Your website isn’t complete until it has a domain name. In real life, that would be akin to owning a home without an address. While people would still be able to come over, they would have a hard time locating your house. This means, one of the first things you need to do once you have your website up and running is to register a domain name.
On occasions, you might actually need to buy your domain name before you’ve even started building your website. You could, for example, reserve a domain name that perfectly fits your brand or describes your business well before anyone gets the same idea.
In this article, we’ll have a look at how you can register your own domain name. We’ll also cover any other related matters starting from how to choose the correct name up to how you can make your domain name more visible on the Internet.
For help finding a web hosting service, be sure and check out our library of web hosting reviews. Many of the top options even include a free domain and an add-on option for domain privacy. For help in finding the right service for your needs, our web-hosting service buyer’s guide is there to get you started.
Some Domain Terms
Before we go any further, let us have a look at a few terms we will mention often in this article.
- TLD: the top-level domain is the part of the name that comes after the dot (“.”). In the case of https://www.cloudwards.net “net” would be the TLD.
- gTLD: generic top-level domains are those that do not belong to any country. Examples include .com, .net, .org, .biz and .info.
- ccTLD: country code top-level domains are those that are assigned to countries of the world. In Italy you would have domain names that end in “.it” while Japanese sites would come under “.jp.”
- Domain name: this is the actual name of the site you are on. In our case, Cloudwards is our domain name.
- URL: the uniform resource locator is what you get when you bring it all together. It’s the full web address that you use to uniquely identify the website and its pages you are on. No two pages can have the same URL.
How to Register Your Domain Name
It’s important to understand that you never really fully own a domain name; you can only lease it for a number of years. Once you stop paying for it, it’s released back into the market and made available to the general public.
That caveat aside, renting and registering domains is pretty straightforward. First, you need to find a domain registrar. These are companies that allow you to reserve Internet domain names and are accredited by either a gTLD registry or a registry for ccTLDs.
Many web hosts also provide domain registration. Be careful, though: the host might not be willing to transfer the domain’s ownership to you in case you wanted to change providers. Always read the small print. If this makes you nervous, check out our BlueHost review or Hostgator review for examples of two services that offer free domains and know how to treat customers right.
Whichever route go with, though, buying a new domain name usually involves the following steps:
Searching For a Domain Name
Unless you have already decided on a domain name, you will need to do a search to see if the domain name and TLD combination you want is available. If not, you will need to have to get creative and come up with a similar domain name or scratch it all and settle for a totally different one.
Looking for Related TLDs
If you want to keep cybersquatters (people who buy domain names that are similar to popular or branded websites) away, you will need to buy your domain name on all its related TLDs. That way, visitors looking for your website won’t be fooled by similar domain names.
Also, online squatters won’t be able to hold your domain name hostage when you have grown into a large and established brand. Once they see you have deep pockets they will ask exorbitant prices to transfer the ownership to you.
You can avoid these issues, and any ensuing court battles, by buying up as many TLDs for your domain name as you can.
Purchase Domain Privacy
The privacy protection of a domain name is a very critical, and yet often overlooked, matter when it comes to registering domain names. With a couple of dollars more, you can buy protection that will mask your personal information when people use the WhoIs lookup tool on your domain name, for example. Purchasing the protection will not only hide your personal information (address, email, phone number, etc.) but also replace it with generic data.
Don’t Forget Auto-Renewal
Remember when we said the domain name you register never actually belongs to you? Well, once your lease time is up you could lose it if you don’t renew your subscription. The easiest way to avoid this problem is to make sure that auto-renewal is enabled. That way, the registrar will take the payment out of your preferred method of payment and simply send you a receipt at the end of each year.
Lease the Domain Name for Longer
Building a domain name’s SEO ranking, establishing its authority and attracting traffic to it will take you at least two years. Therefore, that should be the minimum amount of initial subscription time you should pay for. If you can, add a couple of more years. Depending on your level of confidence in your business’s survival you can sign up for up to five years. Sadly, very few business startups make it past their fifth anniversary; so play it safe for now.
Add Extra Features
Website registrars often offer additional features when you buy a domain name from them. Examples could be discounted hosting, a branded email account or a website building tool. Select as many of the features as you want.
Find a Good Provider
Always do thorough research when it comes to choosing the best web hosting provider for your new domain name. Buying the best domain name you can get and pointing it to a website sitting on a server that hosts spam websites could get you blocked by search engines. Always use a web hosting provider that has a good reputation — even if you have to pay a little more than you had planned.
