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How to buy and register a domain name

Choosing the right domain name may be crucial, but so is picking the right domain name registrar. Here's what you need to look out for

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 it's essential to choose one that is easily searchable and represents your brand well.

If you’re building your own website, or having one built for you, you’ll have to register your domain name with a domain name registrar. Most providers offer both web hosting services and domain name registration.

Don’t have a website yet? Don’t worry! You don’t need one to register a domain name.

This article will tell you how to buy and register a domain name, including how to choose a supplier, the costs involved, and how to choose the most suitable extension.


What is a domain name?

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

A domain name is registered with a domain name provider, such as Bluehost, or Domain.com – two of the best providers according to our research – and paid for on an annual basis.

Your domain name should reflect your brand name as closely as possible, or at least contain keywords that are relevant to your business.

For example: Startups.co.uk.


Choosing a domain extension

A domain extension, otherwise known as a Top Level Domain (TLD), is the last part of your domain name: .com, .org. .co.uk, etc.

Their original function was to categorise domain names into groups, with each extension designed to indicate the purpose of the website they were assigned to. For example, .com, the world’s most popular domain extension, is a contraction of ‘commercial'.

Today the system is much less rigid, and your domain name provider will give you a huge range of domain name extensions to choose from for your business website.

A .com extension ensures that your business has global credibility, and that it can be easily found in Google searches – something that not all other extensions can guarantee.

However, using .co.uk is a much better option for a local business that wants to target a UK audience.

.org, the world’s second most popular TLD, is a contraction of organisation. It’s generally used by non-commercial entities.

There are also certain restricted TLDs that can only be used by credentialed businesses, professionals, or individuals, including .biz, .name, and .pro.

Talk to your domain name supplier about suitable extensions for your business website.


The world's 5 most popular domain extensions are:

  • .com (used by around 47% of all websites)
  • .org
  • .net
  • .us
  • .co


Domain name providers and costs

A domain name registrar is a company that allows you to buy and register a website domain name, such as US-based Bluehost, a top choice for domain and hosting services

You pay an annual fee to maintain possession of that domain name. Generally, you’ll be charged a lower introductory rate, which will renew at a higher rate after the first term.

Essentially, all these registrars are providing the same main function. It doesn’t matter which registrar you choose – once you’ve registered a domain name, it’s yours.

But there are several factors that should influence your decision when choosing a domain name provider.

  • Price – different providers will charge different fees for the same domain
  • TLDs – some providers only offer common extensions or top level domains (TLDs), such as .com or .net, while others offer more niche options
  • Additional services – some providers offer hosting as well, while some are exclusively for domain name registration (it might be easier to get everything in one place)
  • Domain name management features – an intuitive dashboard is especially useful if you have multiple domains
  • Support – it’s unlikely you’ll need any support, but on the off chance that you do, it pays to know it’s there

All the providers we’re recommending below offer both domain registration and hosting services. It’s usually much cheaper and easier to get both in the same place.

To help give an accurate comparison of how much it would cost you to register with different providers, we’ve used the same hypothetical domain name with five different providers and three of the most popular extensions for UK businesses.

All prices shown are for a year’s purchase. Most providers will give you the option of purchasing a domain for two or even three years up front, which can work out cheaper overall.


Bluehost domain

bluehost domain screenshot

Buehost is a long-running domain and web hosting supplier based in the US. It offers a large range of domain extensions.

Every Bluehost domain auto-renews after the first term at a regular price. But you are able to switch back to manual renewal at any time.

Once you’ve chosen a Bluehost domain, you can manage it from an easy-to-use control panel.

Bluehost plans automatically come with privacy and protection (£9.59/year), which you can choose to remove. However, if you do remove it, your personal information will be listed in the public WHOIS database for anyone to search and view.

  • coolfunkybusiness.com
    £9.68/year
    £12.53/year on renewal
  • coolfunkybusiness.org
    £7.26/year
    £14.53/year on renewal 
  • coolfunkybusiness.co.uk
    £9.68/year
    £24.41/ year on renewal

Try a Bluehost domain name here!


Domain.com

domain.com screenshot

As domain names for domain providers go, Domain.com nabbed a good one.

Founded in 1998, Domain.com specialises in affordable domain names. It offers a range of free domain services, including URL forwarding, email forwarding, transfer lock, and total DNS management, to help its 1.2 million customers manage their domain portfolios.

While Domain.com does offer 25 country code top level domains, we’ve found its .co.uk domains to be a bit more expensive than other providers. However, its privacy and protection comes in cheaper than close rival Bluehost at just £7.25/year.

  • coolfunkybusiness.com
    £8.00/year
    £11.20/year on renewal
  • coolfunkybusiness.org
    £7.20/year
    £12.00/year on renewal 
  • coolfunkybusiness.co.uk
    £24.01/year
    £11.99/ year on renewal

Try a Domain.com domain here!


