How to Buy a Domain Name
This post covers the following topics:
How to choose a great domain name
We’re going to tell you how to buy a domain name, but first you need to put some serious thought into choosing the right domain name.
A great domain name can help you create brand recognition and value for your business.
A bad domain name can make it difficult for customers and search engines to find and remember you.
The rules for choosing a domain name vary slightly depending on the type of site you are building. For instance, a local small business may want to choose a domain name that reinforces their company/brand name, while an affiliate marketer may prefer a keyword rich domain name.
Below are guidelines to help you choose a great domain name:
Don’t Use Free Hosted Blogging Software
If you use a free platform such as WordPress.com or Blogspot then you’ll end up with a sub-domain instead of a top level domain.
That means your site would be www.yoursite.wordpress.com instead of www.yoursite.com. This is not good!
It’s fine if you are building a site with no intent to monetize or create a brand, but I’m guessing that isn’t the case. Just make sure to avoid using free hosted solutions such as WordPress.com.
.com vs. .net vs. .org
Buy .com domain names whenever possible – especially if you are a small business, or if you anticipate ever doing any offline marketing.
.com’s are more brandable, memorable and professional.
If you can’t get a .com then go with .org or .net. I don’t have a preference between the two.
If you do choose a .org or .net then make sure you take a look at the .com. What is there? Is it a well established site? If so, a lot of your type in traffic will end up there. This is a big problem for a small offline business, but not much of an issue for a niche site which relies on search engine traffic.
Keep it Short
In general, the shorter the better. Shorter names are easier to remember and easier to type. Also long names become problematic when you find yourself limited to a small character limit, such as with a Twitter handle.
Does it Pass the Radio Test?
Imagine you are being interviewed and the host asks you to tell listeners where they can find your site. You want a name that you don’t have to explain. This means no numbers, hyphens, words with multiple spellings or difficult to spell words.
Brand Name vs. Keywords
A domain name that contains the primary keyword phrase you are targeting will make it easier to rank in the search engines. This is especially true of exact match domain names – domain names which contain no extra letters – thus they exactly match the keyword.
The trade off is that keyword rich domain names usually aren’t very memorable or brandable. I prefer the catchy brand name in most cases. The exception is if it is a niche site with one very profitable keyword worth targeting.
A brand name also leaves you options. If Zappos used the domain name Shoes.com then it would have seemed pretty weird when they started selling clothes.
- Add a suffix when you can’t find a good name, especially when dealing with a niche site that you want to rank for a particular keyword. Pat Flynn did this with his niche site www.securityguardtraininghq.com that he writes about on Smart Passive Income. His primary keyword (security guard training) was taken, so he just added the “HQ” to the end.
- Be aware of trademarks. ”WordPress” is trademarked, which is why this site, like so many other blogs which cover WordPress use “WP” instead.
- Still not sure? Create a list of your top 5 names and start getting some feedback. You can ask friends and family, but be careful not to put too much stock into their opinions if they aren’t representative of your target market. A better approach, if you can afford it, is to run some ads on Google or Facebook and split test your domain names. Tim Ferris famously used this same technique to name his best seller, the Four Hour Workweek.
You may also want to check out the following resources when choosing your domain name:
Smart Passive Income Podcast Episode 21 – In this podcast Pat Flynn gives his criteria for choosing a great domain name.
How to Buy a Domain Name
Now that you have chosen your domain name it’s time to register it. You have two options for registering your domain name.
Option 1 – Register the Domain with your Web Host
Some hosting companies will even give you a free domain name when you purchase a hosting plan.
If you choose this route then you simply enter your desired domain name in the registration screen when signing up for hosting. We will go into further detail about signing up for web hosting in the next post in this series.
There are a couple benefits to choosing this route:
- Simplifies setup process (you won’t have to worry about DNS settings when setting up your site)
- Consolidation of accounts. Having your domain name and your web hosting with the same company just means there is one less account you need to deal with.
Option 2 – Register the Domain with a separate Domain Registrar
The alternative is to register your domain name with a domain registrar – a company that specializes in domain registrations.
This is my preferred method for registering domain names.
There are a lot of companies who provide this service, but I suggest NameCheap. Namecheap has competitive pricing, and unlike many other companies, they offer free whois guard protection. This keeps your personal contact information private.
Benefits to choosing a Domain Registrar include:
- Easier to switch web hosts, should you ever find the need to.
- Competitive pricing - Even if you can find a host that provides a free domain for the first year, subsequent years will likely come at a higher price than if you go through a 3rd party domain registrar.
- Free privacy protection - NameCheap.com provides free privacy protection on domain names. This will keep prying eyes from finding your name and address associated with your domain name.
How to Register Your Domain Name with NameCheap
Begin by going to namecheap.com and entering your desired domain name into the search box:
The next screen will show you if your desired domain name is available. If not, then it will show you if any alternate TLD’s are available (.net, .org, etc.). You check the box next to the domain you want and hit the “Add to Cart” button.
Once in your shopping cart you’ll see a few add-on options. I like to opt for the free WhoIsGuard, but I pass on the other options:
Note in the screenshot above that there is a coupon applied. I always do a google search for “namecheap coupon code” prior to purchasing a domain name. More often than not I can find a coupon that will save me a dollar or two.
The next screen presents you with some Domain Options. Make sure to check the WhoIsGuard box (if you opted to add the free year of WhoIsGuard protection on the previous screen).
If you have not yet purchased web hosting then leave the remaining fields at the default settings.
If you have already purchased web hosting then you will want to check the radio button that says Use Custom Name Servers. You will then enter the nameservers for your web host in the appropriate fields. Depending on your host it will be something like:
There are fields for 5 nameservers, but most often you only need to enter 2 or 3. It all depends on your web host.
That’s the last of the options you will need to worry about. From there you can breeze through the rest of the registration process.
Now that you’ve registered your domain name, it’s time to head over to the Beginner’s Guide to Web Hosting.
This post is part of the series WordPress 101: How to Build a Website with WordPress. Follow the posts in this series to learn everything you need to know to build a WordPress website with ease.