Ah yes, the new year is upon us and you’ve got that kick-ass side-project burning a hole in the back of your mind – but you need to find out how to register a domain name.
You’ve decided that you’re going to take the leap and make it internet official! (Very bold of you). Well, let’s find you a virtual home to show off your skills.
In this blog post, I'll cover:
- What is a domain name?
- How should I pick a domain name?
- How to register a domain name
- What if my domain name is already taken?
- How long should I register a domain name for?
- Can I transfer my domain?
Let's dive straight in.
What is a domain name?
Did you know that there are currently more than 370 million registered domain names? And that around 150 million of them uses the .com TLD?
A domain name is the address that you’ll give out so that people can find your stuff. If you look up at the top of your browser, the www.jakobstaudal.com is what I’m talking about. It’s a virtual address that marks your little corner of the internet.
A domain name marks your territory.
When you’ve finished building your website or blog, you’ll point the domain name to the site and just like that – you are internet official and you’ve joined the millions of us who run online businesses. Welcome to the club.
How should I pick a domain name?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Many companies have triumphed and fallen simply on the strength or weakness of their domain name – because it is the most important part of online branding. If people can’t find you – then it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is – you’re relegated to the dark abyss of internet irrelevancy.
In order to stand out, you need a unique and memorable domain name that immediately creates a certain expectation or connotation in the mind of your target audience. It’s not a decision you should take lightly. Here are a couple ways to think about it.
Keep it short
The shorter the better. You don’t hear that very often, now do you?
Here’s an overview of the most common domain name length:
As you can see, the sweet spot is anywhere between 10 and 14 characters. This blog, jakobstaudal.com, is exactly 12 characters in length.
No-one wants to type a novel into the URL bar in order to find your fitness blog. The more concise and to the point you can make it – the fewer lazy people you discourage from visiting.
On the contrary, you want people to somewhat know which blogging niche you’re in based on your domain (unless your domain name is your actual name – as with me).
Make it unique
You don’t want to be confused with anyone else online. You’re trying to build a walled garden here where your domain can build some brand equity. Do some research and make sure that you’re not the hundredth person using ‘Coffee Talk’ as your podcast name. Find something unique that can get you the SEO you deserve.
Make up a word if you need to
Most of the great domain names are already gone – let’s face it, we’re a bit late to the party here. But you can sidestep that by inventing your own word and branding that in an interesting way. Google? Pinterest? Flickr? These are all example of made-up words that now occupy prominent places in your brain.
It must be easy to spell and pronounce
Let’s not get too crazy with making up words – it still must be accessible for everyone no matter how bad their spelling is. The simpler, the better. The more phonetic, the better. No silent letters allowed, seriously.
Get the .com if you can
I know you are tempted by all the fancy new domain extensions, but nothing screams credibility like the good old fashioned .com. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
This process can take some time, but it’s well worth wracking your brain and doing your research so that you get it right. If you’re struggling for ideas, you can live out your dreams of taking Las Vegas by storm and use random domain name generators to brainstorm some possibilities.
Ok, got it? You’ve decided. Ok good.
Now it’s time to register it.
How to register a domain name
In order to reserve your little corner of the internet, you’ll need to sign up with a domain registrar – which is just a fancy name for an internet real estate agent.
Registrars work for an overarching organization called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) – and that’s who is the real boss.
They ensure that there’s no funny business and that once you’ve registered your domain, no-one else can use it. Think of them as your personal internet security guard.
You’ll deal directly with a registrar, and there are plenty to choose from.
Each of them provide the same service but with slightly different interfaces, customer service, and pricing.
As such, it’s impossible to select a ‘best option’ without knowing what you’re trying to accomplish – but here are a few of the more reputable registrars and how you can get the ball rolling.
How to Register a Domain Name with GoDaddy
Search for your chosen domain name in the main GoDaddy search bar.
If it’s available, you’ll see that you can add it to your cart immediately.
Once you’ve added it to your cart, you’ll be directed to sign up for a GoDaddy account and you’ll go through the payment process to get it registered.
During this process, you’ll see a couple of upsells that you can consider if you’d like. They aren’t essential by any means, but do provide some peace of mind if that’s what you’re looking for:
Full Domain Privacy and Protection: Redacts all personal information from WHOIS database and works proactively to shut down domain hijackers.
Ultimate Domain Protection and Security: Does all of the above plus additional security against malware and SEO monitoring on your behalf.
Then before you know it, Bob’s your uncle and you have yourself a domain name!
How to Register a Domain Name with Domain.com
Search for your domain of choice in the (unnecessarily) massive search bar.
If it’s available, it will rather presumptively add itself to your cart.
