Choosing the ‘Perfect’ Domain name for your brand is no easy task, trust me on that!
If you are planning on starting your website, be prepared to spend a few days, if not weeks, researching and brainstorming tens (or maybe hundreds!) of domain names just to find the one!
In this guide, I’ll try to answer the following questions and provide actionable steps on getting your Domain name!
- What is a Domain Name and how does it work?
- How to choose a domain name for my Business/ Brand?
- Should I choose Personal Name or Business name?
- How to get free SSL / HTTPS for my Domain name?
- What do I do if the Domain I want is already registered and not available?
- How to register a Domain name at the best price?
- How to get a Domain Name for FREE?
- I’ve got the Domain Name, what next?
To get the answers, keep reading…
Domain Name Fundamentals
Many beginners have this confusion when they are registering a domain name. You read in an article online that you only need a domain name and a hosting to build your website, and you head off to purchase a domain name!
Before you spend your hard-earned money and recklessly buy a domain (which, if you haven’t read this article, you’ll regret!), hold on!
It is always a good idea to be aware of what you are going to use when building your website. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the abundance of technical terms you’ll hear: ‘Domain Name’, ‘Hosting Server’, ‘DNS’, ‘Caching’, ‘CDN’, and a lot more!
So before we dig deep into choosing the domain names, let’s get the basics of Domain names cleared.
What is a Domain Name
Short answer: Domain name is the name of your website.
Imagine the World Wide Web is a large city and you have to pinpoint your location in this city!
One way would be to describe your location with respect to a certain landmark near you. Another one would be to describe your building’s color and design (if it is unique).
Both these methods still would take a long time to decipher and find the address! What if you don’t have that much time?
You use longitudes and latitudes!
Just share the co-ordinates 40.748684, -73.985632 and you will reach the Empire State building!
Similarly, your browser needs some unique co-ordinates to find a website in this huge network of intertwined connections in the World Wide Web. To make the browser’s job easy, your host will provide you an IP address that will be unique to your server.
For example, if you go to 126.96.36.199, you will be on Google’s server. It might not take you directly to Google’s homepage as more information is required to convert the IP to a domain name, but you get the gist!
Now, as an IP Address like 188.8.131.52 is too difficult to remember (imagine having to remember IP addresses for Google, Facebook, and Instagram every time you want to check out your profile), Domain names were invented.
When you type www.google.com in your browser, the browser automatically gets the IP address of the server and connects you to the website.
Easy? Keep reading…
Structure of a Domain Name
A Domain name consists of four primary parts :
Website Address = Protocol + Subdomain + Domain Name + Extension
However, there is no hard and fast rule here. There can be multiple variations as well.
You might have come across https://example.co.uk or http//subdomain.example.com
All websites are mainly served via two protocols ie. HTTP and HTTPS.
If you click on the address bar in your browser right now, you’ll see https://reshampanth.com
So what is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It is a protocol used by the World Wide Web and it defines how the messages are transferred from clients to servers. If you want to know more about this protocol and its underlying framework, you can read this article by speedcheck.org.
We are more interested in HTTPS where the ‘S’ stands for Secure.
With https protocol, all the data transferred between the client (you) and the server (the website) is securely encrypted and cannot be read by anyone else. This makes the website very secure and your sensitive data is safely transferred to the website!
HTTP VS HTTPS
If you are wondering which one to use, the answer is HTTPS. Why?
- HTTPS makes sure that the client’s data is safe. This is especially important if the client is sharing sensitive information such as credit card details or username credentials.
- Google gives higher ranks in its search results to websites that use HTTPS as compared to HTTP!
- Browsers such as Google Chrome will display a ‘Not Secure’ tag if you are running your website with HTTP! This is a major turn off to visitors and might result in a lot of visitors leaving your website! Not Good News!
Now you’re wondering why don’t all websites just use HTTPS then?
Setting up HTTPS requires additional configurations. Most importantly you require an SSL Certificate.
SSL certificates create a secure link between a visitor (you) and the website by encrypting all the data that is passed between the two. This encryption prevents hackers from stealing sensitive customer data.
SSL certificates can cost anything from 5USD to 50USD. But thanks to the guys over at Let’s Encrypt, you can get one for free!
Many hosting providers (like my all-time favorite Siteground Hosting) give you an easy way to directly integrate Let’s Encrypt SSL with your website and setup SSL for free!
