From e-commerce website to blogs, all platforms are based on the same building blocks, including domain names. This article will explain how to get a domain name.
How to Get a Domain Name
What is a Domain Name?
At its core, a domain name is essentially a web address. When prospects want to reach your website, it’s the set of words typed up in the browsing URL bar.
Why is a Domain Name Important?
Beyond acting as a web address, a domain name acts as a form of branding for companies. Through this form of formal labeling, search engines can better identify a business’s website.
While there are other methods to improving your search engine rankings, a credible, trustworthy, and reliable brand is a good foundation to start on.
Parts of a Domain Name
There are three fundamentally distinct parts of a domain name.
Second Level Domain (SLDs)
A second level domain (SLD) acts as the root as it is associated with the brand portion. It is meant to be the website or company name.
Residing to the left of the root domain, a subdomain is an additional add on, created by the main domain owner. Acting as another form of identification, the subdomain highlights a specific part of the website.
Top Level Domain (TLDs)
Residing to the right of SLDs, the top level domain (TLDs) are the domain extensions.
Generic Top Level Domains (gTLD)
As implied in the name, generic top level domains (gTLD) are the most common TLDs:
- .com: Intended for commercial businesses, or any entity that sells products or services. “.com.” is an unrestricted domain, meaning any public entity or individual can use it.
- .net: Originally, “.net” was used for network technology-related organizations. Now, the general public uses this extension.
- .org: At first, only organizations in the non-profit sector can use “.org.” However, in today’s time, it is open to public use.
- .info: Short for information. Similar to the last three, “.info,” can be used by the general public.
- .edu: Restricted to educational institutions. However, given that the domain extension has more requirements, it offers more credibility to websites that earn it. It can be hard to earn an EDU domain registration.
- .gov: Restricted to government owned and operated websites.
- .mil: Restricted to the U.S. military owned and operated websites.
Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD)
A country code top level domain identifies which country or region the website originates from. Some common examples are:
- .co.uk – United Kingdom
- .fr – France
- .eu – European Union
- .cn – China
How to Create a Domain Name
Tips for Good Names
Domain names are a given standard. It won’t necessarily give a secret boost as most quality websites have one. However, to not have one would mean a disadvantage.
One SEO technique is to use keywords. However, there’s a misconception that exact matches – phrases that state the exact product or service – are still effective. In light of spam websites that aimed to solely increase click through rates, which produced bad user experiences, Google changed its algorithm to not favor exact match domains.
However, this action doesn’t necessarily mean keywords are a red flag. The integrity of the website just needs to match the integrity of the keywords used. Keep in mind, Google favors any and all websites that produce positive user experiences.
Niche Name vs. Brand Name
In light of the aforementioned context, incorporating keywords for domain names would be more fitting for niche markets.
For example, the domain SEODesignChicago.com implies relation to search engine optimization. It can also be inferred that the company is Chicago-based and specializes in digital marketing.
While domains alike appeal to a narrower audience, a potential downside arises if business wants to expand. In that context, niche domains could possibly be limiting, as now the new services don’t match their original domain.
The more open-ended alternative is to approach a domain as a brand name rather than a niche name. Companies like Walmart, Amazon, and Target don’t have a product keyword in their name.
Rather, it’s simply a branding choice, allowing both their website and stores to have the liberty to expand from how they initially started. Both companies sell products ranging from food, utilities, and toiletries, and their domain name remains appropriate and not affected.
Arguably more importantly, the domain name should have a good ring to it. Whether it’s catchy and fun or serious and straightforward, it needs to be memorable so prospects can retain the brand, let alone the domain.
Misspellings can cost prospects to not visit your website. To minimize these grammatical obstacles, consider:
- Shorter lengths: The longer the name, the more letters customers have to ultimately write out to access your website. It’s also harder to memorize a longer phrase.
- Homonyms: Words that are pronounced or spelled the exact same way but have different meanings. If a product or business is being spread through word to mouth, then there’s room for miscommunications.
- Numbers and hyphens: Besides being associated with spam-like websites, they cause a similar problem as homonyms. Numbers and hyphens leave room for human error to misspell it because it is hard to verbally articulate.
- Abbreviations: If the brand name itself is an abbreviation then an abbreviated domain makes sense. However, in the case that it’s not, the two clashes. Some mixture of letters can even come off as random, and therefore less memorable and legible.
