How to Buy a Domain Name

You’re ready to start your website, but buying a domain name and figuring out your hosting options are major hurdles. Get ready to build your website with this guide to buying a domain name.

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What is a domain name?

Just like you have a physical address where customers can walk into your showroom or office, your domain name is the digital address where customers can find you on the internet. Instead of using IP addresses, the Domain Name System (DNS) allows us to use real words to navigate the internet. After all, a domain name like smallbusinesscomputing.com is much easier to remember than 141.193.213.21.

How to choose a domain name

You should choose a domain name that is unique, easy to remember, and relevant to your business. Ideally, your domain name and business name should be the same, but this isn’t always possible. If the domain name you want has already been taken, you might consider shortening your business name to the first letter of each word, like using SBC in place of Small Business Computing.

Or, you could choose an alternative suffix to follow your desired domain name, known as the top level domain (TLD). TLDs like .net, .bix, or .co are common alternatives for .com URLs, so try those first if your first choice of domain is taken. You may run into some red tape if you want to use a TLD like .edu, .gov, or .mil because they are reserved for official entities like universities, US government agencies, and the US military.

How to buy a website domain

  1. Make sure the name you want to use is available.

    You can do a preliminary search with any domain registrar like GoDaddy, Domain.com, Bluehost, or DreamHost. If the domain you want is already taken, the registrar will likely recommend alternative names that are available.

  2. Compare registrars.

    All of the top domain registrars offer unique advantages that might attract you to their services, but it’s worthwhile to do some research before committing to one. Consider how much of a difference the add-ons will actually make: will they meet specific business needs like email hosting and website building, or are they unnecessary extras that only add to your expenses?

  3. Purchase your domain.

    The cost of owning a domain name can range from $10 to $60 or more per year, depending on the registrar you choose and how competitive or specialized the name is. Some registrars also offer brokerage services, which allows you to purchase a domain name that’s already been registered.

  4. Alternatively, choose a website builder that offers domain registration.

    Some platforms like Squarespace, Square, and Shopify offer domain registration and website hosting included with their core capabilities.

What to do once you’ve purchased a domain

If you go with a website builder that allows you to select a custom domain name as part of the building process, choosing the domain is likely the first step. After you’ve selected the name you want to use, domain registration takes about 24-72 hours, but you can usually start customizing your website before the domain registration process is complete.

If you opt for a registrar that doesn’t offer website building services, or if there’s a separate website builder you’d prefer to use like WordPress, the next step is to connect these two services. This involves modifying the DNS settings with your domain registrar to point your domain to the website builder of your choice. Non-technical users might have a difficult time completing this step successfully, so using a platform like Squarespace or Shopify might be a better option in this case.

It’s worth noting that domain registration and website hosting are separate services, though most domain registrars and website builders offer both. Domain registration only prevents other people from using your domain name; it has nothing to do with the storage available for your website content. Most likely, you’ll have the most success with a solution that allows you to manage your domain registration, website hosting, and content management from one central platform.

Read next: The Best Website Builder in 2021

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for eSecurity Planet, Webopedia, and Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive. When she's not writing about small business technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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