How to Buy Web Domain Names

domain registration

Choosing and purchasing the right domain name is a critical part of building an effective website. Narrowing down a name and a place at which to register can be a daunting task, but once you find a domain name that you are happy with you need to purchase it as quickly as you can. It can easily be taken by someone else at any time until it is properly registered.

Domain Purchase Considerations

There are many companies you can register your new domain name with. According to Enom.com, the average cost for new domain names ranges around ten dollars, although each registrar sets its own fee. A few tips to keep in mind when deciding to register domain include:

  • Pricing plans: The best domain name company will offer a variety of packages to fit everyone's needs, from single-year registration rates to multi-year plans with discounted fees. A few of the most highly regarded companies include Network Solutions and GoDaddy.
  • Verify fine print: Places like LuckyRegister.com and CheapDomain-Registration offer $1.99-a-year domain registration; however, there is fine print to read. That price may not be for a ".com" domain, but for a less popular one such as ".info" or ".mobi," neither of which is the most desirable suffix. There may be surcharges, fees may be added on if you decide to host your website elsewhere, or you may have to purchase something else to get the deal.
  • Free hosting: Some companies like GreenGeeks and BlueHost offer free domain registration with a hosting package. Make sure you understand the specific terms before choosing this option so you are sure what might happen if you decide to move to a new hosting service.
  • Private registration: When you register your domain name, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your full name, address and phone number. This information will then be published in the public WHOIS database. For a minimal fee (generally no more than $7 a year), you can keep that information private. You may want to consider adding this feature when you make your purchase.
  • Ease of DNS transfer: If you plan on transferring your DNS (or even if you don't), a good registration company will offer access for this transfer without adding on exorbitant fees. Avoid working with any company that does not allow transfers or that makes them difficult. You want to be able to switch hosting services if you decide that the one you originally select does not meet your needs.

When choosing a registration company, carefully read the Terms of Service. When in doubt, find three companies you are interested in using and contact their customer service departments. A reputable company should be able to answer all of your questions.

Choosing Domain Names

You can't purchase a domain name until you know what name you want. Domain names are restricted to 67 characters in length, including letters "a" through "z" and numbers "0" through "9". Characters such as hyphens and periods are allowed.

Name Selection

The first part of the domain will be a word or phrase that you choose. While you can choose any available name that meets the character requirements, it's important to select a name that will be beneficial to your purposes. A few tips to keep in mind include:

  • Select a name that is relevant to the content of your website.
  • Incorporate one or two keywords web surfers might use to look for what you have to offer into the name.
  • Keep the words and numbers simple so that it is easy to type in and to remember.

Domain Suffixes

The last part of each domain name has a suffix that identifies its top-level-domain (TLD). The intended purpose of suffixes is to identify the website type. However, as pointed out on TechTerms.com, anyone can register and use most of the suffixes. The exceptions are .edu, .gov, and .mil, which can only be registered by educational, governmental and military organizations, respectively.

Examples include:

  • .com: Commercial business
  • .biz: Business
  • .info: Informational site
  • .net: Network organization
  • .org: Nonprofit groups

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a not-for-profit group that manages the Internet's domain name system and IP address space allocation, has a complete list of Top Level Domains.

While conventional wisdom has been that .com names are better for commercial businesses than other choices, that notion has changed over time.

  • According to a 2012 article in Columbia Journalism Review, domain names are becoming less important, as site visitors tend to relying on search engines to take them to websites rather than browsers.
  • On March 14, 2012, Matt Cutts stated in a Google + post that the search engine giant "has a lot of experience in returning relevant web pages, regardless of the top-level domain."

What this means for you is that if there is a name that you want that is not available with a .com suffix, do not automatically eliminate it from consideration. If an appropriate alternative is available that you are comfortable with, consider selecting it.

Verifying Availability

Once you have a name in mind, you'll want to conduct a search to see if it is available. The domain name search tool on the Network Solutions website is one place where you can search to see if the domain is available. Simply enter the term into the search box and the results will provide you with information about whether the domain is taken or not. The site will show the domain paired with a listing of common suffixes so you can clearly see what forms of the name are available so that you can make a decision.

Previously Registered Domains

The fact that a domain has already been registered does not necessarily mean that you cannot get it, though it will likely cost more than purchasing an option that has not been registered. Investors who purchase and hold domains in the hopes of making money from them set pricing based on what they believe the value of the domain to be. Costs typically start at well over $100 and often climb into the tens-of-thousands of dollars range.

If the name you want shows as taken when you run a registrar search, type it into your browser. It may be in use as a functioning site, but you may find that it is parked, has expired or is otherwise not in use. It's possible that such domains may have a "for sale" notice posted, or be listed for sale at a place like the Name.com expired domains page or via an online auction at a site like Sedo.com or Bido.com. You may even able to purchase these types of domains by tracking down the owner and making an offer.

  • If the domain has a "for sale" note on it, you're in luck -- the owner is clearly interested in selling and may be open to a lowball offer just to recoup the annual fee. A cyber squatter, who hoards multiple semi-desirable domain names in the hope of having one of them turn out to be the next hot buzzword, might be tougher, but don't give up.
  • You can do a simple WhoIs lookup to see who owns the domain. That'll give you a contact email address. Fire off a quick note to initiate contact or place a call to the WhoIs contact if you can access the telephone number.
  • If the owner responds, you can ask if he or she is interested in selling. If the answer is yes, you can start the negotiation process.

Do not go into the negotiation process without some idea of what the domain might be worth. You can get a general idea of value using a free domain name appraisal tool like the one on valuate.com.

There are advantages and drawbacks associated with publishing domain names.

  • For example, according to an article on ModernDignity.com, a domain name that has been live before may have existing traffic and already have been picked up by search engines, benefits that can help your website become visible to search engines more quickly than one published on a brand new domain.
  • Previous activity can also have a negative impact on your site. For example, if black hat SEO has been used on the domain or if it has been a parked domain littered with spammy advertisements, it may continue to be viewed negatively by search engines indefinitely, no matter what you do to it.

To avoid potential problems, it's important to make sure any previously owned domain you are considering purchasing is not blacklisted. You should also check the domain history and comparative sales to research its back story.

Creating Your Website

Once you have selected and purchased a domain name, you'll be ready to move on to the process of creating, developing and promoting your new website.

How to Buy Web Domain Names