Finding a domain name that both fits your business and is available can be a challenge, so I thought I’d write up some information and include some questions I get asked about domain names to help you find the right domain for you.
What is a domain name?
Your domain name is just the online address of your website, it’s what people type into their browser. It’s how their computer knows how to find your website. The .com or .net that attaches to your website. I like to compare it to the street address of your house. If I told you to go to Stan Smith’s house, it might be hard to find but if I told you to go to 7518 N. Main Street, that would make it easy to find.
Where do you get a domain name?
You can buy your domain from a variety of sources, including GoDaddy, NameCheap, and most big box web hosting sellers. They usually range from between $8 and $15 a year depending on the domain. Keep in mind that this is just for the domain name, and not web hosting or anything else.
What you need to know about buying a domain name:
Does it matter where you buy your domain? It doesn’t really matter where you buy it, and you don’t have to buy it from the same place you get hosting. You can buy a domain from any seller and point it to your web hosting account easily. I personally like to keep my domains and hosting separate, because that makes it very easy for me to switch to a new host if I need to, without having to transfer the domain anywhere.
However, be sure to make a note of where you purchased it and how to login, because you will periodically have to verify your domain contact information or update your credit card. I have had clients lose their domain because it expired and they didn’t realize it, or their credit card information wasn’t up-to-date, or their email address wasn’t up-to-date and they couldn’t get logged into the domain registrar account. I’ve even had some come to me and know have any idea where their domain is registered, which is important if you need to update it!
Do you need private registration? What does private registration mean? Remember back when we used to use phone books? I know the youngsters reading this probably don’t remember, but every year a new phone book came out with everyone’s phone number and address, and you could look it up in the White Pages. If you didn’t want to have your name and phone number listed, you had to pay extra for an unlisted number.
Yes, you most likely will want private registration. If you don’t, then you’ll start getting calls about how you are going to use your domain everyday, and that’s really annoying. Some registrars charge extra for private registrations and some don’t, and I don’t know which ones do and don’t and they change those rules a lot. Either way, I recommend private registration.
One caveat: they will not let you have a private registration if you buy a .us domain.
What do the extensions like .com, .org, etc mean? Does it matter which one you get?
There are endless options for the extension on your now. The most common ones you see are .com, .org, and .net, followed closely by .gov and .edu. You can also buy domains that end in .info, .co, .us, .me and more. There are so many!
Anyone can buy domains with most of these exceptions. While .com technically stands for “company” – there are no rules and anyone can buy them. Technically .org stands for organization, but again, anyone can buy one.
Most of the domains are readily available to buy by anyone. There are a few that have rules.
.us – must be used by person or organization in the US, either as a citizen or business. You can’t have a private registration with a .us. More info here.
.gov – must be qualified government organization or program and must provide proof of eligibility. More info here.
.edu – must be a qualified postsecondary accredited institution and provide proof of eligibility. More info here.
For more information about registration eligibility rules, you can check out icann.org.
What domain name should you get for your business?
For a business, I typically recommend your business name or as close to it as you can get. If there is already a business somewhere with your business’s name, then you may not be able to get your ideal domain. If your business name isn’t available, then you may have to get creative.
Some ideas for if your preferred .com is taken.
- Start by seeing if there’s a .net available. Ideally most folks want the .com, but if it’s not available, you may have to choose a .net or other extension.
- Another option is to hyphenate your domain name. Our domain is sumydesigns.com, but maybe I’d look into sumy-designs.com. This is a really good option if your business name is only two words, and gets more difficult with long business names.
- Consider adding the location to your domain name if the regular one isn’t available and your business is geographically limited to a certain area.
- You can try arranging your business name to get something that’s available but still appropriate. For example, if your business name is Sandra’s Art Shop, but sandrasartshop.com is taken, you could try artbysandra.com or shopsandrasart.com.
What domain name should you get for a person, such as a writer or public figure?
Since we do a lot of websites for writers, we have some experience in this area. In this case, I always recommend trying to get a domain name that is your name. Some writers want to buy domains for the name of their book, but then when they come out with a second book, that no longer fits. But their name as the author will appear on all their books and is always appropriate.
This is the same for freelance writers or journalists who may write for multiple publications. That way, it doesn’t matter where your writing appears, your website is always appropriate.
Unless you plan on changing your name, then this is a good option.
What if someone else already has your name in a domain? Then you may have to get creative by using your middle initial or middle name, adding the word “author” or “politician” or other moniker to the domain.
Is it beneficial to buy up a bunch of similar domains?
Yes and no. Having a lot of domains in your account in and of itself is not going to have any affect on your ranking or position in search engines. Some folks think that they can buy up a bunch of domains and that in and of itself will draw more traffic, but unless someone knows that domain or sees it published somewhere, if there’s no website on it, it’s not going to make any difference. However, there are a few reasons why you might want to buy extras.
- If your name is long. If you have a long business or organization, you may want to have your main domain be that one, but you might want a “phone domain,” what I call a domain that you can easily say over the phone. In this case, you can tell someone to go to xyz.com and when they type that in, it just forwards to your actual domain.
- If your domain name has a common misspelling. It’s not a bad idea to get a domain that’s a common misspelling of yours and point it to your website. That way, if someone mistypes they can still get to your site.
- If you want to keep competitors from grabbing similar domains. I’ve seen politicians buy up their opponent’s name in a domain and point it to their own website. I don’t recommend you do that, but if you buy a few versions of your name it can prevent someone from doing that to you.
Other FAQs about domains
How do I see who owns a domain?
You can check out that info at most domain registrants or head over to ICANN and do it there. Although if they have a private registration you can’t see their info.
What is a subdomain?
A subdomain is a part of your domain. For example, our website is https://www.sumydesigns.com, but we also have https://support.sumydesigns.com/ which goes to the part of our site reserved for client support. We use the same top level domain and break it into two sites that we can manage separately.
How do I get email with my domain name?
A common misconception is that you have to get your email through your domain provider. You can get your email anywhere you want, depending on what email provider you use. I personally use and recommend GSuite for email, and some folks like Microsoft email, and others want to use a free provider like Zoho. There are many options.
Can I change my domain name?
Sure. This happens a lot when businesses change their name, move, or acquire other businesses. The important part to remember is that you need to redirect your old domain to the new one so that you keep all you traffic and your search engine rankings.
Got domain questions? I have answers! Contact me to find out more.
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