The other way to get Free SSL for your domain name is by using Cloudflare. Along with a lot of performance and security features, Cloudflare makes it a breeze to set up SSL on your domain name.
How To Get Free SSL with Cloudflare
- Login to your website Dashboard on Cloudflare (add your website if you haven’t).
- Head over to the SSL tab in the main navigation window
- If you have recently added the site to Cloudflare, it may take a few hours for the SSL certificate to be active. Once active, you can select the type of SSL that you want – Flexible, Full, and Full Strict.
- Full and Full (strict) require an SSL certificate installed on your web host as well. If you don’t have SSL at the host server, select Flexible.
- Now you have to tell your website to load everything via SSL. On WordPress, you can use Really Simple SSL plugin to do this for you. Once you install and activate this plugin, head over to Settings > SSL and make sure everything is configured properly. Let me know in the comments below if you face any issues!
- That’s it! Your domain name should now load with HTTPS protocol!
A subdomain is an additional section to your main domain name. Think of it as a child domain to your actual domain name. It can be anything from ‘www’ as in ‘www.reshampanth.com‘ or ‘demo’ as in ‘demo.reshampanth.com/sprybag‘ or ‘premium’ as in ‘premium.wpmudev.org‘. It can literally be anything! But why?
A subdomain can be used to create a separate website in parallel to your main website.
Take my website for instance. I use reshampanth.com as my primary website. You can see my portfolio, my articles, everything here. Along with this primary website, I have a subdomain demo.reshampanth.com/<demoname> where I setup demo websites for my client!
You might have seen some people set up their blogs on a subdomain like blogs.example.com!
The most common subdomain you must have come across is ‘www’. Back in the old days, www was such an integral part of any website. Is it still?
To WWW or Not To WWW?
This one question is one debatable aspect of your domain name. While many people swear by using www on their websites, most people (including myself) rather don’t!
A few years back, there was this craze of typing every website with a www. We had www.google.com, www.orkut.com (aahh those days!), and almost all websites used to have this www in their names!
But now, we have come to realize that in the case of URLs, smaller is better!
Technically speaking, WWWs still exist. You can still type www.reshampanth.com, but you’ll be redirected to reshampanth.com! The same is the case with most websites.
So when to use WWW and when to not?
In my opinion, if you already have a website with WWW up and running and have a decent amount of traffic and backlinks to it, keep it that way! If you are creating a new website, ditch the WWW. Keep it simple silly.
The takeaway of this section is to not have both WWW and non-WWW websites running around. Use one and redirect the other! Also, make sure you set up your preferred domain in Google Search Console once you make up your mind.
The domain name is, as we’ve already established before, the name of your website. It is used to identify your website among the 1,764,500,128 websites present on the internet at the time of writing this article!
Domain extensions, also known as Top Level Domains (TLDs), were originally created to categorize the websites on the internet. As the number of websites kept increasing, these extensions have now lost their original task and are used as you like. There are hundreds of extensions available online, some of the popular ones are:
- .com extensions are generally used for commercial websites. They are the most commonly used domain extensions.
- .org extensions are generally used by organizations, majorly the non-profit organizations, and for open source projects.
- .gov is used by the Government of the country. Usually, different countries have further modified it for their regions like .gov.uk in UK and .gov.in in India.
- .edu is used by educational institutes all over the world. Most institutes further use a subdomain to create an individual website for different departments eg. cs.berkeley.edu for Computer Science and me.berkeley.edu for Mechanical departments.
How does a Domain Name Work?
While we think of google.com or reshampanth.com as a domain name, the computer does not. The computer only knows the numbers ie. the IP address of the server where the website is located. So how does reshampanth.com resolve to 10.180.168.143?
To understand this, let’s have a look at this infographic shared by WPBeginner–
Easy? No? Okay, let me explain.
1) When you type a website address in your browser, say sparklydonuts.com, your browser will send a request to your closest DNS server.
What is a DNS Server you ask?
A DNS (Domain Name System) server is a group of servers all around the world which acts like the Yellow Pages book. It keeps a record of all the domain names and their IP addresses. There are different DNS servers, such as Google’s DNS server or Cloudflare’s DNS Server, but all serve the same purpose – To find the IP address for your domain name.
You can read in-depth about DNS servers here at Cloudflare.
