Google. Walmart. The White House. Your business. What do they all have in common? At some point (perhaps right now) someone created and registered their domain names–the ubiquitous web addresses that end with .com, or dozens of other .somethings. Whether it’s Walmart or your business, anyone who wants a domain name follows very similar steps to claim their corner of the internet. Today, selecting and registering a domain name is a rite of passage for every new business, product launch or major project needing it unique online name. If you’re new to the world of websites—that is, creating and operating one—you may be wondering how you even go about registering a domain name. You may not even know what a domain name is, which is why we’re here to help.
Step 1: Choose a domain name
A domain name is simply the Web address of your company’s site. For example, ours is SmallBusiness.com. Rex Hammock, the founder of SmallBusiness.com, registered it 22 years ago in May of 1995. Back then, you didn’t have to be terribly creative to come up with a domain name. Now, you are. You’re going to want to take some time with this step and really consider what you want to use. Your domain name should be unique and represent both you and your brand. It will probably require you think up a two-word domain name, possibly one with you location included.
What about one of those new Domain Name extensions like .anything?
It’s also important to consider the extension you choose—the .com, .net, .biz, and what now seems like an endless number of “generic top-level domains” (like .company, .cheap, .construction), country names, trademarks and lots more. The companies who paid dearly to obtain the rights to those extensions bet that people like you would purchase your domain name using their extension.
We suggest sticking with .com, as that’s clearly the “1-800 number” of extensions. Sure, you could get the domain you want at .cool, but customers are likely to type in .com first, meaning they’ll be heading to a site that isn’t yours. Meaning, you might lose business. Not what you want.
That said, if you are in the construction business and your company’s name is ACME Construction, getting ACME.construction to go with your ACMEConstruction.com would make sense. You can “redirect” any number of domain names to one website, so there’s no reason not to have both names.
See if your domain is available
Before you start imagining the waves of customers swarming to your site, check to see if it’s available. You can do this by using a “whois” service. There are countless whois services–go to any of the domain registrar’s listed in the link you’ll find in Step 2. For demonstration purposes, we’ll point to Godaddy’s whois service.
Step 2: Choose a domain registrar
A domain registrar is a company like GoDaddy that allows you to purchase a domain name. There are many, many of these companies all over the world. Here is a list of accredited registrars from all over the world. Depending on what you want and if the extension has not been registered by someone else, a web address may cost you just a few dollars per year (.com). With some of the more recent and specialized generic top-domains can cost over $100 per year or even more. To purchase a domain name that belongs to someone else is .
Step 3: Register the name
Once you’ve found the domain name and extension you want, it’s time to go through the process of registering it and paying for it. The sites will most likely ask you if you’d also like to pay for other services beyond the Domain name. They will go through offer-after-offer of services ranging from hosting your email to keeping secret the fact that you’ve registered the domain name.
Here’s some advice that’s so important, we’ll put it in ALL CAPs:
YOU DON’T NEED TO PURCHASE ANYTHING ELSE FROM THE REGISTRATION SERVICE OTHER THAN THE DOMAIN NAME.
Wait until you create your website to decide who will handle all the other services you are going to use that involve your domain name (like email, for example).
Step 4: Payment
At checkout, you’ll be given several options (one year, two years, three years, five years or, even, ten years.) Technically, this is payment for hosting the domain name at the service you are using so at any time, you can switch the domain to another service. There are some horror stories of companies, even big ones, letting their registration lapse. That said, the length of your registration is completely a personal thing. If the domain is going to be for a short-term promotion, then don’t pay for ten years. If the domain is your company name, don’t register it for only one.
Step 5: Ladies and Gentlemen, Start your Engines!
Next, you need to get with a web designer or web developer.