How to Buy a Web Domain

Overview

If you would like to have your own website, you need two things: web hosting and domain registration. The basics of these are explained in the beginner’s guide to web space, so you may want to read that before you continue with this page.

Once you know the fundamental principles, you can start taking steps for domain acquisition. To buy a web domain is actually straightforward. It’s the process that leads up to it that may be a little complex. You need to take great care—after all, your domain name will form the foundation of your online presence. It’s recommended that you read this entire article before doing anything, so that you know all of your options beforehand. When you’re ready, just follow the steps in order. Good luck and have fun.

Come up with a good domain name

Here are some characteristics of a good domain name:

  • Short. Although you can have up to 63 characters in your domain name, there’s no reason to lengthen it. The shorter it is, the easier it will be for people to type and remember.
  • Relevant. Your domain name must be descriptive of your product, services, or identity. Try not to use acronyms. Don’t use names that have nothing to do with you or your business.
  • Memorable. Come up with something catchy and easy to remember. It’s best to have a domain name that’s also your website name. It’s surprising how many websites out there have a different domain and website name.
  • Avoid hyphens. People have a hard time remembering them, so they may type your domain name without hyphens and end up in the wrong website. They’re also difficult to share with others verbally.

There are two kinds of domain names:

  • Branded domain names are recommended for businesses or individuals. For example, John Smith, a freelance writer, wants to build a website to attract new clients. Johnsmith.com would be a good domain name.
  • Generic domain names are recommended for portals, resource websites, or niche websites. For example, John Smith wants to build a website to help other writers learn more about writing. Writingtips.com would be a good domain name.

Set aside time to brainstorm for a domain name. A good domain name can take hours, days, or weeks to come to you. There are a lot of domain names that are already taken, so use your creative juices to come up with a unique one.

Check the domain name’s availability

To check whether the domain name is available, do a search at any domain registrar or web host. But before you do this, make sure you’re ready to buy your desired domain name. If it’s available when you check, buy it right away—or someone else might snap it up.

If it’s not available, don’t be surprised. A lot of good names are already taken. Here are your options:

Option 1: Buy it from the owner

Do a Whois lookup to get the domain owner’s contact information. Email them to ask whether they’re willing to sell the domain to you. Some people buy domains hoping to resell them and make a profit. In this case, expect to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the domain name’s value. On the other hand, if the owner has lost interest in the name, you could probably buy it for less.

Option 2: Choose a different top-level domain (TLD)

The domain name’s TLD is its extension. Com (.com) is the best choice for a business. But if it’s already taken, you may choose to get the .net or the .org version. Net would be better, since some people still associate Org with nonprofits.

A country-level TLD is also an option if your website focus is local to your country. If you run a catering service in the United Kingdom, for instance, a .co.uk domain would be better than a .com. People who are searching for UK catering will immediately know, by looking at your domain name, that your company is local.

Option 3: Choose a different domain name

You could either come up with a completely different domain name, or edit your desired name somehow. The latter is simpler. If you have a café named Magnolia, and magnolia.com is taken, you could try magnoliacafe.com instead.

For generic names, this will be easier. Just add a prefix or suffix to your desired name. For example, you wanted cookies.com, but it was taken. You could try:

  • mycookies.com
  • thecookies.com
  • bestcookies.com
  • cookiesblog.com

…and a lot of other variations.

Buy your web domain

Once you find an available domain name you like, buy it immediately to prevent others from beating you to it. Make sure you’ve got your payment method handy. Domain registrars usually accept credit cards and Paypal.

You have two options when buying your web domain.

Option 1: Buy web domain and hosting separately

Buy your web domain at an accredited domain name registrar. Go for an established and reputable company such as GoDaddy. Afterward, get your web hosting at a good web hosting provider such as Just Host.

It’s best to get your domain name before your web hosting, as web hosts usually ask for your domain name when you sign up.

Option 2: Buy web domain and hosting together

Most web hosts also do domain registration. Some web hosts even register domain names for free if you sign up for their web hosting. (As an example, Just Host offers a web-hosting-plus-domain package. They offer 1 or 3 free domains, depending on the plan you get.) This is a good idea for beginners, as it makes things much simpler.

Whether you buy your domain and hosting separately or together, it’s best to register the domain for as many years as you can. Not only can you get a discount; you also won’t have to deal with the inconvenience of having to renew every year.

Point your domain to your web hosting

You will have to do this step if you bought your domain and hosting separately. First, find out the name servers that your web host uses. These usually come in pairs, e.g., ns1.webhost.com and ns2.webhost.com. You should find this in your web hosting account’s control panel; but if not, ask your customer support. Then, go to your domain registration control panel and edit the name servers. Input the addresses you got from your web host. Within 48 hours, the world will be able to access your website through your new domain.