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How to buy a domain name

A unique, compelling and memorable domain name can be the difference between success and failure - here’s how to get it right

Registering the domain name of your business is a huge milestone in its formation. This unique internet identity is how customers, both new and existing will find you online – so choosing one that is easily searchable and represents your brand well is essential.

There are a number of factors to consider when making your decision. To help you out, we’ve compiled this handy guide on how to buy a domain name, covering:

Visit any of these sites to buy a domain now!

1&1 Best for combined hosting and domain name Buy a domain with 1&1
Bluehost Best for WordPress hosting Buy a domain with Bluehost
GreenGeeks Best for eco-friendly web hosting Visit GreenGeeks
HostGator Best for ease of use Buy a domain with HostGator
SiteGround Best for custom cache product Visit SiteGround

What is a domain name?

A domain name is more than a simple sequence of letters and dots, it is the address of your online destination and where new customers go to find out more about you.

For example:

When you break into new markets, it could be the first impression they have of your business, and you only get one chance to make a good first impression…

Your domain name should reflect your brand name as closely as possible, or at least contain keywords that are relevant to your business if this is not possible.

A domain name is a unique sequence of words (or a word) that identifies the online address of your website.

Picking the perfect domain name for your business – 4 golden rules

  1. Make it unique

There are now more than 333 million domain names registered. Meaning new businesses such as yours will have to be very creative when deciding on a domain name.

It’s important that the web address name of a business isn’t forgotten easily or confused with another business. Combining keywords (YouTube) or actually tweaking a word like Tumblr are just two examples of creative ways to secure a valuable domain name.

  1. Think carefully about your domain extension

Whilst businesses might be really focused on how their company name is reflected in a web address, the extension of the address should be seen as just as important. There are many options available and the numbers of these continue to grow. However, .com remains the globally recognised standard and holds equal prestige in this country.

The world's 5 most popular domain extensions are:

  • .com
  • .org
  • .net
  • .us
  • .co
  • A respected .com extension adds credibility to a brand, future-proofing for expansion in times to come. It also ensures your business be easily found in Google searches – something which not all other extensions can guarantee.

    3. Use keywords

    Google has an AdWords Keyword Tool that can show you the most relevant keywords to your business. This can influence your web address selection, because using these in your domain name helps Google recognise what your website and business does and will help it to rank higher in searches.

    But don’t forget to keep it simple.

    Find out more about using Google AdWords here.

    4. Respect the law

    Every business is unique in some way, but particularly when it comes to company names and registered trademarks. It might be attractive to some businesses to try and ‘piggyback’ off the success of a more famous counterpart, which may have a short-term benefit, but ultimately it’s not an advisable long-term strategy and could lead to an expensive lawsuit.

    Registering a domain name and costs

    Assuming that no one has beaten you to it, anyone can register a domain name for a few quid a year.

    Some popular domain name registration providers are:

    • 123 Reg
    • GoDaddy
    • Nominet

    Alternatively, if you are setting up a website through a website builder, most will include the registration of a custom domain name as part of their package.

    If you’re designing your website from scratch you will need to pay for one.

    The price will depend on:

    • The popularity/ desirability of the name
    • The provider
    • Which domain name extension you choose.

    For example: domains cost as little as £4.99 per year, and .com domains will be around £9.99 upwards per year.

    1&1 Best for combined hosting and domain name Buy a domain with 1&1
    Bluehost Best for WordPress hosting Buy a domain with Bluehost
    GreenGeeks Best for eco-friendly web hosting Visit GreenGeeks
    HostGator Best for ease of use Buy a domain with HostGator
    SiteGround Best for custom cache product Visit SiteGround

    Choosing an international domain name

    If you have global ambitions, then choosing your domain name will require even closer consideration, as ever more factors come into play. The world is a big place and it can be hard to tick all the boxes, attention to detail can be everything.

    • Use a .com domain extension – internationally recognised standard for web addresses. It will give your website and your brand the credibility needed to succeed in new territories, and consumers and other businesses the confidence to trust in your business. A .com domain is used by most of the world’s major brands so you’ll be in good company
    • Choose a name that translates – direct translation is not always possible – or advisable. But even brands using completely made up words can find themselves red-faced after launching in a new market to discover their nonsense word actually means something ridiculous or offensive in the local language
    • Does it look right? – without spaces or capitalisation to signify the beginning and end of words, unintentionally inappropriate (and humorous) names can emerge. Check whether it can be misread or not

    For example:

    • Experts Exchange –
    • Auctions Hit –
    • Partners Talking –

    Registering multiple domain names

    Once you’ve registered a domain name and established your business’ main website using the .com domain name, you’re ready to expand your business’ online presence.

    Registering multiple domain names will also provide you with a variety of other benefits as well.

    Registering your company’s name as a domain name in other top level domains (TLDs), like .net or .tv, can help protect your online space. It prevents competitors from using the same domain name in the selected TLD and stops internet traffic otherwise intended for your website being sent to a competitor’s website. This reduces customer confusion and challenges in finding your business online.

    It can also help customers reach your website even if they misspell the domain name. You can use URL redirection to redirect customers from the improperly spelled domain name to the properly spelled domain name. As an added benefit, competitors won’t be able to register a similar name and steal traffic.

    Next steps

    So you’ve decided on a unique and memorable domain name and registered it. It’s compelling, it uses keywords and there’s no chance of it being inappropriately misread.

    What next?

    You’ve got your website address, now it’s time to start building the destination!

    Henry Williams
    Henry Williams

    Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.

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