What You Need To Consider Before You Register Your Domain
When setting up a web presence for your business, non-profit, or personal use, something that often gets overlooked is whether or not to create your own web domain. While there are many ways to maintain a successful digital presence without a domain name, most businesses benefit greatly from having one.
Read on to learn the basics of domains and everything you need to consider when registering one.
A Basic Overview of Domain Names
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of registering domains, we need to go over some domain basics, so you don’t get lost later on.
- A domain is, simply, a website’s name. A number-based IP address identifies every place you go on the internet. The domain is the text you enter that links with the IP address so that you don’t have to remember a number series.
- Domains use DNS, or Domain Name System, to identify IP addresses and connect them with the domain name.
- TLDs, or Top Level Domains. The most common TLDs are .com, .net, .gov, and .edu.
Why Do I Need a Domain Name?
Technically, you don’t. You can rely on sites like Facebook, Etsy, Medium, and others to market your business online. But there are lots of advantages of having a domain. A domain is unique to your business. Customers can search for and easily find it.
Having your own domain gives even the newest businesses a feeling of permanence and professionalism. Finally, having your own domain protects your content and online identity in a way that third-party web hosting services don’t.
Registering A Domain Name
Once you’ve decided to get a domain name, what comes next? The first thing to do is purchase the rights to the name that you want. Buying the domain doesn’t mean that you own it forever, just that you have the rights to use it for the length of the purchase terms. This time varies depending on the registrar but is typically between one and ten years.
Now that you have the rights to the name and have it registered, there are options you can add to your registration. These include:
- An email address linked to your domain. Having a linked email makes it easy for customers to get ahold of you and lends a sense of professionalism to your business.
- Added security to prevent your personal details from being published in registration directories. If privacy is a concern, use this option to lock your domain down.
- Increased security checks on your site to monitor breaches and bot activity.
- Protection against DNS/DDoS attacks. These bot-based attacks can slow or even stop your website functionality.
- SSL security for processing payments. If you plan on selling via your website, this is a must-have.
Where To Register a Domain Name
Registering your domain is a two-part affair. First, you have to make sure the one you want is available. You can use ICANN to do this. ICANN is a worldwide non-profit that records which domains and IP addresses are registered.
However, ICANN doesn’t offer domain registration. Second, after verifying your domain is available, you have to choose a registration service. Paid and free registration sites are available, and there are advantages to each.
One popular paid registration site is Domain.com, which has been operating worldwide since 1998. Domain.com offers access to all the most popular TDLs as well as over 25 country-specific extensions. Their costs are low, ranging between $2.99-$12.99 per year. Domain.com offers several free add-ons, including email forwarding, a free SSL certificate, and DNS support tools. Enhanced features are available at no additional cost. Namecheap and GoDaddy are just two additional registration sites.
Free registration sites include DreamHost and Bluehost, among others. These hosting sites give you a free domain for a year with the purchase of a hosting plan. While the initial cost is low and seems appealing, be careful! Prices can often grow once it’s time to renew your contract.
Why Register a Domain Name
You need to register your domain name for a few reasons. First, you’ll want to make sure no one else can use the domain name you register. Second, registering your domain allows you to host your websites on any host you choose. And third, a domain name is like a trademark the majority of your online marketing is to promote that domain name.
Let’s look at an example of using a free domain from a company. For example, using a Facebook page, you may receive a URL like facebook.com/atouchofbusiness.
Even though you don’t own Facebook.com, you can use that URL to promote your content as long as you abide by the terms of services.
You could have it for years and spend thousands of dollars on promoting it. Now not likely, but for example, if Facebook decided to discontinue Facebook pages, you have no say in the matter. You don’t own the domain.
With a domain you register, your domain is protected and can only be used by you as long as you keep the fees paid up to date and abide by the terms and services.
When You Register a Domain Name Who Owns It?
Wondering about domain ownership is not silly. Your domain is your online business identity, and you need to know what you control and what you don’t. Unlike tangible property, you don’t receive a deed.
What you own when you purchase and register a domain are the usage rights for the terms of the registration. Think of it like renting an apartment – you own all the things in the apartment, but the landlord actually owns the building. With a domain, you own the content, and you are just leasing the space on the web where the content lives.
You have the right to change registrars at any time. However, if your registrar also hosts your website and email, then you may have trouble completing a transfer.
There is also a big market for buying and selling domains. You have the right to transfer your domain name to another party and this provision is what fuels the domain name marketplace.
Do You Have To Register a Domain Name?
The short answer is yes – you have to register your chosen domain name. All it does is give you rights to that name for the terms of the registration. You don’t have to create a website. You don’t even have to use your domain at all. Some people purchase their name, a saying, or a business name just because they might want to use it someday.
