What is a domain name?
A domain name is a name that people type into their computer when they want to find your website (such as amazon.com). It is also how search engines, such as Google, list your site.
It is also, optionally – but I highly recommend – the part of your email that comes after the @ sign (such as email@example.com). I see many small businesses still have an address such as firstname.lastname@example.org – it is much better to have an email address such as email@example.com I’ll explain why later.
In general, you want the domain name you choose to be the same as your business name, so that your online and offline marketing and branding is consistent. If the domain name you want is already taken, you need to either buy it from whoever owns it, or get a little creative with the name you choose. We’ll examine those options further on.
What do domain names look like?
They have two parts. The first part is the name and the second part is the type of organisation. For example in amazon.com, the “.com” part shows us that this is a business and the “amazon” part gives us the name of the business. For UK companies the part after the first dot has two sections (.co.uk) to tell us that this is a business and it is based in the UK (romanbritons.co.uk)
When domain names were first being used there were only a few options for the type of organisation (such as .com or .co.uk for businesses, .org for government organisations, .ac for educational establishments). Nowadays there are hundreds of possibilities (such as .club, .name, .guru, ,ltd, .photography)
Where do I get a domain name from?
Every country has an authority that controls the registration of domain names in their country. In the UK they control all domains that end in “.co.uk”; in New Zealand those that end in “.nz” and so on. Each authority then licenses independent companies to sell domain names on their behalf. You buy your domain name from any one of these companies. These companies sell you the right to use your chosen domain name on an annual basis. If you don’t renew then that name is available for somebody else to use. You can normally opt to buy for several years at a time if you wish.
Companies who sell domain names will charge different amounts, and will often have temporary promotions on certain domain types. Read the small print carefully! Sometimes an amazingly low price is only for the first year of use and is tied in to you using subsequent years at a much higher price.
They will also offer a range of associated services. You should ensure that DNS forwarding and email forwarding are included in these services. These are settings (a bit like signposts which you can change the direction of) and are required if you ever wish to move your hosting company. It makes good sense to always have that option open to you.
Normally these are included, but if you choose a company that offers both domain name registration and hosting, you should check carefully if there are any restrictions on you leaving their services once you have signed up. Here are some of the many companies that you can buy a new domain name from.
If you are not sure what name you want, or the name you really want is unavailable, then you can get suggestions, based on words that are relevant to you, from:
If you want to buy a name that is already taken there are companies who will manage that process for you, including finding the owner and negotiating the sale, for example:
You can also find domain names for sale on places such as eBay – just make sure to check that it is the real owners who are doing the selling! If you need any help with that, we’re happy to do a quick check for you.
$10 million – that’s the record amount paid for a domain name. If you can secure one that has never been used before then you are more likely pay nearer $10
What makes a good domain name?
If you already have a company, then using the same name makes sense! Aside from that, shorter is better – usually easier to remember, harder to mis-type. If you need to use hyphens then limit yourself to a maximum of just one.
If you are in the UK for example, try not to pick a name that ends in “.co.uk” where an established competitor already has the same name with “.com” as it is likely your potential customers will accidentally type “.com” and find themselves on your competitor’s website.
Ideally you will be marketing your business and your site on social media (most would argue that that is essential actually) so you also need to consider if the name you choose is available on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and so on. Even if you don’t plan to use all of these media it makes sense to register on them to stop somebody else using your name – you don’t want your customers getting confused about your brand.
If all of this is starting to sound like a time consuming pain – well, you’d be right, it certainly can be!
We can organise everything for you
Luckily, Ali has a solution to save you all that time. Who is Ali? She is our online angel – an assistant who helps us out with all manner of admin and marketing tasks. She can search for suitable names for you, and once she has found one you are happy with, she will register it with both the domain name authorities and 25 of the major social network sites – saving you a heap of time. Pop over to our contact page to get more details of this service.