If you are just getting started with blogging, Internet marketing, or otherwise making money online for the first time, you may be intimidated by what more experienced professionals already take for granted. You have to learn how to crawl before you can try running, right? And one of the first steps that you’ll need to take on your journey as an online entrepreneur is registering a domain name.
Let’s start first by defining what a domain name is in the first place. Basically, it’s the address that people type into their web browsers in order to access your website. You type “google.com” into your browser’s address bar to get at the popular search engine, for example, and you type “youtube.com” to get to the popular video site.
Can You Buy a Domain Name?
At the most basic level, you’ll want to have a similar kind of domain name for your blog or website too. The thing is that while the common vernacular you’ll find on the Internet will talk about “buying” a domain, you never really “buy” a domain at all. Instead, you only register it for a period of time, typically anywhere between one and three years, though some services allow you to register for a longer term.
You’re not really “buying” the domain. It’s more like you are “leasing” or “renting” the domain, because once your registration expires (and you don’t renew), someone else can come and snatch it up. There’s a whole industry surrounding the search for expired or expiring domains. That’s why I recommend you set up your domain registration to renew itself automatically in case you forget to do so, unless you’re really sure you don’t want it anymore.
Here’s a simple analogy for understanding what a domain name is and how it relates to access your site on the Internet. Think of the domain as the “name” of the building. With this analogy, the actual “address” of the building would then correspond with folder(s) on the network server where the website files are currently saved and made available for access. This web address is the IP address. So, the “domain” might be the “White House,” but the “address” is 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC. In this way, a domain is much easier to remember, especially if it directs you to the actual address automatically.
Registering a Domain Name
There are countless companies on the Internet that can register a domain name for you. All of these domain registars (and resellers and so on) work in fundamentally the same way. Some may have access to different top-level domains (TLDs), which are the “extensions” at the end of a domain name. Having a website with a .com at the end of it is generally the most common, but you’ll find country-specific TLDs like .ca for Canada and .co.uk for the United Kingdom, as well as other TLDs like .net and .org. If you are looking for something specific, your choices of domain registration providers may not be quite as vast.
Among the most popular choices for domain registration are big names like GoDaddy, Netfirms and Namecheap. As long as you choose a reputable company and they offer the options you desire, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference which domain registration provider you choose. Pricing can vary, but most of the “normal” .com domains will cost you about $10 to $15 a year. Some places may have promotional prices for less.
With most of these providers, you’ll usually find an option on the main page for Domains. There is commonly a search field offered, as well as a pull-down menu for choosing your preferred TLD. Some places might get you to type in the TLD instead. As mentioned, the generic .com is usually preferred, but there are definitely circumstances where other TLDs may be even better. Use your own judgement and discretion here.
Don’t be at all surprised if your first choice for a domain name is not available. This is where you may need to exercise some of your creativity in order to find a suitable domain. In any case, when you’ve found the (available) domain that you’d like to register, add it to your cart. Before you do, check the length of registration. Most places default to one year, but it’s not a bad idea to get it for longer if you can. Sometimes, you can get a discount for a longer registration period.
But don’t check out just yet! You will need some web hosting to go along with your new domain and many of these domain registration companies also offer web hosting services. Take this into consideration when choosing both your web host and your domain registar. There are pros and cons to keeping it all under one roof.
Is Private Registration Worth It?
Another very important thing to note here is the notion of private registration. By default, when you register for a new domain, all of the contact information you provide as part of your registration will be entered into a public database called WHOIS and this can be queried by just about anyone. This means that you are potentially leaving yourself open to real life spam in your actual mailbox, as well as telemarketers to your phone number, and spam messages to your email address, not to mention the potential for identity theft and other concerns.
One way to avoid some of the potential concerns is to set up a business mailing address or a P.O. box, as well as a separate business phone number for precisely purposes like this. That way, your personal information isn’t made freely available on the Internet. Another way to avoid this problem is with a private domain registration.
Practically all domain registars offer this as an option and it usually costs somewhere around $10 a year per domain extra. It’s entirely up to you if you want to opt in for it. There are pros and cons, as a private registration would then put your registration through a proxy and this could lead to some legal complications should problems arise.
As a final note, if the domain name that you want is already taken, there are several marketplaces online where people sell domains. You can also contact the site owner directly to ask if they’d be willing to sell it to you… and this is where looking up the WHOIS information can come in handy sometimes.