2) Once your request reaches the DNS Server, it tries to resolve the IP address for the domain name. Now there are two scenarios here:
A. The DNS server has never encountered your domain name before. (Or has, but a long while ago)
B. The DNS server recently resolved your domain name for some other user.
For case A, since the DNS server does not know the IP address for your domain name, it will contact another DNS server till it gets the IP address. Once it does, it caches the Domain Name and IP address combination in its memory for a while and sends the correct IP address back to the browser.
For case B, since the DNS had recently resolved your domain name, it already has the IP address cached in its memory and quickly sends it back to the browser.
3) Now that the browser has the IP address for the website address, it connects to the website server and you see the website content on your browser!
All of this DNS resolution usually happens with milliseconds, and plays an important role in determining the speed of a website! The time between you hitting the Enter key on the browser and the server sending you the first byte of data is called Time To First Byte (or TTFB) and in this graph shared by Neil Patel – where he analyzed 143,827 URLs – you can clearly see how websites with low TTFB have a better chance of ranking higher in Google Search page!
Alright, now we know what domain names are and how they work. Now, let’s get started with choosing one for you!
Brainstorm Domain Names
Let me start by stating a hard-hitting fact: Most of the good, common domain names are already taken. As per reports by Verisign, there were over 362.3 Million domain names registered by the end of 2019 Q4. Expect this number to only increase!
It is quite possible that the domain name that you are thinking of using, is most probably already in use or registered! Fret not. We’ll figure something out.
Gone are the days when you could simply go up to a Domain name registrar and register a domain name ‘insurance.com’ or ‘websitesdeveloper.com’. Most of the common domain names that you can think of are gone!
You need to be creative now and brainstorm a new domain name for your business. Let me tell you how.
Personal Name or Business Name
If you are a one-man army and are thinking of starting your own website or a freelance building your portfolio website, chances are high that you might have thought about choosing your real name as your domain name.
Many websites named after their owners are very popular and are ranking high on google – neilpatel.com, sethgodin.com, jimstoppani.com, lewishowes.com, samitoussi.com, dishaselarka.com, reshampanth.com :P are some off the top of my head.
Why Use a Personal Name for your Website
#1 People want to work with a real person, not a faceless company
It is easier to interact and trust a real person than it is to trust a company that you’ve never heard of before. People trust in faces and if you can create a brand around your name and yourself, it will instill a higher level of trust in your potential customers.
#2 You look affordable and reachable.
When you have a name on your website, it is easier to reach out and discuss the problems. Many people would like to work with a freelancer over an agency because they know they’ll get better pricing and attention.
#3 Your name is more memorable than a company name
It is easier for clients to remember “Hey, it was great working with John Doe from johndoe.com” than it is to say “Hey, I’ve worked with what-was-his-name from websitecreatorexperts.com“. And once they’ve worked with you and have a personal relationship with you, they won’t forget your website address!
#4 You build an authority in your niche
Once people start recognizing your brand by your name, you become an authority in your niche. More people (read potential clients) will start connecting with you on social media to solve their problems.
#5 You can Scale-Up to a Business Name later
Once you’ve already established your personal brand, it is easier to scale up to a professional brand. You can keep both your personal and professional brand and approach potential clients with the brand that benefits you the most!
#6 It is easier to find your Domain Name!
Unless you have a very common first and last name, chances are high that you will easily get your name’s domain name! I easily got reshampanth.com and didn’t have to look any further! If you’ve decided to use your real name as your domain name, you can skip this section and move ahead to researching your Domain name!
Why Use a Business Name for your website
#1 You can charge higher
As a Business, you can charge higher for your projects, and clients would be willing to pay more. With a business name, clients will automatically assume you have a larger overhead with many team members, office space, and other resource costs, even if you don’t!
#2 You can be more Marketable and Social
You can build your Social media presence entirely separate from your personal life. You can focus more on building your company’s brand and less on building your own personal brand. Your clients would definitely be more interested in finding out more about your business plans on your social profiles than to see your late-night Instagram party stories!
#3 Your Real Name is hard to spell or is either too unique or too common
If your name is hard to spell or pronounce, it’ll be difficult for your clients to find your website. Also, long names (more than 15-20) should be avoided if possible.
Similarly, if your name is a unique variation of a common name, clients will find it difficult to remember it!
Also, good luck trying to find a domain name if your name is John Smith or Emma Jones. You get my point, right?
PS – Extra Brownie Points to those who got the TV show referenced above. Let me know in the comments below if you did!
