There are many good reasons to register a domain name, even if you do not use your website for business purposes. First of all, let's recall the basic purpose of a domain name like johndoe.com – a means to easily identify your website for visitors, customers, and anyone surfing the World Wide Web (WWW). For most of us, identifying a website with an actual name is better than using an IP address, which is just a series of numbers (e.g. 126.96.36.1999).
Registering a Domain Name - Overview
You register your domain name with ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, through a domain name registrar. You'll pay an annual fee to the registrar ($10-35 USD per name, on average), and decide whether to renew it prior to the anniversary date.
Some commercial web hosting companies (such as Bluehost.com) are willing to pay for your domain name and the registration fees. Sounds generous, but just make sure that they actually register it and list you as the owner. Otherwise, register the name directly with a domain name registrar and have you or your business listed as the administrative contact, technical contact, as well as the owner.
Direct ownership prevents the web host from charging you a crazy fee for the domain name in later years and taking away your ownership rights. The other contacts are less important, but may still be useful, depending on your registrar. For example, for some registrars, the administrative contact's approval is required before a domain name transfer is executed. If he/she cannot be contacted, the technical contact is used.
Overall the key here is to make sure that you are actually the owner of the domain name. In past years most companies either sold domains or offered web hosting, but seldom did both. Today most companies will offer multiple services including buying domain names, offering web hosting etc.
Keep in mind that you don't have to register your domain name with the same company you host your website with.
Good domain names are at a premium these days. Some say that all the good names are gone, but with new extensions being released for use on a regular basis, most quality names descriptive of products and services can still be had.
Once you have decided on a domain name for your site, act fast or face the disappointment and frustration of having lost it to a competitor. Don't let ten bucks a year cost you a good name for your website.
Instructions for Registering Domain Names
1. Reserch Domain Names
Brainstorm a handful of domain names and variations you'd like to use to represent your online presence and make a list of all of them.
As mentioned earlier, can be difficult and frustrating to find a good domain name that is available at a decent price. Going in with just one domain name you want to register is not enough because it might already be taken.
If you have a list to go through it will make the experienc of finding and registering a domain name less tedious. You may want to use a tool like a domain name generator to help you brainstorm domain names and check availability.
The most common domain names that people go with is either a personally branded domain (your name.com, yournamespeaker.com, yournameauthor.com or some variation), a company name (yourcompanyname.com), or a name that is descriptive of the product or service you offer (like freecreditreport.com).
As mentioned above, there are several types of extensions you can get for domain names, but it's highly recommended you go with a ".com" name.
You can go with a domain name like ".nyc" if you are a local business in New York City or a ".org" if you are an organization or non-profit but generally ".com" is still the most recognizable extension.
2. Purchase Your Domain Name
If you've done the hard work of finding a good domain name that is available then the hard part is over.
You'll simply purchase your domain name with the domain registrar of your choice and complete the transaction.
Keep in mind most domain name registrars will try to upsell you a lot of additional services that may or my not be necessary for you or your business. Also remember that you don't have to host your website at the same place you purchase your domain name.
One additional service you may want to opt-in for if you have privacy concerns is "WHOIS privacy" which prevents making your contact information public record.
3. Get Your Name Servers
Once you register your domain you'll want to get the names of your web host's primary and secondary name servers, and save the information in a good place. It is often in the FAQs section on their site, or under a category like "domain name", "DNS" or "domain name transfer".
If you can't find it, email customer service. You'll need the information to point your domain name to your webhost (if you decide to use a different web host). If you got your webhost and domain at the same place then you don't have to worry about this.
4. Set Up Your Hosting and Website
If you do not have a web host, you can let the registrar park your domain name at a temporary website specially set up for you. This lets you secure your domain name before it's too late and take your time setting up other aspects of your website.
Most registrars automatically park your domain by default whether you ask them to or not, so you may not have to make a special request. Some registrars also provide you with a free e-mail address at your domain name while it is parked, like email@example.com (where "sample.com" is your domain).
After registering your domain name, learn about building your website from a number of sources. The most popular option for building a website is using a self-hosted WordPress blog. Most web hosting companies support WordPress.
Your registrar, web hosting company and the World Wide Web (WWW) should offer ample documentation and ideas for you. Now that you've read through the domain name registration process, get started as soon as possible to get the domain name(s) you deserve!
Getting your website up and running is just the start. Once you're live you'll want to focus on the important things like getting website traffic, building your email subscriber list, and converting visitors into sales.