Registering a domain name is one of the first things you need to do when starting a new business online. A good domain name that is catchy, easy to remember, and accurately describes your business can give your online presence a significant boost.
The best web hosting the services all offer domain name registration, but should you use a separate domain name registrar instead? How does the process of registering a domain name work and what makes a good domain name? We answer all of these questions and more in this guide to domain names for small businesses.
What is an IP address?
First, let’s understand what an Internet Protocol (IP) address is. Each device directly connected to the Internet has its own unique IP address so that other devices can send data to it. An IP address might look like 220.127.116.11 or 2001: 4998: 44: 3507 :: 8000.
Although it is possible to connect to a website server using its IP address, it would be very difficult to remember all of these numbers. Domains solve this problem.
What is a domain?
A domain is a human readable name for an Internet address. Domains are automatically translated into IP addresses by Domain Name Servers (DNS), which function like Internet phone books.
Domains have several distinct parts, each with its own nickname. Take the example of www.itproportal.com.
- .com is the top level domain (or extension).
- itproportal is the domain name.
- www is the subdomain, which is optional.
What is a top level domain?
The last segment of your domain name, the top level domain (TLD), is crucial. Popular TLDs include .com, .net, .org, and .co.uk. Initially, there were only seven TLDs, but as requests have increased, there are now over 1,500.
Top level domains can be divided into three groups: Generic TLDs (gTLDs), Sponsored TLDs (sTLDs), and Country Code TLDs (ccTLDs).
- GTLDs are the most common domains and include .com, .org, .net, .biz, and .info. In 2011, the list of gTLDs was expanded to over 1,200, including .money, .blog, .dog and .motorcycles.
- STLDs are special top-level domains, typically reserved for the military, government, and education.
- CcTLDs are domains that represent a country (eg .cn is China, .in is India, .uk is UK, etc.).
You can read more about the differences between these types of domains, and more about choosing domain names for your website, in our article on how to choose a domain name for your website: tld vs cctld vs exotic.
Register a new domain name
Domain names are always rented, never bought. You will need to renew your domain name registration every year, although it is possible to have this happen automatically. We recommend that you configure your domain to renew automatically to prevent someone else from quickly picking it up when it expires.
Domain names are registered with a domain name registrar. Trusted domain name registrars with good prices include GoDaddy and Namecheap. Most website hosts also act as a domain name registrar, which simplifies the process. Many even give you the first year of registering your domain name for free to entice you to choose them as your host.
Using your website host to register and renew your domain name is okay, but be sure to check how much the website host charges for domain name renewal. The cost of a .com website is usually between $ 8 and $ 15 per year, but some web hosts charge up to $ 50 per year.
Buy an existing domain name
When you start your search for a good domain name, you will quickly find that all the best domains have been taken a long time ago. In fact, many top names have been bought by people who don’t want to use the domain themselves, but “squat” on it, hoping someone will pay a hefty sum for the name.
If there is no website on the domain, you can see who owns a domain name by doing what is called a WHOIS lookup on the Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) website and trying to make an offer. You can also find domain names for sale in marketplaces like SnapNames, Sedo, Flippa, and GoDaddy.
Buying an old domain name doesn’t give you an advantage on its own, but you may be able to speed up your search engine rankings and traffic if the domain has been used before. If it has relevant backlinks or existing traffic or if it is already ranking for certain keyphrases on search engines, it might be worth buying. Sites like Moonsy and Flippa can be used to find good aged domains.
Protect your identity
We recommend that you use your own personal data to register your domain name. If you use an agent, they control your domain name. This could become a problem if, for example, you had to fall out with them or if they went bankrupt.
It’s easy to check ICANN’s WHOIS record to find out who owns a domain. Anyone can see your name, address and contact details, which is not ideal. Registrars typically offer to hide your personal data from WHOIS results for a fee. They will call this service something like domain privacy or WHOIS protection.
It shouldn’t cost more than $ 1 per month, and some website hosts, like DreamHost, include domain privacy on all accounts for free. Read our article on why domain privacy is important and what it means for your business to learn more about the topic.
Choose a domain name
Perhaps the most difficult thing in this process is choosing the right domain name for your business. Your domain name must be:
- Brandable – Make your domain name memorable and eye-catching.
- pronounceable – Customers must be able to say your domain name out loud. This makes it easier to memorize and share.
- Easy to type – Avoid weird spellings and hard-to-spell names.
- Short – Aim for less than seven letters and less than three syllables.
- Description – Give readers an idea of what you are selling.
You should try to include keywords that are important to your business in your domain name, but it’s not as relevant to search engine rankings as it used to be. Avoid numbers and hyphens, because people never remember whether to spell numbers or when to include hyphens.
.com is the undisputed king of domain extensions if you are targeting an international market. You can choose a country code TLD if your content focuses on a particular country. This will improve your website ranking in that country, but may negatively affect results in other countries.
Domain name transfer
If you decide to change your website host, you can transfer your domain name. There are a few ways to do this. If you’re happy to keep your current domain name registrar, you can simply change the IP address the domain name points to.
If you want to change to a new domain name registrar, this can be done by simply confirming your identity and entering the contact details of the new domain name registrar. The process for selling a domain name is the same. You can sell your domain name on marketplaces like GoDaddy and Sedo.
Domain names make the internet easier to use because we don’t have to remember a long string of numbers to get to a website. You can register a new domain name through a domain name registrar or your web hosting company. Additionally, you can protect your identity while registering a domain name by using a domain privacy service.
Sometimes it makes sense to buy an existing domain name rather than registering a new one, but expect to pay more for it. Whatever the source of your domain name, make sure it is customizable, pronounceable, short, descriptive, and easy to type.