#4 Business Name makes you seem more experienced, professional and well-established
Having a business name automatically makes you seem more professional and well-established. If properly marketed, it’s easier to expand and grow business. You can also form larger teams and try to gain bigger clients.
If you’ve decided on using your real name as your domain name, you can skip the following section and head directly to the research phase. I would still recommend you keep reading, just to make sure you’ve made the correct decision!
How to Come Up with Ideas for Domain Names
Choosing a domain name is a daunting task, but not an impossible one. You just need to brainstorm a few keywords and group them together and viola – You have your domain name.
As we have previously discussed, it is very difficult to get a common or popular domain name as most of them are already taken. We need to get creative and find a way around it.
Before we start looking at keywords and grouping them, let’s have a look at some tips I’ll recommend before you narrow down your potential domain name keyword choice.
10 Tips to choose your Domain Names
#1 Make it unique and memorable
Your website’s URL is going to be the first thing that your visitors see. It will have a significant impact on your first impressions. Make sure it is unique and memorable at the same time!
When I say unique, I don’t mean making minor changes in a popular name and expecting it to work. If instead of emmajones.com, if you decide to name it emmmajones.com (with an extra ‘m’), that will only hurt your case.
Also, steer clear of using a variation of an already established website. Making a fakebook.com or a hubsspot.com will not only hurt your rankings but also hurt your credibility.
If you see some popular websites out there, you’ll realize they don’t actually have any meanings. Have you heard of quicksprout.com or crazyegg.com or Target.com or kinsta.com or backlinko.com or moz.com?
They are all very popular websites but you wouldn’t know what they do unless you actually know what they do! But one thing you’ll notice is that they are all unique and very memorable!
#2 Keep It Short & Simple Stupid (KISSS method)
I’m sure you all know the KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid) method. For domain names, I’d rather stick to my KISSS method!
If you look at Alexa Ranking’s Top Websites around the world-
- Google [6 characters]
- Youtube [7 characters]
- Tmall [5 characters]
- Facebook [8 characters]
- Baidu [5 characters]
- Qq [2 characters]
- Sohu [4 characters]
- Taobao [6 characters]
- Yahoo [5 characters]
- Amazon [6 characters]
- Netflix [7 characters]
- Jd [2 characters]
You’ll see most of the domains are only 5-7 characters. Some, like qq.com, are just 2 characters and get more than 43,027,052 unique visitors and 172,541,754 page views per day!
If the world’s top companies think domain size should be short, who am I to say otherwise?!
Takeaway – Keep your domain name less than 15 characters.
#3 Stick with a .com domain name if possible
If I tell you to search something on Google or buy something off Amazon, you’ll directly head to google.COM and amazon.COM. Right?
Ever since we got acquainted with the internet, we are used to using the .com domain name. And that’s not just me saying it. You can see in the following graph by domainstat, how a vast majority of the websites today are using a .com domain!
More than 40% of all the websites online, use a .com extension as compared to the other custom extensions available. Also, if we have a look at just the generic domain extensions, more than 85% of all the websites use a .com extension.
Resham, I love this domain name but a .com version is not available? What should I do?
This part is a bit tricky. If you most definitely cannot go with another domain name, there are two roads ahead.
- Contact the owner and buy the .com domain from him/her. We’ll talk more on how to do this later ahead.
- Use a .net domain if you plan on targeting visitors all over the world. Or use a country level extension like .in or .uk if you only want to target visitors in those specific countries.
Note: Only use a country level domain if you only want to target a local region. This works well for local businesses but will be a problem later if you decide to expand your audience all around the world.
#4 Prepare to Compromise and plan for the future
It is very likely that you fall in love with a domain name and are hell-bent on using it. But if it is not available or someone else is already using it, there is very little choice left. Sure, you can go ahead and contact the owner if he is willing to sell the domain, but be ready to either face disappointment or shell out a lot of money for it!
Also, it would be a good time right now to wait for a moment before you buy a domain name and think about the future.
Right now you plan on selling Tea powder online, so a domain name like teaseller.com sounds like a great name! But what if, later down the road, you expand and add other beverages like coffee and juices to your product list too? Then you will end up losing a lot of potential customers who might be interested in your coffee but are held back just because your domain name says ‘tea’.
#5 Try to naturally use keywords in your domain (Try, don’t force!)
One great way to optimize your domain name for your target customers is to use your primary keyword in your domain name.