Another alternative for brainstorming and mapping out possible keyword-focused domain options is to use established domain name generators.
- Name Cheap: Includes tools such as a search filter, prices (including premium options), spelling variation, and unavailable domain options. You’re also able to input a bunch of initial keywords to begin the search.
- Lean Domain Search: Results in a huge list of domain options. You’re better able to organize your brainstorming as the search history and favorite ideas can all be saved.
- Bust A Name: Provides search filters, available domains – sorted by quality, length, or even syllables – and costs. Also allows users to save options to later on review.
- Shopify Business Name Generator: Insert keyword to generate a list of ideas. Given the context that Shopify is a hosting ground for e-commerce sites, it also directly takes you to creating a Shopify shop. This is an example of a resource that includes both domain registration and web hosting, which will be discussed later in this article.
Beyond this article, make sure to conduct research! Particularly, if the domain name is going to be based on niches then explore which keywords produce a high search volume to see what your target audience is searching for.
As a part of narrowing down ideas, check for domain availability.
When finalizing your list of domain names, verify whether or not it’s already trademarked. Sometimes companies already have the name or branding.
If the name is available, great! Make sure to trademark it so you can protect your rights. It is also worth considering buying variations of the domain, such as subdomains, to acquire the full scope of branding.
Existing Unused Domains
In some unfortunate cases, the perfect domain is already taken. In more fortunate scenarios, the domains are up for sale. Usually, those owners sell their domain higher than the original costs.
Some people pay external resources to keep their business directory and contact information private. But if their information is public, then you should be able to reach out to the domain owner. WHOIS allows for users to review domain data, website information, and to also register a domain name.
On the same note, checking domain history will be important, in the case that the previous owner mishandled the domain to an unreasonable condition. According to Search Engine Land, there are 10 things to check regarding domain history. Some of these factors to check include blacklist status, internal and external link tampering, and Google-related tools functionality.
Social Media Handles
As emphasized earlier, a domain should be reflective of the brand name. An extension of brand awareness would take place beyond the website. After all, businesses use platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to market, through methods like networking and content creation. So, it is helpful to see the name availability on other social media platforms before solidifying a purchase.
Domain Name Registration
After picking out a name, the next step is to formally register it. Even though registration, domain name system (DNS), and web hosting are distinct processes, they build off one another.
Web hosting is the corresponding server website with the domain name that customers end up seeing and interacting with. When you purchase a server, it comes with an IP address that needs to be connected to your DNS record.
Domain Name System (DNS) hosting
With the IP address, the DNS knows what website they should reformat the set of code into.
Essentially, the structure allows for prospects to type the domain, instead of a set of numbers in the browsing URL bar, to access the website. Without being a part of the DNS, websites will result in error because there’s no associated website, without the imputed IP address.
To officially claim a domain name, formal registration paperwork needs to be filed to hold exclusive rights. Registering means your company, business information, and contact information will be associated with the domain name on the grander DNS, where all the other domain names exist.
When it comes time to officially claim a domain name, domain registration websites will vary in what they offer.
Most registration websites allow for a fixed annual price. Some offer one price for the first year and increase the costs incrementally, in the following years.
If they’re less credible registrars, be wary of any costs that come with unforeseen or unnecessary add-on services associated with a domain name purchase.
On a similar note, the period of registration of the first purchase can range from one year to a few. When the registration expires, some registrars don’t offer a grace period, allowing for the domain to be up for grabs to anyone on the Internet. On the bright side, there’s an option to automatically, rather than manually, renew the domain once it does expire.
Some registration websites provide really helpful opt-in services, such as extended expiration protection and domain privacy.
- NameCheap: On top of being a generator, as mentioned earlier, NameCheap offers registration with free domain privacy. They also issue extra resources to buy pre-owned domains.
- GoDaddy: Supplies extra services like digital marketing, web hosting, and security. GoDaddy claims themself to be the largest registrar, with prices as low as $0.99.
- Domain.com: Includes private registration and protection; issues access to WHOIS, and web hosting space. Domain.com general registration encompasses all TLDs and some ccTLDS.
- Bluehost: Provides registration, content management system and web hosting. If you purchase their hosting deals, a domain can be completely free.
- HostGator: Comes with affordable domain prices, internal website building resources, accessible technical support, and free advertising credit.