A domain name is your trademark on the Internet. It is the human readable address used to find your website, for example
freshapples.com. It is what you want people to remember and what you want people to find when they search on the Internet. As important as it is, you do not need to spend a lot of money to obtain one. It can be as little as $12 a year. It is easy to register your domain name, but not very easy to choose the right one.
This article will describe how domain names work, how to choose one, and how to register one for your website and email.
What is a Domain Name?
You may have heard that an Internet address is just a bunch of numbers. That is essentially true. But humans can’t interpret those easily, so a system was developed to translate the numbers into words that you and I can read and remember easily. You can reach a website by typing into the browser’s address bar the numbers (known as an IP address) or the domain name. For example: 126.96.36.199 will take you to the same website as microsoft.com. When you type in the domain name a service called Domain Name System (DNS) translates the name into the number and sends you to the right place. This all takes place in milliseconds.
When you register a domain name it is yours to keep as long as you keep your registration current. The IP address is assigned to the hosting provider that owns the server that hosts your website. This allows the domain name owner to change the physical location of their website or email without changing their “trademark” on the Internet. Your email and website can even be at separate hosting services as we will demonstrate later.
It is important to understand that there are thousands of people who are willing to take your money to host your site and register your domain name. There is an entire industry of resellers out there (I was one). Some are great, some, not so much. I have personally seen a small business loose their domain name because the developer of their website registered it for them. The developer never told the customer where it was registered or when it would expire, nor did the small business owner know to ask. When that developer disappeared, so did the domain name, email and website. Their business was wiped off the Internet in seconds. Once lost a domain name can be very difficult to get back. It can take weeks and costs hundreds of dollars if it can be done at all.
Your domain name should be registered in your name. Only those you trust should have access to it. It is as important to your business as the keys to the front door of your store. If you control your domain name yourself and your hosting provider disappears, or you decide to change providers, you can reestablish everything at another service in a short time without disruption of your website and email. I prefer to register my domain names with reputable, accredited registrars separate from where my website and email are hosted, but it is not required. I will cover this in more detail below under registering a domain name.
Choosing a Domain Name
Your domain name can be the name of your business like
google.com or can describe your business like
charlestonlocksmith.com. Either way is fine, but here are some considerations to help you decide.
Is your business name available? If it is, grab it quick. Even if you do not use it, no one else can as long as you own it. A domain name registration should not cost you more than $15 per year for a .com, .net , or .org unless the domain you want is considered a “Premium Domain Name” (more on that later). Many businesses register their business name with all three top level domains (.com, .net, and .org) just to protect their trademark.
If your business name is not available, you could register a variation of it. For example,
tomslandscaping.com may not be available, but
tomslandscapingsc.com is. I added
sc to the end for the state of South Carolina. This works if the other Tom’s Landscaping Company is not in the same state. You could also add the city or region as long as it does not make the domain name too long.
Keep your domain name short. The easier it is to remember the better. One of the most expensive domain names ever sold cost $10,000,000. It was one word with three letters before the “.com”. Started with an S, ended with a X. Obviously, I will not link to it.
Don’t get fancy with words. For example
bikes4sale.com. Unless you own both
bikes4sale.com you may send your customers to your competitors website. You can use a dash to separate words within a domain name. For example:
charleston-locksmith.com but I recommend against it as it will often get left out when conveying it verbally, such as when sharing your email address. Remember, your domain name is part of your email too.
If you decide to buy a domain name that describes your business, use one, two, or maybe three key words. Again, the shorter the better.
charlestonlocksmith.com is a great example of a domain name for a local locksmith in Charleston. Customers will use those two words to search for that service in Charleston. We want to optimize our website for the search engines. The domain name is part of that. More on search engine optimization, also known as SEO, in a future post.
You will find that most of the great domain names are taken.
charlestonlocksmith.com is already registered and, at the time of this writing, is being offered for sale for $599. This is an example of a “Premium Domain Name”.
Premium domain names may cost more to obtain, but once you own it, the cost of renewing the registration is only the basic cost of registration. Typically, less than $15 per year for a .com, .net, or .org. The importance of your domain name can not be understated. A premium domain name may pay off in the long run as it will capture more business on the Internet.
Within the last year or so, the landscape of domain names has changed. No longer do you have to select a .com, .net, or .org domain name. You can register .lawyer, .consulting, .dentist, and dozens more. More top level domains, as they are called, are being added all the time. The jury is still out on how people will accept these. I talked to one local small business owner who said he purchased one for his business but the bank could not accept it when he applied for a business account, as their system only accepted .com, .net, or .org. I think this is a rare exception and will quickly be fixed. I personally have invested in these new domain names. They may cost a little more money, up to $29 or more annually.
Registering a Domain Name
As I eluded to earlier, where you register your domain name is important. Not only in cost, but in securing your trademark on the Internet. There are several big names in the industry in the United States. GoDaddy.com being one. The other big name in the industry is Enom. Enom caters to resellers but their service is full featured and easy to use for anyone. I used their service for my web development company. Google is also in the domain registrar business. Several features that cost extra with other companies are provided for free with Google. These include the ability to hide your personal information from the public. Although they may not have deals or discounts advertised as the others do, their price is fair. A .com domain is just $12 per year. Compare the extras you get for free and I think you come out ahead.
You will probable be using more than one Google service along the way. If you already have a Google Account, then you can sign in and use that. However, you may want to create a new one just for your business keeping your personal email and other documents separate from your business. You will have a chance to do that when you purchase a domain name with Google.
Start the process at Google’s Domain Name Registration page. There you can search for a new domain name. Once you enter it, you will see something like this image.
The returned results will let you know if the name you want is available or not. If it is, you can place it in your basket and purchase it. If not, you can see suggestions for similar names. See the
Add Extension link? There you can find all the new top level domains that are now available. Play around with variations of your business name or key words describing your business until you find one you like and then buy it.
If you already own a domain name elsewhere and want to transfer it to Google you can follow the same process. You will see the opposing arrow icon to start the transfer process. Transferring a domain can take days to a week or more. In addition, there is a 90 day waiting period after you purchase or modify a domain name’s registration. So if you recently registered a new domain name you will have to wait to transfer it. That is not an issue, you can still set everything up now and transfer it later. It will not result in any downtime for your website or email.
Once your registration is completed you can return to Google Domains and manage your new domain name.
Make sure to:
- Setup Auto Renew. This is very important. Also, make sure your credit card stays up to date. This will prevent your registration from expiring.
- Go to Settings and make your information private. It is free with Google, others can cost up to $8 for this service.
- Make sure your personal contact information is correct.
- Resist the urge to click on the Build website buttons. Google wants you to buy into Wix or other third party website builders they promote. They will will not let you optimize your site they way your need to and they will cost more money. Stay with me here. Don’t do it!
Leave everything else alone for now. We will connect your new website to this domain name later using DNS. If you choose another registrar that is OK too. The basic steps to connect to your new website will be same. Google is a great choice, but not the only one.
I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below. You can also share this post on Facebook and Twitter.