A keyword is a word that your potential customer will type in a search engine box (say Google).
In the above example, if a visitor is searching for “Cardamon Tea Powder” on google, he is more likely to click on a Cardamon Tea Powder page of your teaseller.com listing in the search results. That is because your domain name makes it very clear that your website is about Tea.
However, do not go overboard with it! As I have made it clear #1, you don’t need keywords in your domain names to rank high. In fact, none of the top websites I shared above had any keywords in them!
#6 Make sure it is easy to spell and pronounce
If my friend Debabrata Saha decides to create a website with his real name and asks you to visit his website https://debabratasaha.com, would you be able to type it out correctly in your first attempt?
Let’s take it up a notch. If Quvenzhané Wallis (actress in Oscar-Nominated ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’) decides to start her own production studio and calls it https://quvenzhaneproductions.com, tell me honestly, would you be able to type it?
So the takeaway here is, be like Google, Amazon, Dell and make your domain name simple to type!
#7 No Hyphens, Numbers or Double Letters
There is no reason humane enough to warrant using a hyphen in your domain name. Period.
a. It is difficult to always remember to add that hyphen when you’re entering the domain name in your browser.
b. It adds unnecessary syllables to your website name. Imagine telling your friend to visit your website www dot resham hyphen panth hyphen design dot com (www.resham-panth-design.com). A double hyphen instantly makes your 3-word domain name to a 5-word name. Remember KISSS from above?
For numbers, use only if you absolutely need to use it in your domain name. If your medical store sells medicines 24 hours, then it makes sense to have a meds24.com. But if you ask me to visit Med7.com, I don’t know if I should visit medseven.com or med7.com? Why confuse your customer, why?
The only website I can remember right away with a number is 9Gag. Let me know in the comments below if you know any other?
Also, avoid double letters in your domain name as it can easily result in typos! Try wordpresssetup.com or carranger.com? You might lose a lot of your visitors just due to a typo!
#8 Avoid multiple words in your domain name
Keep your domain name limited to two or a maximum of 3 words. More than that and you’ll confuse the visitor. Was I supposed to visit RaymondJonesBulbAndLights store or JonesRaymondLightsAndBulb or JonesAndRaymondsBulbsAndLights? Well, I’ll rather head to amazon real quick?
#9 Buy different variations of your domain name if necessary
While it may not seem like the best idea to buy multiple domains and pay for all of them, it will help you in the future.
One case would be where your visitors often get lost due to a simple typo. Is it Google or Gooogle or is it Googal?
If your domain name has the slightest possibility of confusing the users for spelling, buy the commonly misspelled variations and redirect them to your actual website. This will help you regain some almost-lost sales.
Another case would be if you are a global brand and bought a globalbrand.com domain. But you want to focus more on your Indian and German Audience. Here, it would be a wise choice to buy globalbrand.in and globalbrand.de as well. This way you can either set up a country-specific website to target a specific region, or you can redirect them to your main domain name.
#10 Register it quickly before someone else takes it!
One final last advice would be to grab it before someone else does! Hundreds, if not thousands, of domain names are being registered every day! While the possibility of someone else registering for the exact same domain that you love is low, it is still a possibility!
If you aren’t sure between two-three domain names, just register them all and then decide later! Domain names are cheap to buy, and if you finally pick one, you can let the others expire or sell them!
Now let’s go ahead and confirm your domain name. And then we’ll make sure you made the right choice. Keep reading!
3 Tools to help you choose a Domain Name
While you can manually pick up a pen and paper and start jotting down keywords and domain name ideas, it always helps to use some tool specifically created to help you with this purpose.
Unless you are the first in your niche to start a business online, there’s a high chance there are a couple more people (your competitors) who are already ranking for the business you want to grab!
Let’s try to find out what our competitors are doing. For our business of selling Tea powder at teaseller.com, I ran two searches on google – ‘Buy Cardamom Tea’ and ‘Buy Ginger Tea’. (I’m sorry I don’t know much about tea, I’m a coffee person!)
From the search results, you can see who your competitors are and what domain names they are using.
You’ll obviously come across some big shot stores such as Amazon, Flipkart, or Wallmart. For a starter website, you can ignore them and focus on your niche competition.
