname.com now just to secure it and stop anybody else using it in future)
How to Check if a Domain Name is Available
You won’t be able to register your domain name if it’s already been registered by someone else, so you’ll want to make sure it’s available before you become too attached to the idea. All websites that sell domains will let you check the availability, but be careful when they say something like “available to backorder” – this usually means it’s already registered and the domain service will try to secure it once that registration period expires. There are NO guarantees here so I don’t generally recommend this.
Do You Need a .com Domain Name?
There’s no doubt that .com is the most popular domain extension (this simply means the end part of the domain like “.com” or “.co.uk” or “.org”) I definitely think that you should register the .com version of your domain name if it’s available.
However, when coming up with domain name ideas you’ll quickly realise that a LOT of domain names have already been registered, making it tricky when you’ve thought of the perfect business name! The good news is that, even if the .com is taken, you can usually find an alternative extension that is available. But should you do that?
First, make sure to check whether the .com is already being used. If someone else already thought of the business name you like, and they already have a website with that name, then personally I would forget it and come up with a new one.
However, often you’ll find that the domain has been registered but is just sitting there empty. In this case, it’s up to you whether to still use the name and either register a different extension (like .net or .co) or to add a short prefix, hyphen or word to your name to make it unique.
People are changing the way they browse the web. Although most people will instantly type in .com when going to a website (meaning you might confuse people if yours isn’t .com), many people are now accessing websites through Google search, social media links, email newsletters and so on, so I don’t think the domain is as important as it used to be. My personal preference? I still tend to go for the .com and keep things simple, but I also follow some really great bloggers that don’t have a .com domain name.
Where to Register Your Domain Name
There are so many domain registrars out there, and they vary in price depending on the extension. I have personally been using NAME.com for years for my domain names, mostly because they offer free privacy (see below) with the coupon “PRIVACYPLEASE”.
NOTE: I recommend against buying your hosting and domain name from the same provider. Firstly, they usually charge more than other web hosts. Secondly, the advice is usually not to have your domain tied to your hosting should something go wrong and you want to leave your host – you wouldn’t want your domain name held hostage too. Click here to read my separate blog post all about buying hosting for your website.
What is Domain Name Privacy?
When you register your domain name, you’ll see the option to add “privacy”. By default, anyone can look up the name and address of the person who owns any domain name. Personally I don’t like to have this information freely available, so I choose to add privacy to the domain names so this doesn’t show. This usually costs extra, though.
Now that you’ve got your domain name you’ll need to:
- Sign up for website hosting
- Set up your domain nameservers to “link” the two
- Start building your website!
So there you have it, everything you need to know about buying domain names! Now you can take the first step in starting your new online business 🙂