Building the perfect website to promote yourself, or your business, is all very well and good – but if people can’t go to your website directly then you’re going to be missing out on a lot of potential visitors.
This is why picking and registering a suitable domain name is so essential, as it allows people to find your website with an easy-to-remember web address.
While you get a web address with many website creation tools, it’s often a complicated – and not very memorable – one. Consider the difference between a ‘http://www.free.websiteprovider.com/your_user_name’ domain name and a ‘www.yourwebsite.com’ domain name.
The latter is far quicker to type, more memorable and easier to add to business cards, social media bios and email signatures.
Choosing a domain name
You’ve probably noticed there are quite a lot of websites on the internet these days, which means that many domain names are already in use. So the first thing you should do is come up with a shortlist of suitable domain names, which gives you some wriggle room if your preferred choice is already taken.
When coming up with a domain name there are five important things to consider:
1. Keep it short
The shorter your domain name, the easier it will be for people to remember. It also makes it easier to type out, so it’s unlikely potential visitors will misspell your address.
2. Keep it simple
Another important thing is to keep your domain name simple. While it may seem creative to spell ‘excellence’ as ‘xcellence’, it can make it confusing for people to remember and type. Avoiding hyphens where possible will also help people remember your domain.
3. Reflect the website
Avoid going for a domain name that has nothing to do with your website – it could annoy your visitors. Make the domain name reflect the contents of your website: if the website is for your business, then your business name should suffice; if it’s a personal website that showcases your photography, then a domain name with your name and the word ‘photography’ is a good starting point.
It’s best to avoid including other company’s trademarks in your domain name, as you might get a letter from their lawyers in the future!
4. Remember it will be one word
You can’t have spaces in URLs, so you’ll want to make sure your domain name looks good as one word – and doesn’t have any unfortunate double meanings, as the owners of Experts Exchange found out with their expertsexchange.com domain.
5. Choose the right domain extension
There are over 300 domain extensions available, with the most popular being ‘.com’. While having a domain end in ‘.com’ is desirable, it might not always be the best choice for you. For a start, there’s a good chance that the domain name you want that ends with ‘.com’ is taken, but the domain name you want that ends with your country’s extension, such as ‘.co.uk’ is still available.
As well as various country extensions there are specialist ones as well, such as ‘.net’, ‘.gov’ and ‘.org’, which reflect the type of business or organisation using the domain. So a government-run domain will have a ‘.gov’ extension, while a ‘.org’ domain is usually used by organisations such as schools and charities. Having the right extension for your domain name can do wonders for perceptions of your website before anyone has even visited it.
How to search and buy a domain name with 123-reg
There are a number of services that will help you find an available domain name, such as 123-reg.
To search for a domain name with 123-reg, you type in your required domain and click the magnifying glass icon. Your domain will be listed along with the available extensions, and prices – different extensions cost different amounts, with ‘.com’ extensions usually being the most expensive.
Certain domain names have promos, so you may be able to net yourself a bargain. You can choose how long you want to buy the domain for, and then click ‘Add’ to add it to your basket.
123-reg can also back-order domain names that are already taken. This means that if you really want a particular domain name, you can instruct 123-reg to buy it when the owner fails to renew their claim, and they will then offer it to you – for a price. This is helpful if you really want a particular domain name, although you may have to wait a while until it becomes available.
Once you’ve selected the domain name you want, click to add it to your basket and head to the checkout. You can add Domain Privacy for a year, which means other people can’t find out certain details about you when they search for your domain on the WHOIS database.
How to search for and buy a domain name with Google Domains
Google Domains is another service that lets you search for and buy domain names. To start the process, type in the domain you’re searching for. You’ll see a list, with your searched-for domain name alongside popular extensions such as .com and .net at the top. If there’s a green smiley face next to your domain that means it’s not taken, and you’ll also see a price per year for registering the domain.
If your domain is taken, you can click ‘All endings’ to see an alphabetical list of available extensions with your domain name, and how much it will cost.
Google Domains will also show you related domains that contain similar keywords. To purchase a domain, click the Shopping Trolley icon.
Google Domains is currently only available in the US, but if you’re not in the US you can still use it to search for available domain names.
How to search for and buy a domain name with Name.com
Name.com is another popular domain registration website which often runs sales and discounts – such as multi-buy deals – for domain names. Search for the domain you require and you’ll see a selection of domains and extensions to choose from, as well as suggested alternatives if the domain you’re after is no longer available. Click ‘Add to Cart’ to buy a domain.
Name.com also offers web hosting, email domains and an easy to use website builder, so it’s an excellent choice if you’re building a website from scratch.
How to search for and buy a domain name with Namecheap
As the name suggests, Namecheap is one of the most affordable domain name registration services on the internet. Search for the domain you want – you can even search for a number of different domains at once by clicking ‘Bulk Options’ and entering the domains you’re after – and you’ll see a list of available extensions for your domain.
Any available domains will have a price next to them – and they’re usually a lot cheaper than when buying from a rival domain registration website.
Click the Trolley icon to buy the domain if you see one you want. Otherwise click ‘Suggestions’ to see a list of similar domains.