You can see republicoftea.com and teabox.com ranking high for those keywords. That is because they have used the keyword ‘tea’ in their domain names so Google knows what exactly their website is above. You can also see that the other websites like kerelaspicesonline, desichain.in, and thehoneyshopindia.com do not have ‘tea’ keyword in their domain name but are still ranking high.
So now you have your keyword ‘tea’ and are ready to generate some domain names!
#2 Domain Name Generators
Domain Name Generators are tools that give you suggestions for domain names based on the keywords that you input. I’ll be using Nameboy to search for our tea seller website. You can also use Shopify’s Business Name Generator, DomainWheels, or NameMesh. A simple google search for Domain name generator will give you hundreds of them!
- Head to Nameboy Domain name generator website and enter some keywords. For our example case, I’m using ‘tea’ and ‘seller’ keywords.
- Once the result loads, click on Generator and it will show you several options with the .com extensions only. If you are interested in other extensions as well then you can click on All
- As you can see in the screenshot above, teaseller.com was already registered and unavailable. So I noted down the other domain names that made sense to me.
Do remember that these domain name generators are only bots and while they can give you your required domain name, use them more to fuel your creativity.
#3 Use a Word Builder or a Thesaurus
Who said your domain name needs to be a meaningful word? Most post domain names make no sense at all!
Wordoid is an amazing tool that will create new words for you and check if they are already taken!
Head over to wordoid, set Pattern to contain your keyword, select a length (less than 10 is recommended), set Show Available domains only, and bam!
Wordoid will generate a list of words that contain your keyword! Go get creative and find the one!
Okay, so by now you should have a list of potential domain names. Now, we’ll sift through these potential domain names and find the one!
Research your Domain Name
Just because you found a good domain name does not mean your work is done, not yet! Before you rush ahead and register it, you need to do some background checks.
In this phase, we will narrow down our domain choices and remove the ones which could potentially cause a problem later!
Avoid Trademark Infringements
Nobody wants to get stuck in a lawsuit. And while you never intended to infringe any trademarks, it is possible your potential domain name might resemble some established and trademarked domain name.
Before you go ahead and register that domain name, run a quick google search to check that there are no similar website names as your domain name. This will save you from a potential lawsuit and also save you some trouble down the road with branding!
It would be very difficult to brand your website if it is very similar to an established website.
Check if the domain is Blacklisted or Banned
If the domain name you’ve selected was previously in use, you need to make sure that it is not blacklisted or banned. There might be several reasons why a domain name might have been blocked- porn, gambling, scam, spam, etc to name a few.
Follow the below steps to make sure your website is not blocked or banned-
#1 Check If Indexed by Google
The first thing you want to do is check if there are any pages indexed by google.
Search for site:yourdomain.com in the google search box.
- If you see genuine pages in search results, that means the website is not banned by Google and you can use it without any problems.
- If you see spam content in the search results like some Chinese test or if the page is redirecting to some spam website, it means that either the previous website was involved in spamming or has been hacked. Google might have penalized the domain name, however, this is recoverable. My own website, reshampanth.com, was hacked and I could see a lot of unknown pages on google. After clearing my website and loading a new sitemap to Google, I was able to recover my website and my ranking!
- If you don’t see any pages at all, that might mean some problems! If the domain name was never linked to a website before, then you can ignore this. However, if you are sure it was linked to a website before, then it might be best to refrain from using the domain name. It is highly likely that the domain name is banned from google!
You can also use BannedCheck to check if your website was banned. However, I’ve seen a lot of false alarms on it, so would recommend checking it manually using the above method.
#2 Check WHOis records for the Domain Name
You can check WHOis records of the domain name to check the previous records. Enter the domain name and you can see who’s name the domain name was registered and since when.
Most Domain Owners usually hide this information to safeguard their details, so it is possible that you don’t get any useful information.
#3 Look into the Archives to check what the previous website did
Head to Archive.org and enter the domain name. If you are lucky and Archive.org has captured a snapshot of the website, you can see how it looked.
Check through the years randomly and make sure there is no pornographic, gambling, or scamming related content that might have gotten this domain name blacklisted!
Check for Available Social Media Handles
Now that we know the domain names are pure & non-banned and can be used for your website, there is one last check remaining!
You can use a tool like Check User to check if all, or at least the required ones, are available or not.
Head to Check User and enter the domain name or the brand name. It will take a while to load and then tell you which social media handles are available!
You can also use NameCheck to check for social media handles.
