One of the first steps towards creating a new website is deciding what it’s web address is going to be, or in other words, picking and registering a domain name. Let’s take a closer look at this process, and how it’s done.
What is a domain name
Your domain name is the address where users can access your website (for example, vanislewebsites.com). It points to your web server, where your website lives. There are a multitude of top-level domains (or TLD’s) to pick for your website, the most common being .com, .net, and .org.
What is a domain registrar
Domain names are like leased properties, you can’t buy them outright, but can purchase their use for a number of years, and keep renewing the domain as needed. To purchase the use of a domain name, you need to go through a registrar. The registrar leases you the domain, and gives you the tools to point your domain to your web server.
There are tons of domain registrar companies out there, all offering different prices and different tools, and it can be hard to determine which one is the best to you. Some charge cheap first years, and then jack up the price later. Some have good customer service, and some have bad customer service. Bad customer service means that if you’re having issues with your domain, it may take longer to get support to figure it out (and therefore longer before your users can access your website again).
I’ve used a few different registrar’s in the past, including the registrar through Nixihost, through Fatcow, and through GoDaddy. After a few bad experiences (Fatcow and GoDaddy) and a bit more research, I’ve moved to hosting all new domains I purchase through Namecheap. Namecheap is often referred by Reddit users in the webhosting subreddit because they are cheap, simple to use, and have good customer service.
What should you consider when picking a domain name
Picking a good domain name can cause a lot of people a lot of grief. Here is a list of things you might want to consider when picking the domain name for your website:
1. Is the domain name available?
Use Instant Domain Search to check whether the domain you want is actually available. If someone else has already purchased the domain you’re looking for, expect to pay exponentially more for it to buy it from that person (even if they aren’t using it).
2. Is your domain short and easy to type?
In this day and age, most or all short website domains have already been purchased, but that doesn’t mean it has to be long and convoluted. Think about how it sounds when you say it out loud. Is it easy to remember? Is it easy to start typing in your search bar? Try to make it 10 – 14 characters.
3. Is your domain less than two to three words?
Don’t make your domain a long phrase, or string of lots of words. The more words you make it, the harder it is to decipher. A few words is fine though.
- Bad: www.howtomakeeasywebsitesnow.com
- Better (but still a little long): www.easywebsitesnow.com
4. Have you used numbers or hyphens in your domain?
Minimal or strategic use of number or hyphens can be fine, but in general, numbers and hyphens can be hard to remember, and aren’t recommended to use in your domain.
5. Have you picked a good TLD?
.com is still the most dominant TLD in use, and provides better general recognition for your domain. But that’s not to say it’s the only one you should use. Other TLD’s have more specific use cases (.ca for Canadian websites, .org for non-profits, .io fir tech companies). Try to use a TLD that matches your content. See a list of TLD’s and their main use on Wikipedia.
6. Are there variations of your domain that you should also purchase?
You can purchase multiple domains to point to your website. Maybe you want to buy the .net and .ca versions of your domain. Maybe you want to buy common misspellings or longer versions. It never hurts to buy multiple domains and point them to your website, but the cost can add up. For example, when I bought my domain, I bought both briskwp.com and wpbrisk.com.
7. Does your domain match your content?
Make sure that your domain name matches the content on your website. It never hurts to have additional keywords related to your websites content in your domain to help rank in google. But you also don’t want to stuff your domain name full of keywords making it long and convoluted.
8. Does your new domain name conflict with other brands or trademarks?
You should be aware of what brands, companies, and trademarks that are already out there associated with your new domain name. If your use of the domain might mislead customers to think that you are selling products that come from the owner of the trademark or trick customers into thinking your website is associated with their brand, that could be trademark infringement. Do some googling before you pick.
Should you get additional privacy with your domain
When you purchase a domain name to use for your website, you have to register it, including providing your name and contact information. This is to ensure that no-one else can claim ownership of your web site’s address. This information is available in a giant database, which anyone can access with a Whois Lookup. Try out the Whois Lookup on some of your favorite websites to see what sort of information is available. You may like having this information available if you’re a public business, but you may want to keep this information private as well. Bot’s regularly scan the Whois directory to farm contact information for people.
When you purchase a domain, you’ll be given the option to add WhoisGuard to keep your contact information private. Some registrar’s will have this as an additional cost, some registrar’s include it with your purchase (another perk of Namecheap – free WhoisGuard forever). Make sure you think about what information goes public when you purchase your domain.
Think about auto-renew
You don’t want to get caught letting your lease on your domain lapse. Many people create bots to purchase domains as soon as they aren’t renewed, to be able to sell back to people at an inflated cost if the original owner forgot to renew. Any downtime is a bad thing for your site, so it’s likely a good idea to enable “auto-renew” so that you aren’t caught losing your domain. But make sure you know how much the renewal price for your domain will be before you auto-renew. Some registrar’s offer a cheap first year on a new domain, but will then jack up the price to renew. Be aware!
How to purchase your domain
Now that you know some of the in’s and out’s involved with purchasing a domain, let’s look at how to actually do it. Since Namecheap is the registrar I use, I’ll show you step-by-step how to do it, including settings you may be unsure about:
Create an account with Namecheap
As I explained above, there is many different domain registrar’s you can go with, but the one I use is Namecheap, and will use in all follow up guides as well. Visit Namecheap and create an account:
Find your new domain and add it to your cart
Once you have signed up, search for the domain you want to purchase in the main search bar. You’ll see the process below when I bought domains for the blog I created, briskwp.com:
You’ll be shown your domain if it is not currently registered, as well as related domains with different TLD’s. Make sure that it is spelt right, and that it has the correct TLD (e.g. .com) that you are looking for. If you want to purchase other versions of your domain, you can add them to your cart now as well. You can also purchase them at a later date, but beware that there is always a chance someone else could snatch it up.
In the confirmation page, it will recommend other options that people sometimes buy with a domain. At this point it is upsell, and you likely don’t need these additions.
Ensure that you select the correct domain options
Here is where some different options come up for your domain purchase. Remember, you only buy a domain for a certain period of time. I often only purchase domains for a year at a time, but you can extend this if you know that you will be using the domain for a long time. As mentioned earlier in the article, if you want privacy for your domain, here is where it can be done. Namecheap offers free domain registration privacy with WhoisGuard. Make sure the offer is selected here.
In the next step of the purchase process, you’ll want to make sure that you are associating your WhoisGuard protection with your new domain. Here is where you will also need to set your Nameserver settings. If you are going for a basic setup, you can use the Namecheap BasicDNS, and likely won’t need to enable URL Forwarding or email forwarding.
What is a Nameserver?
I can’t explain it better than the Namecheap knowledgebase:
Domain name system (DNS) is the system that is used to translate human-memorable domain names like namecheap.com and hostnames like support.namecheap.com into the corresponding numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses as well as to identify and locate computer systems and resources on the Internet.”
Essential, the Domain name system is the system that points your domain to your webhost. The Namecheap BasicDNS likely covers all of your needs, unless you’re an advanced user.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, you don’t want to get caught with having your domain registration lapse. Here is where you can ensure auto-renew is enabled, if this is an option you are interested in. You can do the same for your WhoisGuard protection.
Finalize and confirm your domain purchase
Do one last check of all of your information, and you can now submit and pay for your domain.
Success! You’ve now purchased a domain for your website
The first step is done, you are now a registered owner of a domain. Congratulations. In our next guides, I’ll show you how to purchase web hosting for your new website, and then connect the domain you purchased here to your new web hosting.
This site contains affiliate links to products talked about. I only recommend products and tools that I use myself and that were used in the creation of this website and other websites that I’ve built.