GoDaddy

Godaddy domain screenshot

Responsible for 78 million domain names worldwide, GoDaddy is one of the big players on the domain name scene.

What sets it apart is its comprehensive range of other website tools, including a popular website builder, hosting services, and marketing tools.

GoDaddy has great introductory prices, but they do rise quite sharply once you renew.

For example, its .co.uk domains are currently 1p for the first year if you purchase two years (and then renew at the regular rate of £11.99/year).

All GoDaddy domains include Basic Privacy Protection, which redacts your name, address, phone number, and email in the WHOIS directory. It also offers full domain privacy and protection, which protects against hackers, malware, and accidental expiration.

  • coolfunkybusiness.com
    £3.99/year
    £16.14/year on renewal
  • coolfunkybusiness.org
    £7.49/year
    £19.14/year on renewal 
  • coolfunkybusiness.co.uk
    £4.99/year
    £11.99/ year on renewal

Try a GoDaddy domain here!


HostGator

Another US-based provider that offers a range of website services, HostGator’s introductory prices are a bit higher than its rivals, but similar to others on renewal.

Domain features include domain locking, which prevents unauthorised transfer of your domain name, and access to a dashboard for easy management of your domains. Privacy protection from HostGator is £11.94/year.

HostGator doesn’t provide .co.uk domains.

  • coolfunkybusiness.com
    £10.34/year
    £14.37/year on renewal
  • coolfunkybusiness.org
    £10.34/year
    £14.37/year on renewal 
  • coolfunkybusiness.co.uk
    Not available 

Try a HostGator domain here!


123-reg

123reg screenshot

One of the UK’s leading domain name registrars, 123-reg has the best introductory prices of any of the domain name providers we’ve reviewed.

A 123-reg domain name comes with a few attractive freebies as well, including free email forwarding and a one-page website that’s free for 30 days. Its intuitive control panel allows you to keep your details up to date, search your invoices, and manage your payments.

123-reg gives you a choice of 400 different domain extensions, so you can be sure to find the perfect match for your business. If your desired domain name isn’t available, you can place a backorder to be first in line for that domain name should it appear on the open market.

  • coolfunkybusiness.com
    £2.99/year
    £15.99/year on renewal
  • coolfunkybusiness.org
    £10.34/year
    £14.37/year on renewal 
  • coolfunkybusiness.co.uk
    99p/year
    £11.99/year on renewal

Try a 123-reg domain name here


Privacy and protection

You’ll notice that many domain name suppliers automatically add-on something called ‘domain privacy’ or ‘privacy and protection’ at a cost of around £10/year.

Some suppliers, like GoDaddy, offer different levels of privacy and protection, whereas Bluehost privacy + protection is just an ‘on/off’ choice.

But what is it?

Well, when you register a domain, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN) requires your domain registrar to publish your personal contact information on WHOIS – a public database used to identify who owns a specific domain name or IP address.

This personal information includes your full name, home address, phone number, and email address.

With domain privacy, you’re paying for your domain name provider’s contact information to appear in the WHOIS database in lieu of your own.

This can protect your domain from threats like fraud, hijackers, and identity theft, as well as nuisances like spam and direct marketing, and human errors like accidental domain transfer or payment card expiration.


Should I buy a premium domain name?

Premium domain names are domains that have already been registered by a third party, and are now being resold at a premium through a registrar.

They’re valuable because they’re short, memorable, and keyword rich. This means they’re frequently searched, and therefore likely to drive traffic to your website.

Some savvy people buy domain names that they know will increase in value, so they can resell them for a profit at a later date.

There are usually two fees for a premium domain: a transfer fee and a registration fee.

As always, if you are going to buy a premium domain name, shop around for the best transfer and renewal fee.

For example, the domain name funkybusiness.org is available through GoDaddy Premium Domains for an estimated one off transfer fee of £3,105, plus a £19.14/year ongoing registration fee.

Domain.com Premium Domains lists funkybusiness.org for a similar price as GoDaddy, but the renewal fee is just £12/year.

Is funkybusiness.org worth that much? It is if it’s going to drive lots of valuable traffic and conversions for your website.


Next steps

Whichever provider you choose, you’ll end up with a unique domain name that you can call your own.

From a quick search around different providers, it seems that country code TLDs like .co.uk are cheaper from UK-based domain suppliers (like 123-reg), while .com TLDs are cheaper from US-based suppliers (such as Bluehost)

This might not always be the case. It only takes a moment to check if your desired domain name is available, and to receive a cost estimate from one of our partners. We’d recommend visiting a few different websites and comparing prices for the same domain. Just click on the links and get searching.


Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for Startups.co.uk 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.