Note: While these tools are pretty accurate, I would recommend you manually check on the social media websites of your preference. The major ones that you should check are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Youtube.
Register Your Domain Name
Now comes the hard part (or maybe the easy part? Depends).
By now you should have your Domain name fixed and are almost on the final step. Now, the (almost) last question is, where to register your domain name? The answer is simple – A Domain Registrar.
Things to consider when choosing a Domain Registrar
While you can just go ahead and register your domain anywhere, I wouldn’t recommend that. There are several reasons why you would choose a domain registrar. The main ones are –
Different registrars offer domain names at different prices. If one is offering a .com domain at 10$ per year, another could be offering the same .com domain at 15$. Also, most of the sites have some or the other sales going on year-round, so a quick glance through a few registrars could save you some money.
The important cost you need to consider is the renewal cost. Most registrars will give you 50% to 70% discount on the domain costs, but keep in mind that these discounts are usually for the first few years. When its time for renewal, the prices may shoot up to 2x-4x of what you paid! Read the fine print before you hit the Buy button.
Another way the registrars loot you is with add-ons and upsells. Privacy add-on, security add-on, SSL certificate, etc are some of the most common add-ons I’ve personally come across. Many registrars subtly enable these addons for free for the first year, and then you end up paying for them at renewals! Some may even charge you a Transfer fee when you decide to move to a better registrar! As I said before, read the fine prints!
Uptime and Performance
I’ve added this point just to make it clear that your domain registrar has no impact on your website’s performance. The main work of your registrar is to ‘register’ your website. Once it is registered, everything else is handled by the Domain Name System Server.
But, another point to note here is, the time taken by your registrar to set up your domain name and register it may matter. Some registrars take 2-4 hours, some take around 48 hours to get your domain name registered.
You’ll only need to contact the domain registrar for help if you face any issue. Most of the time, you won’t. However, you might need some help if you plan on transferring your domain name or changing nameservers (to set up Cloudflare?). Also, in some critical cases, if your domain name is not getting resolved you’ll need quick support from your hosting and domain registrar!
I highly recommend choosing a registrar which provided 24×7 support. I’ve personally never contacted my domain support, but its always good to have quick support if something goes wrong!
3 Best Domain Registrars I recommend
Based on the above points, I’ve selected some of the Best Domain registrars that you can use to register your domain name. You may choose to use any other domain registrar as well, as it is one of the lowest hassle component of your website:
This may come as a surprise to most of you! Cloudflare is not a dedicated Domain Registrar and was recently launched in 2018 but has caused quite a stir in the domain registrar space.
It offers one of the best pricing in the market which as per their business model seems almost impossible to beat!
Cloudflare only charges the amount that it pays to the domain registry. No commissions, No additional charges, and yet offers an easy to register interface and services like User privacy, which other registrars charge a premium, for free!
Unfortunately, it does not allow new registrations as of now. Cloudflare only allows transferring your domain to it and will be soon adding the option to register the domain on the website directly.
Another big reason to register on Cloudflare is the CDN benefits that you get for your website! SSL, DDOS protection, Delivery optimization, and a lot more, for FREE!
Cloudflare Pricing :
At the time of writing this article (20th June 2020), Cloudflare charges $8.03 for new registrations and the same $8.03 for renewals.
Domain.com is one of the oldest players in the domain registrar space and has created quite a reputation for itself. Along with domain names, they also offer Web hosting, Email hosting, and website builder services. I’ll however recommend using Domain.com only for doing what they do best, to buy domain names.
At the time of writing this article (20th June 2020), Domain.com charges $9.99 for new registrations and the same $13.99 for renewals.
Godaddy is a popular face in Domain registrar space and I had all my domain names registered on it until recently I made the shift to Cloudflare. It has a simple interface to register new domains and make swift payments. They also offer Web hosting, email hosting and website builder services, however, I’ll recommend against using Godaddy as your hosting site.
At the time of writing this article (20th June 2020), Domain charges $11.99 for new registrations and the same $17.99 for renewals.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do I do if the Domain I want is already registered and not available?
Things get complicated when the domain name you want is already taken. Let try to buy Google.com
Along with this message, you’ll also get suggestions to buy the domain with a different extension or a slight change in the domain name. Do not go for it!
If you end up buying google.au.com, you’ll be stuck with 2 problems. Google might sue you for using its name. Visitors will end up going to google.com instead of google.au.com as it is difficult to remember specific extensions.