What Are the Most Popular TLDs?
Top-level domains, or TLDs, are the extensions that come after the main domain name. They help establish website hierarchy and categorize domain names. The most popular and respected worldwide TLDs are:
The oldest TLD, in use since 1985. It is also the most popular and recognized, accounting for 50% of all worldwide registrations.
Another classic choice. Also around since 1985, .org was initially intended for non-profit organizations.
Originally meant to be used for networks and internet service providers, .net is now available to anyone.
If your domain is going to serve a different country than the United States, you might want a local TLD instead. Some frequently-used country-specific TLDs are:
- .co.uk for the United Kingdom
- .es for Spain
- .fr for France
- .au for Australia
- .ca for Canada
Site-specific TLDs like .gov, .mil, .edu, and .int can only be registered by the government, the military, or educational organizations. There are approximately 50 TLDs in wide use, including newer choices like .biz for small businesses, .art for online art galleries, and .app for app developers. In the end, .com is still the most used, and it continues to give websites credibility.
Domain Extensions (TLDs) To Avoid
For all the respected and secure TLDs out there, TLDs are not regulated. This lack of supervision makes it easy for people to set up bogus websites with TLDs that appear to be legitimate. However, these sites are frequently full of spam and/or malware that can harm devices while others bombard visitors with questionable content.
Heavy malware abuse, including redirects to other shady websites. 99% of .country addresses are affected.
No real malware issues, but heavy on the spam.
It’s not a typo, but bad actors use .cm’s similarity to legit websites to launch malware on unsuspecting visitors.
Definitely not safe for work. Avoid at all costs unless you want your business page affiliated with pornography.
There is no attempt to prevent .review sites from hosting malicious content.
See Tripwire.com for more on TLDs to avoid.
Domain Name Tips and Insights
When choosing a domain name, you must take several things into account. The first is to select a domain that matches your business name. You may need to try several TLDs until you find an available one. Another option is to register all the main TLD extensions to prevent anyone else from getting a domain similar to yours.
For example, I registered atouchofbusiness.com, atouchofbusiness.net. atouchofbusiness.co etc. The additional domains all redirect to atouchofbusiness.com. Therefore, if anyone uses any of the other domains, they end up at atouchofbusiness.com
Having multiple domains using the same domain name and a different TLD comes in handy if you are testing your advertising. Using one of the secondary domains in each advertising campaign allows you to better track your test results.
Second, you need to make sure that your chosen domain is formatted correctly. Domain names should include the alphabet and occasionally a hyphen, but only in certain circumstances. Proper formatting guidelines include:
- Not using numbers in place of prepositions, to be cute, or in an attempt to make your domain memorable. First, people will forget, and then they won’t be able to find your business.
- Using a hyphen as part of a brand name is sometimes necessary, but only if people know they should add it.
- Don’t use trademarked names. Researching potential trademarks and word usage is your responsibility before you register your domain. Do your due diligence to avoid any possible legal problems.
- Don’t use hard-to-spell words, homophones, or long domain names. All of these can lead customers to become confused, forget your domain, or be unable to find your site.
After settling on a domain, you have to check a few more things before you finish registration. You will want to look at your domain’s history to see if it has ever been registered before. If it has, you need to determine if the domain still has content associated with it. Web archives will store website histories, so even if the previous owners delete the data, there might still be a record of it.
This typically isn’t a problem unless someone used your chosen domain for illegal purposes, there was a trademark dispute, or the site was removed due to content. If you go ahead without addressing these issues, visitors may unintentionally view improper content or even be blocked from viewing your site at all.
What You Can Do if Your Domain Name Is Already Taken
If the domain name you want is already in use, your options are to try variations on the name you want, stick with the original, or start fresh. If you choose to go with variations, see if a different TLD is available first. Even if .com isn’t free, you might get lucky with .biz or .net. Another way to go is to alter your domain name slightly. This choice is tricky if you have already established your business name and branding, but a little bit of creativity goes a long way.
If you’re strongly attached to your first choice of a domain name, your only courses of action are to see if the owner is willing to sell or taking legal action. Legal action will only work if you hold a trademark that is being infringed upon. Contacting the owner about a sale is easy if they have a public registration. Just be aware that they may not be interested in selling, and they can ask whatever price they want to.
Sometimes starting over is for the best. Never take this option lightly. But if you are only beginning to build your business and haven’t marketed or branded yet, you aren’t tied to a name. A little tweak here and there and a willingness to be creative might just get you close to your preferred name.
Registering a domain name is essential in setting up a web presence for your business. Getting started may look complicated and like it has a lot of moving parts. But the tips above take all of the guesswork out of the process. Take a deep breath, and then start looking for the domain name of your dreams.