It will also include domain privacy and protection which you can turn off if that’s not your thing.
You can go through the checkout process and once your credit card groans a little, you’ll have your domain name!
How to Register a Domain Name with Hover.com
Surprise, surprise – type your chosen name into the search bar.
If the domain name is available, you’ll be able to add it to your cart:
You can then go through the checkout process and pay for the domain as well as any other privacy extras that you want.
Boom! It’s done. Simple as that.
As you can see, regardless of who you go with – the process is quite intuitive and easy to follow. The trick is to compare a couple of different registrars for your particular domain to see:
- How does the pricing work?
- Are there any sales you can take advantage of?
- Do they offer added extras to sweeten the deal?
- Do they have local customer service support in your country?
- How intuitive is the user interface?
Then pick your registrar of choice and you’re off to the races.
What if my web hosting service offers domain name registration?
There’s a good chance that if you’ve already started building your website, the hosting platform has offered you domain name registration as part of the package. These companies want to be one-stop-shops and so will often include the domain name as one of the bundled services.
In some instances, they’ll even give you a free domain for a year!
This is awesome, obviously. Who doesn’t love free stuff? But it’s worth noting that these providers will often catch up on that freebie with a higher renewal price for the second year and beyond. So, it’s not entirely a free lunch. But if you’re short on cash right at the beginning or don’t see your side project lasting more than a year, then this can be a great way to save a couple of bucks.
You don’t have to go with their domain registration service if you don’t want to. The domain name and the website platform are two separate things and don’t have to be bundled. So, if you’ve found a better deal elsewhere and would prefer to split the responsibility – you can point your domain name to your website and vice versa.
If you’re one of those that values convenience and not having to remember yet another set of login details, then by all means – bundle it all together into one so that it’s easier to manage. You’ll probably end up forking out a little extra money, but if that saves some mental headaches, then who am I to judge?
What if my domain name is already taken?
All of the steps mentioned above have assumed that your kickass domain name is currently available and you don’t need to fight anyone to the death for it. You can just pay your money, walk up to it, and place your flag in it.
But that’s not always the case – especially for competitive keywords or niches. Good domain names are hot property and favor first-movers who can snatch them up quick. If you’re in this unfortunate position, then you’ve got a decision to make.
I want it. And I’ll do whatever it takes.
Brave, I must say. Those are some strong words. But ok.
You will need to persuade the current domain name owner to sell the domain to you. Check online to see what is currently residing at the domain in question to get a sense as to how you should approach things. Once you’ve got a lay of the land, you’ll need to use a WHOIS service to identify the owner of the domain. If their details show up then you can contact them directly and aim to negotiate a deal. But if they don’t (because they have enhanced privacy on the domain) then you’re in trouble.
In some unique cases you can use domain broker services who claim they can track owners down and get a deal done – but these are very hit-and-miss in my experience. You’re going to have to get very lucky for this to work. Alternatively, you can look on domain auction sites or marketplaces like Flippa, Sedo, or Namecheap for domain names that are being traded by domain squatters.
I’ll take it on the chin. Let’s keep thinking.
This is the option I’d recommend. It’s not really worth the effort of trying to track someone down and go through a painstaking negotiation in order to overpay for a domain name. It’s much more efficient to scratch that idea off the list and look for a better one.
It might feel like that was your golden goose, but the reality is that we give meaning to brand names, rather than the other way around. Finding a unique name that you can own is much more valuable than the perceived value of the perfect name that came to you in the shower. We need to be practical here, rather than idealistic.
How long should I register a domain name for?
There isn’t any hard or fast rule here – domain names can be registered for anything from 1-10 years. The industry standard seems to be 1 year at a time which is a reasonable way to do it.
There is no real need to lock things down further than that because prices are relatively inexpensive and you just don’t know what things will look like in 12 months’ time (if 2020 has taught as anything).
So, sticking to a year is a safe bet. You can renew it every year until the end of time if you’d like – and you can be sure that your domain registrar will pester you with emails reminding you to do so.
Can I transfer my domain?
It’s an asset that you own as an individual customer and if you choose to move to a different registrar or web hosting provider – you can take your domain with you. So, there’s no need for unflappable loyalty here, look for the best deal and go with that!
I’m proud of you, I really am. You’re all set up to grab the domain name that will be written into the sands of time and take on the world.
Here's a quick sum up of what you'll need to keep in mind when buying your next domain name:
- The best length of your domain is around 14 characters
- Keep it memorable and don't go overboard
- There are 370.000.000 domains worldwide
- Get the .com domain if possible
I look forward to seeing what you create.
Go make a dent in the universe.