3701 0 February 16, 2015

Everything you wanted to know about choosing a domain

I have been asked this a lot, by people who start their adventures with online business, and I decided to gather this knowledge and put here in a post, so I can send them straight to my blog.

Why does it matter?

Your domain name – is your addres on web. This is exactly what you put in the browser bar. You can get a free subdomain address from free website service sites (so it will look like: www.yourname.someoneelsedomain.com) – but if you want to look serious you will need your own name (www.yourname.com) and nothing else.

What does it consists of?

A typical website address has a few parts. Let’s consider the address: http://www.example.com:

  • http:// – is the protocol used to serve the content. It’s important of course, but it doesn’t matter to you. In modern browsers you don’t even need to type it. (you can also meet https:// – this means that data transfer is secured)
  • www. – is a subdomain, and also is not really important to you. If you buy example.com domain name, you can use either www.example.com or example.com address (or even both if you like, although I wouldn’t recommend it)
  • example – is the proper name that you will hunt for
  • .com – commonly named TLD (top level domain), is the extension, and the combination of the name and tld is what you need to buy – and must be unique (after you buy example.com, no one else can buy it, although someone can buy example.net). You will need some information about TLDs

Learn some more about TLDs

TLDs are managed by IANA – Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. There are a few TLDs to choose from (just recently some new ones were released), and the price of the domain name depends on the selected TLD. There are following kinds of TLDs:

Generic TLDs like com, net, and org.

Com domains were originally intended to indicate a commercial website, while org were supposed to belong to non-profit organizations, but since anyone can register those, these rules are not strict ones. There are some more generic tlds, but they are restricted to be used by government (gov), military (mil) and educational (edu) institutions, they are not available on the market. The cost of buying such TLD is about $15 per year.

Country code TLDs (ccTLDs)

Two letter domains, established for countries or territories like .pl for Poland or .it for Italy. They are marketed in corresponding countries, their prices vary (some are very expensive, while others are as cheap as com or net TLDs). Some countries require citizenship to qualify for buying their TLD.

New era generic TLDs

Around two years ago ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an organization that runs IANA) started releasing new TLDs, very interesting generic words like .city or .bike. Right now, in the moment I am writing this post, there are 276 new TLDs available to register, 3 new are coming next week, and the total of 530 is planned. Some of most interesting are: academy, .agency, .attorney, .auction, .best, .boutique, .career, .cheap, .consulting, .discount, .finance, .global, .house, .investments, .land, .lawyer, .luxury, .marketing, .photo, .property, .shoes – you get the idea. Cost of these new TLDs is higher than cost of traditional com, net and org extensions – depending on the selected word it can be even up to $100 per year (average cost is $25 per year, only few are cheaper).

Checking availability

If you already have an existing business, and it has its name, you will want to use it as your domain name. There shouldn’t be a problem if the name is unique or you will want to use your first and last name with .com TLD – there are chances it’s still available. If you will want to register “pizza.com” – forget it, it’s taken. Where do you check availability? Any of the registrars (listed below) will give you the possibility to check it. If it’s not, you can try to buy it from the current owner or backorder it- this is quite expensive solution, and not really my choice. If your name is taken, and you don’t want to spend money to buy this from current owner or you can try to get the selected name with a different TLD or slightly alter the name – adding hyphens or additional word that describes your business.

Choosing your name

If you plan a new business and are in the process of selecting the name, you should choose the name that is already available. There is a number of tools on the internet that will help you with this, and I have some advice:

  • Keep it short – 3 and 4 letter domains are taken, and there is no need to be that short, but you should try to fall under 14 letter name.
  • Use your keywords – you will want to optimize your website, and rank high in search engines for selected keywords, so doing a research now, and using keywords in the name of your business can assure you optimal results
  • Make it easy to memorize, easy to spell and easy to write – well, this is obvious, but funny how many people forget about it. Ask your friends if they can spell it. Ask your mum to write it. Check it with someone who is not computer savvy to see how it works
  • After you will find your perfect name, research it. Simply enter it in google or any other search engine to find out what ranks high at this moment for your name – you don’t want your car business to be confused with a brand of toys for newborns

Just to help you with selecting names, I have gathered a few online domain name generators – they also show availability:
NameMesh – just enter your keywords, and it will present you with plenty of solutions
Panabee – works in similar way, just give it some words and browse through results
Dot-o-mator allows combining two predefined lists of words and check the availability of the generated results. You can also type your words, instead using predefined ones. Useful for combining one word with topical suffixes, and it also has a link to generate non existing web 2.0 words.
Lean domain search enter your dream word, and it will provide a lot of alternative options.

Registering a domain name

After you have selected your name, and know it’s available, it’s time to register it.
As I wrote before, talking about TLDs, cost of the domain depends on selected TLD. You can get even some for free! Most popular ones, .com, .net and .org cost around $15 per year.
There are many domain registering services on the net, most of them also provide hosting – and other way, most of hosting providers allow to register a domain name. Personally I register my domain names in one company, and buy hosting services from the other one – it’s more complicated, but I have found that the best registrars are not necessarily best hosting providers – and back again. This is the list of the domain name registrars, whose services I find interesting (I have also checked reviews and they have quite a good opinion among internet users):

Name Cheap
Google – yes, you can register domains with google.
Gandi.net – this one is more expensive than others, but has very good opinion, and their motto is “no bullshit” support.

And a bonus for those who made to the end of this post:

Freenom – this is the registrar, who will allow you to register domains for free.

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