This article is a primer to help you understand what a domain name is and how to register a domain name for your business.
What is a domain name?
Think of a domain name as the main address for your website. (i.e., ABC.com, ASPCA.org)
A URL is the long form address for a page of your website. Examples:
Typically people point the domain name to the web server where a website is hosted. An alternative is to forward the domain to your social media profile. It’s up to you.
Do I really need a domain name for my business?
That’s up to you. It certainly looks more professional and implies credibility.
What’s the difference? Which should I get?
The characters at the right of the dot in a domain name are commonly called TLD (Top Level Domain). The commons one are:
- .COM (“dot com”) — the most popular extension. You should try to get one for your business domain name.
- .NET (“dot net”) — I recommend stick with a .COM for your business and email because many people instinctively add a .COM to the end. You might lose out on important visitor traffic or emails if a person accidentally uses .COM when you are actually a .NET.
- .ORG (“dot org”) — originally people used it for organizations and non-profits. Unfortunately there’s no enforcement and people often grab it if the .COM or .NET isn’t available.
- .EDU (“dot edu”) — intended for schools.
- .GOV (“dot gov”) — reserved for local/state/federal levels of government.
- .US / .INFO / .BIZ / .NAME / .TV / .GURU etc… — Many variations of country and generic TLDs are available to give people more options. In some instances they can cost much more than a .COM. I recommend stick with a .COM for your business and email.
Will keywords in the domain name help me with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
The answer a few years ago was ‘yes’. But not any longer. It does not aid SEO in any significant way now. Feel free to include a keyword if you think it makes it easier for a person to recognize what you do.
Should I buy many domain names and point them to my website? Will that help with SEO?
No. Typically that’s not going to help with getting found in the search engines.
However, if your primary domain name is easily misspelled, you could register a few variations of your domain name and forward those to the primary domain name.
Where do I buy a domain name?
There are many domain name registrar companies to choose from varying from well known major companies down to smaller one. There are also white label resellers — where people like you could offer the domain registration service under your own branding and collect a commission on the customer fees.
The one I often use is GoDaddy*. It’s a major company in the industry and they’ve done a fine job for me as a domain registrar over many years. I have dozens registered with them.
A typical .com (“dot com”) is about $16.99/yr to renew and they constantly run special promotions. You can lower that fee by using easy to find discount codes online. Search Google for “godaddy promo code” or check out your favorite podcast that might have discount codes.
I also use Google Domains. They include easy to configure DNS and email forwarding. Best part is the price – only $12/yr including private registration to keep your details out of the public WHOIS directory.
There are domain name registrars that lure people with the promise of extremely cheap fees. I caution you to read carefully what is/isn’t included. You might also have difficulty with transferring the domain name from them in the future. Search Google for customer review.
Your domain registrar needs to have reliable domain name servers (DNS) to point to where your website is hosted. That’s why I tend to avoid vague cheap domain registrars. Some of the cheap ones get you later with added costs for simple things.
Do I need to use the same company for domain registration AND web hosting?
No. You can point your domain name to anywhere that your web site is hosted. You could also forward the domain to your Linkedin page (or other social media profile) until you have a website built.
What happens if I want to change domain registrar companies in the future?
You should be able to do it. A simple Google search should help you find the instructions specific to the domain registrars you are using.
Typically it can take a week for everyone involved to unlock a domain, initiate the transfer request, receive notification emails, receive authorization codes, etc. So don’t wait until the last minute.
Also beware that sometimes there might be a brief disruption in you web traffic and email while you wait for the new information to propagate worldwide.
So what’s next? (How to register a domain name)
Basically registering a domain name is the same process no matter what domain registrar you choose. You can do it yourself online. Here are the typical steps:
- Go to the domain registrar website.
- Use their domain name availability search to check if the domain name you want is actually available.
- Follow their steps to place the order. Be prepared to provide your name, mailing address, telephone, email address and credit card/billing information.
They will ask you to choose some options:
- Decide how many years you want to register for. Sometimes it’s cheaper if you order more than 3 years.
- Private registration — This typically costs around $10/yr per domain name. You know how the telephone company publishes your full name and home address in the phone book; and you have to pay them to unpublish that info so you can be unlisted? Private registration is the same thing, it keeps your personal contact info (name, address, telephone, email) from being publicized in a public Whois directory of all domain names.
Expect them to try to upsell additional services to you:
- An email address and inbox for that domain name.
- Submitting the domain name to search engines and directories — You search online for how to do it yourself for free without paying monthly fees to the domain registrar. Or hire someone to help you with search engine marketing.
- Website hosting.
When you’ve completed the order, the domain registrar should provide you with instructions how to change the DNS (Domain Name Server) settings to point/forward your new domain name wherever you want. Don’t be afraid to ask their customer support for help.
Who should I use for web hosting?
I’m often asked what I think about GoDaddy’s web hosting. Personally I don’t like their web hosting (shared or VPS), I’ve had poor experiences with it over the years. Although their customer service is typically friendly and helpful. To be fair (not picking only on GD), I’ve had poor web hosting experiences with Network Solutions, 1and1 and InMotion Hosting as well.
Here’s an article I contributed to that might give you some help with choosing a web host.
That’s enough to make you dangerous. Go ahead and register your domain!
I hope this increased your understanding of how to register a domain name for your business.
Please do me a favor and click one of the social share/like buttons on this page. (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin). Thank you. -Roland