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A Step-By-Step Guide to Registering Your Domain
When you're ready to take your business online, one of the very first things you need to do is register a domain name so your business website has an internet address, known as a URL.
Registering a domain seems simple enough when talking to owners of existing websites, but as you go through the registration questions may come up you hadn't yet considered. How many years should you register the domain for? Should you get WHOIS protection? And should you have your registrar also host your site?
We'll walk through five key decision points when registering a domain, so you'll feel comfortable going through the process.
1. Is The Domain Name Available?
First, your domain name must be available — that is, it hasn't been registered by someone else. There are several places where you can check the availability of a domain name, including Instant Domain Search, or your favorite Registrar.
There are two important elements to research. In addition to the name of your website, there's the top-level domain (TLD), which is the last part of a web address. Often domain names ending in .com, .org or .net are already taken, but those are not your only options. Domain registrars are now offering generic top-level domains (gTLDs) that end, for example, in .PRO, .LGBT, .INFO, or .VOTE. Those gTLDs give you a great chance at registering a compelling and relevant domain name. For example, breastcancer.com is already taken, but breastcancer.pink is still up for grabs.
2. What Kind of Top-Level Domain Is Best?
From a technical standpoint, it doesn't matter which TLD you choose.
A good rule of thumb is to register the most popular TLDs. Registering a .com is always a good idea – and it's smart to also register local TLDs (for example .com.au in Australia).
One of the benefits of registering a gTLD like .ORGANIC is that it can offer your audience an indication of what type of business you're running. It's a safe bet that if your site ends in .ORGANIC, your website will likely be related to food or a healthy lifestyle.
In addition, these unique TLDs may boost your search engine marketing efforts.
3. Should You Register Multiple TLDs at The Same Time?
With multiple TLDs available and more released nearly every month, it's hard not want to get your business name with every single one. However, it can get pretty expensive to register every single extension, so the best approach is to be strategic.
Register the TLDs that are most relevant to your business. If you're selling organic chicken, you may want to register .FOOD and .ORGANIC, but if you're a freelancer or solo entrepreneur .PRO would be of course be a lot more valuable.
It can work in your favor to register your name in more than one TLD, provided they make sense for your business. Plus, if you own your primary domain and relevant variations, you'll be able to prevent competitors from stepping on your brand's turf.
4. How Many Years Should You Register a Domain For?
You can register a domain for at least one year and ten years at a maximum. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to register a domain for multiple years to prevent the need to renew over and over again.
There are additional benefits of registering a domain for an extended period besides convenience. For example, when you lock your domain in, you prevent competitors from registering your domain. Imagine working hard on your website and gaining thousands of visitors over the course of the year, only to lose your domain name because you didn't renew it in time and someone else snapped it up. Registering for an extended period is the best way to avoid such catastrophes.
You may also get a volume discount on the per-year cost when you register your domain for more than a year.
Some search engine optimization (SEO) specialists claim that search engines factor in the number of years you registered your domain, favoring sites who've registered for multiple years. That's because multi-year registration shows that a site plans to be around for some time to come.
4. Should You Buy Hosting Services From The Registrar?
It can make sense to host your website with the registrar of your domain. Many vendors provide seamless integration and intuitive user interfaces for managing both. Some even offer free domain registration when you buy their hosting services.
One downside of such a package deal is that it increases the risk of losing your domain when your domain registration and hosting is up for renewal. For example, if you forget to renew your hosting or there's an issue with your credit card, your domain may become available and other people may register the domain before you realize there's an issue.
5. Do You Need WHOIS Protection?
WHOIS protection or domain privacy (interchangeable names) hides the personal information of the domain registrant from the public WHOIS database. The WHOIS database is a collection of information, such as your email address and phone number, which registrars list once you register a domain. It is used as contact information just like a traditional phone book. All contact details of the registrant are accessible to the public, in addition to the other information regarding domain registrations, such as when your registration expires or the length of registration.
You can buy WHOIS protection if you don't want to get spam or junk calls. Even if some details seem harmless – like your address – bad actors who get a hold of it can inflict damage. For example, the WHOIS database is one of the first places domain hijackers visit for information once they've picked a target.
WHOIS protection can make it more difficult for people to get in touch with you, but you can solve that problem by publishing a page on your website with contact information.
Once you've discovered a domain name that works for your business, don't procrastinate. Register it immediately. With this guide, you'll be ready to decide what add-ons you need and what to skip.