If you’ve read our Guide to Setting Up Your Own Website, you’ll know that getting yourself a domain name is a crucial step.
Domain names are names you use to identify your site on the Internet. They are also used to attach a name to your (or your company’s) email or Web site addresses so they can easily be found online and allow you to move your email or Web site to a different host without necessarily affecting your (or your company’s) customers1.
So how do you go about registering a domain name? It’s easy. Think CD-R.
Choose your domain name(s)
Determine whether your chosen domain name is still available. You can do this via a Whois Search at the InterNIC website
Register your domain name with an ICANN accredited registrar
There are rules, however, in choosing your domain name2.
Parts – your chosen domain name (“company name”), followed by a dot, followed by the extension or top level domain ( TLD*)
Length – not less than 3 but not more than 63 characters long (including the dot and the TLD)
Characters – only alphanumeric (letters or numbers) and hyphens (which cannot be at the beginning or end of the domain name)
Uniqueness – no two domain names can be exactly the same
Some additional considerations when choosing domain names are3:
matching business name with domain name (use variations if that domain is already registered by another company/person)
using short names (as they’re easier to remember)
registering the dot-com (.com) version first (for businesses, .org for non-profit groups, .edu for educational institution or .net for an ISP); if unavailable, try other TLDs
registering related names (to keep them away from competitors)
putting a keyword in
using hyphens (if un-hyphenated versions are not available)
avoiding domain names that conflict with another company’s trademark
How much you end up paying for registering your domain name(s) depends on several factors:
Period covered by the registration (one month, one year etc.)
Which registrar you’re using
Whether you’re opting for a bundled service from your web host (in which case registration is offered either for free or discounted with the web hosting account/plan)
Although there are companies that offer this service for free, expect to pay between $9-35 per domain per year. Of course, the domain is only yours for as long as you keep paying the renewal fee. Some registrars offer substantial discounts if you pay for your domain name(s) for several years upfront.
What do you get once you’ve registered your domain name(s)? Some registrars will send you a paper record of your domain name registration, some, an email confirmation, and others simply display a confirmation screen in your web browser upon order completion. At any rate, it is always a good practice to print out any information supplied by the registrar so you’ll have access to it later.4
*A TLD or top level domain is defined by Webopedia as a suffix attached to Internet domain names. Some of the most commonly used ones include:
.com – for companies
.org – for organizations
.gov – for government agencies
.mil – for military
.edu – for educational institutions
.net – for network organizations
.cc – for country codes (where cc varies by country, ex. .ca for Canada), a listing of which is provided at the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Index of TLD Code