The right domain name can make or break your business. Getting a domain name isn’t difficult, but finding a URL that’s memorable and suits your business can be tough. Learn how to get a domain name for your business so you can start making online sales or engaging customers from afar.
Steps to Registering a Domain Name
- Make a list of domain names.
- Find a domain registrar (and read the fine print).
- See if a domain name on your list is available for purchase.
- Select domain registration options.
- Purchase your domain and opt in to domain privacy (if needed).
Unless your business name is unique, you may not be able to secure an exact match. According to data from Internet Live Stats, there are over 1.7 billion websites in the world, which means there are just as many (if not more) domain names already purchased. This can make finding a domain name difficult.
Step 1: Make a List of Domain Names
Before you search, prepare some options because your favorite may already be taken.
The very first website domain, Symbolics.com, was registered in 1985. With over 1.7 billion websites out there as of December 2019, the number of domains has grown immensely in 35 years. In addition to competitors snatching up industry- or product-related domain names, some people have made fortunes from domain reselling. Domain reselling occurs when a business buys domain names likely to become popular in the future for entry-level prices—as low $1 or less per year—betting that someone will want to buy them in the future for thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
This is why it’s so difficult to find a common domain name. If it’s obvious, someone probably already owns it. You’re going to have to be creative.
You may not be able to get Plumbing.com, Plumber.com, or even OrlandoPlumbing.com, but you might be able to snag a domain name like McAvoyPlumbing.com or OrlandoPlumbingFixers.com because they are a little out of the ordinary.
Consider your business name and common keywords and terms related to your business, and make a list of possible names, ranked from most to least favorite.
Step 2: Choose a Domain Registrar
You can buy a domain name at one of the many domain registrars online. Many offer web hosting and other services in addition to domain name purchases. Bundling your domain name and hosting might be a good decision if you’re looking to save money by building a site yourself, but if you plan to have a scalable business, you’re better off keeping your domain name and hosting separate to make it easier to change hosting, if necessary.
You want a domain registrar that’s easy to use, well-established, has a reputation for good customer service, and is easy to search. Before you choose, research the pricing structures. Some offer cheap domain names, but other services, like renewal or a privacy service, may be more expensive, and not all registrars offer the same variety of domain extensions. We did some research and put together a shortlist of popular domain registrars that meet these criteria:
You should know that registrars can and do go out of business. When this happens, ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, steps in and transfers the info to a new registrar. ICANN keeps a running list of domain transfers.
Read the Fine Print
Like most people, you probably assume that once you buy a domain name, it’s yours until you stop paying for it. That’s not strictly true. Registrar contracts contain fine print, and they are allowed to revoke your contract for a number of reasons (most often for doing illegal business or having offensive content). Many registrar contracts state they can make changes to the agreement at any time, without informing you.
Step 3: See if a Domain Name on Your List Is Available
With your list in hand and your domain registrar chosen, you’re ready to get started. Paste your top chosen name into the search box and hit enter. The results will tell you if your domain is available, and most will offer a list of alternative options if it is not.
Step 4: Select Domain Registration Options
While .com remains the most popular choice by far, top-level domain (TLD) name options have moved far beyond just .com and .net. Today, you can buy industry-specific extensions such as .plumbing, .money, or .shoes.
If you can’t get a .com domain, there are many more to pick from that may suit your business. Domain.com provides a huge list of alternative domain options.
Bear in mind that you don’t want to choose a location-specific name that is similar to an existing business. For example, if OrlandoPlumbers.com exists, buying OrlandoPlumbers.net will likely result in netting your competition more business and might also land you in court for copyright infringement. If you are lucky enough to get your business name, consider buying all the extensions that might apply, such as:
Tip: For the few bucks extra a year it will cost, you can avoid the hassle of someone trying to cash in on your business name. Make all your domain names point to the same landing page or use different landing pages for specific marketing campaigns. You don’t need to build a separate website for each domain name.
Other Things to Consider
You’ll be faced with several important decisions before you make your domain name purchase. A few are listed below.
- Domain privacy. This is free with some registrars, but others charge for the service. It’s worth it to opt in either way. This will keep your personal information, including your name and phone number, from being listed in the Whois database for anyone (spammers) to access.
- Time limit. Contracts often run from one year to a maximum of 10 years. You can usually get a lower price by choosing a longer contract. However, opting for shorter-term contracts with auto-renewal ensures that you can dump a bad host or switch if your registrar suddenly jacks up the price of domains.
- Automatic renewal. When you choose a shorter-term contract, it’s wise to set up automatic renewal. Renewal notices can get lost in your email or slip your mind, and established URLs are valuable enough that vultures are always circling, waiting to swoop down and grab your business URL and sell it for a premium price.
Step 5: Purchase Your Domain
That’s it! With all the decisions made, you’re ready to make your purchase. Put in your information, add a payment method, and your new business domain name is all yours.
It typically takes anywhere from 24 to 48 hours to become active, so don’t expect to type it into your search bar and get results immediately. When it is live on the internet, work to set up your website so your customers can learn more about your business. And if it drives sales, it’ll be worth the investment of time and money it took to get your domain.