A domain name is part of the naming system for the world wide web. For example if you wanted you could goto WordPress.com or Blogger.com and create your own blog. These would give you an address under their domain name (e.g. mysite.wordpress.com or mysite.blogger.com).
However a domain name can create greater authenticity and lend you gravitas with your audience. So how do you go about obtaining a domain name? Well the first challenge you will face is to find one that’s free, cue some creative thinking!
First we need to explore “top level domains” (TLD), a TLD is often a country based (e.g. “co.uk”, “.fr” or “.de”) but can also be topic based (e.g. “.info”, “.edu” or “.org”), however in recent years there have been a deluge of new TLD’s including “.ninja”, “.photography” and “.design”. The list is extensive, each TLD is run by a company under license so prices can vary.
Here are some of our top pointers on domain names:
1 – Domain names are rented not bought
It’s important to note that ordering a domain name is more of a rental system than buying but the terms are used synonymously. Often you will buy a domain name on a yearly basis and if you choose not to renew it at the end of it’s term then you can lose it to another buyer.
This opens up another question if you choose to use your own domain name, with sites available that allow you to pick-up domains that have expired or to back order domains should that happen in the future. A domain that has previously been registered by someone else may be more valuable for SEO with back-links and age in it’s favour. However good names in these cases can often be hard to find.
2 – Be aware of WhoIs records
In many cases your personal details will be available to anyone who looks up who owns that domain, this is known as a “Whois” service and all domain name registrars have a whois service. There are ways around this by using a privacy proxy service which masks your details.
If you don’t want your home address details listed consider this at the time of purchase, or anyone will be able to look up public records against your website to get that information.
3 – Social Media Accounts
Before you register that carefully crafted brand address you just found out is available, have you considered if someone has that name on social media? Of course there are multiple social media networks and checking each one can be time consuming but there are thankfully sites that allow you to search them all at once for your desired name (e.g. namecheckr.com or namechk.com).
3 – Cost
The price of registering your own domain name can vary depending on a number of factors, first however separate out the cost of hosting from registering the domain name. Once you have your domain name you will need a hosting provider to host your email and website, some hosting packages will offer a free domain name however these can be fraught with danger. In some cases you may find the hosting provider owns the domain name, so read the small print.
If you plan to register multiple domain names you are best finding a good registrar and buying them from the same place, this ensures you have all your domain names under one account. The primary benefit being easier administration but also to ensure you do not miss a renewal date. I use Hover myself as I find them to be both cost effective but highly efficient in both service and customer service.
In terms of the registration cost, a typical .com domain will set you back in the region of $12.99. Although as we said depending on what top level domain you choose this can very. Some of the newer top level domains are particularly pricey (e.g. a .ceo domain costs $99 to register and a .movie $329.99 is per domain).
4 – Professional
The question we posed at the start of this guide, is do you need a domain name?
The answer is of course no, you could easily get by with a site hosted on a Squarespace which you give you a free sub-domain on their service. The question then becomes does that give you the professional look and feel your customers expect? Does it portray yours services/products in a good enough way?
There’s a couple of factors to take into account in answering those questions. Including what your competitors are doing and what your potential customers have come to expect, off-line branding such as business cards, vehicles and signs. Particularly in the case of e-mails, with a domain name it is possible to have multiple e-mail addresses at that domain name.
If you are simply running a blog then a Squarespace or WordPress hosted sub-domain is probably going to be enough in the short-term. If you are a business or are looking to do business on-line then we would recommend considering your own domain name, the costs are relatively low compared to the impact it can give in terms of portraying a professional outlook.
Your next steps if you decide you do want a domain name will be to get creative with finding a free domain name, many will already be taken but with the multitude of top level domains now available it does make life somewhat easier.
We recommend heading over to Hover.com and popping in your brand (don’t add any .com or domain extension), this will then perform a search and give you an idea of what top level domain extensions are free for your brand.