Choosing a domain name and getting it registered is one of the most crucial steps in getting your website online. Domain name registration makes sure all website names on the internet are unique. It makes it impossible for one domain name to be used by more than one website. In this guide we will learn how to purchase a domain name and get started with web hosting.
Keep reading to learn:
- How to purchase a domain.
- How to search for domain names.
- How to find out if a domain name is available.
- How to register a domain.
Considerations for Purchasing a Domain Name
A domain name is a unique website identifier on the internet. Launching a website is impossible without choosing a domain name first and claiming it. A domain name is mapped to an IP address with the help of the Domain Name System (DNS), which allows internet users to find a certain website easily without having to remember the actual IP address of the server that hosts it.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?
Keeping a domain name registered generally costs between $10 and $25 per year. The price depends on the type of domain name you need and the chosen domain registrar, which is a company accredited to provide domain registration services. You typically need to renew your domain name registration yearly to maintain control over it. Registrars have different prices and can offer discounts on the initial registration, but the renewal price may be much higher.
Although you can register a domain name with any registrar, all of them act as resellers to The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is responsible for managing the Domain Name System. Unfortunately, you can not buy a domain name directly from ICANN, but as all registrars act as accredited resellers — the main difference between them is pricing.
Types of Domains
All domain names typically consist of two parts — a website name itself and its extension. A top-level domain is the domain name extension, the series of letters after the dot, whereas a second-level domain is the unique website name.
Registrars offer a specific range of top-level domains you can register. For example,. com, .net, and .org are the most popular ones. There are more than 1000 top-level domains available at the moment, but not all registrars may support the registration of domain names with certain extensions.
How to Choose a Domain Name
Choosing a domain name is a very important step when launching your own website. There are no strict rules when it comes to the second-level domain name; it can contain letters, numbers, and some special characters. Although there are almost no limits when it comes to naming your domain name, it is recommended you keep it short and memorable. Search engines, including Google, give preference to short and easy-to-remember domain names that do not contain numbers or special characters.
Choosing the Right Extension
The chosen domain name extension, or the top-level domain, has a great impact on the visitor's perception. Almost half of all websites in the global web use a .com top-level domain, making it something people see most and therefore give preference to. If for some reason the .com TLS is not available, .net or .org extensions are the next most popular ones used by many websites, making them a great secondary option.
Different domain name extensions were created to represent websites of a certain type, although nowadays it is not that strict. For example, you can make use of country-code top-level domains, or extensions like .edu for education companies.
How to Search for Domain Names
Choosing a domain name is not easy. You may want to learn how to search for domain names to see what’s currently available and to generate ideas to help you come up with a unique website identifier. You can see the full list of the available top-level domains on the official ICANN website. Or, use other resources to learn more about website extensions and understand which one would be the best for you. While it's recommended you choose your website name based on your brand image and the type of content you will host, various domain name generators online can help you get some ideas.
How to Find Out if a Domain Name is Available
With millions of active websites on the internet, a lot of domain names have already been claimed. Before we move on to discover how to purchase a domain, we need to know how to find out if a domain name is available.
Domain lookup tools are provided by the majority of registrars, and will allow you to check if a certain domain name is available to purchase or if it has already been registered. If you want to see if a domain is available for use, check out our domain lookup resource from Nexcess. It’s completely free, convenient, and user-friendly domain lookup tool.
If a domain name is unavailable, some tools can also provide information on the current domain registrar, registration, registry expiration dates, and more.
How to Buy a Domain
The process of buying a domain name consists of three easy steps:
- Choose a registrar.
- Consider your domain registration naming options.
- Purchase your domain.
We have briefly reviewed what a registrar is and how much a domain would cost you, but let’s see what other options you need to consider, so you know how to purchase a domain name and not miss out on anything.
1. Choosing a Registrar: 3 Factors to Consider
As we discussed, all registrars are the accredited resellers of ICANN, the organization that manages the Domain Name System. ICANN charges a registrar for a domain name registration, and the annual accreditation fee should be paid to maintain the registrar status. Registrars form their pricing based on that, trying to offer the best possible pricing to beat the competition.
There are several factors to take into account when choosing a registrar. Some of them are the following:
- Pricing and benefits. Some registrars can offer registration discounts or free additional services like SSL certificates, which is an attractive option.
- Hosting services. Most hosting companies provide domain registration services. Some people choose to register their domain name with the same company they will then host it with, so they can have everything in one place. Please note that the majority of web hosting companies act as resellers of other registrars.
- Support and user interface. Since all your domain registration information, including the nameservers used, will be managed from the registrar’s side, you may also want to choose the company that provides the best support and a user-friendly interface for managing your domain.
Please note that you can change your domain name registrar by performing a domain transfer, but the process has its nuances, and there are certain limits and rules.
2. Consider Your Options
Registrars provide additional services and let you decide what term you would like to register the domain for. The minimum amount of time you can own a domain name is one year. Some registrars strictly require it to be renewed manually, while others allow automatic renewal.
You may discover that pricing may vary depending on the top-level domain used, or other factors. Most registrars also offer Whois privacy, or Whois protection, to make your domain registration data unavailable to the public. It will cost extra, so we strongly recommend deciding what you need before purchasing domain registration privacy protection.
3. Purchase a Domain
When all options are considered, let’s see how to purchase a domain name from the chosen registrar. You can use a domain name availability lookup tool on the registrar’s website to enter your new domain name and purchase it. You will be taken to the checkout page to complete the process.
Check the chosen top-level domain and select how many years you would like to register a domain name for. Then, add it to the cart and proceed to checkout. Your new domain name has been purchased!
How to Register a Domain
Buying a domain might seem like the final step in the domain registration process, but it is just the beginning of your journey as a website owner. To register a domain, you need to provide domain registration information, verify your new domain ownership, and configure DNS. Below we will review how to register a domain name in three steps.
1. Provide Domain Registration Information
During the checkout process, you will need to provide additional contact information, including your email, physical address, and your phone number.
2. Verify Domain Ownership
The next step is to verify your new domain ownership using the email address you provided during the registration process. The registrar will send you a verification email within a few minutes. Open the verification link in the email to verify your domain ownership and contact information.
3. Configure DNS
This step is optional in the initial domain name registration process, but is required for further website setup. The registrar manages the information about your domain authoritative nameservers — one of the most important parts of the domain name resolution process. Some registrars provide their DNS servers that you can use to keep your DNS zone on, or you can choose any other nameservers.
Domain name registration is a critical step you need to take to get your website online. Remember, once a domain name is registered, you can not change it. You can only register another one to associate it with your website — so it is very important to choose wisely and consider all your options. The process of registering a domain name is pretty straightforward after you have chosen the domain name and the registrar.
Don’t Forget About Hosting
Once you build a website and register a domain name for it, it’s time to present it to the world. Your website data will reside on a server and be combined together to present it to your visitors. This process needs to be reliable and backed up by the best technology.
That’s why when it comes to hosting, you can not settle for anything less than the best. Nexcess managed hosting includes everything you need to become a successful website owner. Get award-winning support from platform-specific experts for an easy and headache free experience.
Check out our managed hosting plans to get started today.
This blog was originally published in March 2021. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.