Registering a Domain Name: What Businesses Should Consider
Registering a domain name is one of the first things you should do when starting a new online business or creating a site with the best website builder. 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 services all offer domain name registration, but should you use a separate domain name registrar instead? How does the domain name registration process 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 may look something like 188.8.131.52 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 those 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 www.itpro.co.uk as an example.
- .co.uk is the top level domain (or extension).
- itpro 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 applications have grown, 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 (e.g. .cn is China, .in is India, .uk is UK, etc.).
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 set this to happen automatically. We recommend setting 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. Trustworthy domain name registrars with good prices include GoDaddy and Namecheap. Most web hosts also act as a domain name registrar, which simplifies the process. Many even offer you the first year of registration of your domain name for free to encourage you to choose them as your host.
Using your website host to register and renew your domain name is fine, but be sure to check how much the website host charges for domain name renewal. The cost of a .com website is usually between £4 and £15 per yearbut some hosts charge up to £50 per year.
Buy an existing domain name
When you begin your search for a great domain name, you’ll quickly realize that all the best domains have been taken for a long time. In fact, many of the top names have been purchased by people who don’t want to use the domain themselves, but who “squat” them, 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 try to make an offer. You can also find domain names for sale on 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 boost your search engine rankings and traffic if the domain has been used in the past. If it has relevant backlinks or existing traffic or is already ranking for certain key phrases 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, it checks 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 the WHOIS record at ICANN to find out who owns a domain. Anyone can see your name, address, and contact information, which isn’t ideal. Registrars usually offer to hide your personal information 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 a month, and some web hosts, like DreamHost, include domain privacy on all accounts for free.
Choose a domain name
Perhaps the hardest thing in this process is choosing the right domain name for your business. Your domain name must be:
- Customizable — Make your domain name memorable and catchy.
- pronounceable — Customers should be able to pronounce your domain name aloud. This makes it easy to remember 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 important keywords relevant to your business in your domain name, but that’s not as relevant to search engine rankings as it used to be. Avoid numbers and dashes, however, because people can never remember whether to spell numbers or when to include dashes.
.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 is focused on a particular country. This will improve your website’s ranking in that country, but may negatively affect results in other countries.
Transfer of domain names
If you decide to change website hosts, you can transfer your domain name. There are a few ways to do this. If you want to keep your current domain name registrar, you can simply change the IP address the domain name points to.
If you wish to move to a new domain name registrar, this is possible 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 it easier to use the internet because we don’t have to remember a long string of numbers to access 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 when registering a domain name by using a domain privacy service.
Sometimes it makes sense to buy an existing domain name rather than register a new one, but expect to pay more. However you source your domain name, make sure it’s customizable, pronounceable, short, descriptive, and easy to type.
Further Reading on Website Builders and Web Hosting
Find out how to choose a domain name for your website, why domain privacy is important, and what it means for your business. It’s also worth looking into the best anonymous hosting solutions to protect your privacy.
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