What You Need to Do
Before you set out to register your domain name you will need to take care of a few things. Owning an address on the Internet should not be taken lightly. This is especially true if you expect to make money from your website. With that being said, the things you need to consider beforehand include the following.
Your domain name should be made up of keywords that are relevant to your business or brand. You should also avoid using all your keywords in the name. While it might sound like a great SEO strategy to use “cheapmobilephones.com” for a website that sells “cheap mobile phones,” it actually isn’t. Google doesn’t like such keyword-stuffed domain names. These “exact match” domain names, as they are called, could, in fact, cause your website’s SEO rankings to plummet.
Choose a Memorable Name
Your domain name should be easy to remember to build repeat business. Typically, the best way to make your domain name memorable would be to:
- Don’t use too many words
- Use words related to your brand, product or service
- Avoid using numbers
- Only use hyphens and dots if they are an absolute must
- Add a little humor whenever possible
- Use the language of your target audience
A general rule of thumb is that once your visitor has been to your website, they should be able to remember the name with ease for the foreseeable future. If they forget it within the hour, you have failed.
Keep It Short
Like this paragraph – keep it short. People will remember it better.
Make Sure It Is Unique
If you want your domain name to stand out, make it unique. Choose a name that doesn’t remind people of other sites. If your brand name is similar to that of other well-established ones it will confuse visitors and put some people off.
Also, if the other domain names belong to businesses that are in the same field as you are in, it means they will poach traffic that was intended for you and make sales that should have been yours.
To avoid this problem use unique words that will make your brand stand out and make it more distinctive. For example, ILoveMacaroni.com would be a good name, MacaroniAficionado.com would be better, but MacaroniLabs.com would be the best because it is:
- Distinctly unique: No one has ever heard of a laboratory for macaroni
- Easy to remember: The two words are humorous which will make it a lot easier to remember the domain name
- It is short: Only two words in it
- It’s funny: The image of a macaroni lab will stick in people’s mind simply because it is a funny one
- It is brand-able: You can actually take the domain name and start a brand with Macaroni Labs as your business’ trading name
Add all these points together and you can see that they make this particular domain name stand out. Try to emulate it as you consider registering your own domain name.
The .com TLD Is Best
With over a thousand domain name extensions available now, you would think that the popularity of a .com extension would have diminished. And yet, it is still the most preferred extension, because:
- It’s the first one that people think of when they want to go to a website
- You can easily go to the website by pressing CTRL + Enter after you enter the domain name (sans “http://www.” and the extension parts of a URL)
- If you are a business or a brand, it is still the most “respected” TLD to choose (as opposed to .biz, .business or .shop, which look a bit tacky)
- This TLD is rated better by search engines because, when compared to others, there are less spam sites using .com as opposed to .biz, for example
Whenever you have the chance to lock down a .com TLD, don’t hesitate. In fact, take some time to do some research to find an appropriate domain name if the one you‘re looking for is taken. Look for new keywords rather than moving on to the other TLDs using the old ones; it will be worth it.
A great way to make your domain visible is to localize it. The best way to go about that would be to:
- Include your city in the domain name – TulsaKnittingClub.com, for example
- Use words in the language that your target audience speaks in; use LaPorteOuverte.com instead of TheOpenDoor.com if you cater to French speakers
- Better still, take it one step further and use the .fr ccTLD instead of .com; or you could create and run both sites separately but concurrently
- Use themes and graphics that are usually associated with the country you are targeting (E.g., using purple for nobility websites about Asia – except Thailand)
You can help search engines help you climb up their SEO rankings by adopting these tips. Implement them all and you could see your website becoming an actual authority website.
Check Social Media
You will need social media accounts when you start marketing your website and its services or products. This means that before you’ve even settled on a name, you’ll have to make sure that accounts with your choice are still available. Check popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to make sure you will be able to create accounts using your future domain name of choice.
If you have gone through this article from start to finish, you now know how to register a domain name. In fact, it is the preamble to the registering process that is more complicated than the actual registration itself. Points you need to remember include:
- Choose your domain name’s keywords wisely
- Make sure the domain name is short, unique and easy to remember
- A .com TLD should always be your first choice
- Don’t forget to take your target demographics’ locale characteristics into consideration
- Register the domain name with a reputable registrar
- Lease the domain name for two to five years
- Purchase or add as many free additional features as you can get during the purchasing process
- Make sure you have auto-renewal turned on so you don’t forget to pay when your domain name term expires
Along with your domain name, you should also take your web hosting seriously. You can go through the web hosting reviews we have here at Cloudwards.net to find the best hosting provider that meets all your requirements.