So what to do?
1. Find out if a website exists and is active on the domain name.
If the website is active and updated frequently, then it is highly likely that the owner would not be interested in selling it and plans on keeping the domain name.
But if you see the website is inactive and hasn’t been updated in a while, it is possible the owner is no longer interested in maintaining the website and would be willing to sell.
If you don’t see any website at all, then there’s a high possibility that the owner has bought the domain and parked it. It would be easier to buy such domain names.
2. Identify the owner
A simple WhoIs search using the WhoIs tool will give you all the details that you’ll need to contact the owner.
But many owners who don’t plan on selling their domains (like myself) would hide their contact details. In such cases, it would be difficult to buy such domains unless they are listed on domain auction sites like Flippa or Godaddy.
3. Contact the owner, Negotiate and do the Deal
Once you get the details from WhoIs report, you can contact the owner and negotiate the pricing for your domain. Be cautious to not get scammed and pay the amount (or at least most of it) only after the domain name is transferred to your account!
Path 2 –
If for some reason Path 1 does not work out for you, or you don’t have the time to do it, you can go ahead with Path 2. Get a Broker to do the heavy lifting for you!
Many websites like Flippa and Godaddy have built a marketplace where you can buy or sell domain names. You can even go ahead and ask Godaddy to broker an unavailable domain name and they’ll charge a commission on it.
I’ve registered the domain name. What next?
Now that you have your domain name registered and ready to use, there are several ways to go ahead with it.
- Build a Website for the domain
You probably bought the domain name because you wanted to build a website, right?
You can build a website to showcase your business, product or skill. With this online presence, you can generate revenue by selling your products online (e-commerce website) or attract new clients for your business (business landing pages) or simply use the internet as a platform to share your hobby/ skill with the world (portfolio page).
- Create a Custom Email Address with the Domain name
Even if you don’t have the website ready yet (or you don’t plan on creating a website at all!), you can use your domain name as a custom email address.
From the 3 examples above, which email address would you consider being more professional and likely to reply? I hope you said the third one!
With Email hosting, you can host and send emails right from your own server with your custom email address. Two ways to go about it ->
- If you’ve already bought web hosting, you can simply connect your domain name with email hosting on the web host (most good web hosting companies provide it for free – My favorite hosting Siteground does!)
- You can also use Zoho to host your emails for you! With a generous 5GB storage space and easy to use interface, managing your emails is a breeze on Zoho mail.
- Flip/ Sell your domain name for profits
Flipping domain names is a legitimate business now! Businesses are shelling out thousands of dollars to buy their domain names. As per reports from hover.blog, lasvegas.com was sold for $90 million dollars, carinsurance.com was sold for $49.7 million, and insurance.com was sold for $35.6 million dollars. As per Fortunly, business.com was sold for $345 million!
With a renewal rate of around $15 per year, selling your domain name for $345 million doesn’t sound like a bad deal, right?
- Park your domain for later user
If you don’t have any plans to build a website straight away and want to reserve your domain for later use, you can simply park it with your Domain registrar.
Most registrars will show a generic placeholder page on the domain name as long as you don’t point the domain name to some website or application!
How to get a domain name for Free?
We’ve all been there. Trying to get something for free is always fun, right? Yes, you can get a domain name for free, but there are some strings attached.
Freenom.com and dot.tk (both owned by the same parent company) offer free domain names with .tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, and .cq extensions for up to a year. The reason I say ‘up to a year’ is because you never know when they’ll charge you money for using the domain name, or they’ll just disable your account and utilize the traffic you generated for their own ads.
The support on these websites is pathetic and you are never really the owner of the domain name unless you actually pay for it! After one year of free service, they charge a renewal fee of $9.95 which is even more than what other domain registrars with amazing reviews charge!
While they don’t have a good reputation, they are perfect for staging or temporary websites where it makes sense to cut some costs.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT register for this free domain name if you are genuinely interested in building your business or online presence. Nothing in the world is completely free and as the saying goes ‘You get what you pay for’. In this case, as you’re paying nothing, you’re getting nothing!
Choosing a domain name is no easy task. You need to understand your requirements, research the markets, and check for any red flags. Finding a good Domain registrar is another task by itself.
With the tips and tools that I’ve shared in this article, I hope I am able to make this mammoth task easier for you now.
What are you doing with your domain name and how did you finalize it?
Let me know in the comments below