How to Buy a Domain Name for Your Website

Learning how to buy a domain name is an important part of launching your website. A relevant, memorable domain can drive traffic to your site and help build your brand.

We’ve put together this guide to explain everything you need to know about buying a domain name. We’ll cover how to craft a memorable domain, where to purchase it, how to connect it to your site, and what to do if the perfect domain is already owned by someone else.

Key Takeaways

  • A domain name is a memorable address that visitors can enter in their browser to reach your website.
  • When choosing a domain name, you should ensure it’s unique, short, and describes your brand. You also need to check that it’s available with the extension you want, such as “.com” or “.org.”
  • You can purchase your domain from a web host or domain registrar for a period of up to ten years. Make sure to activate auto-renew so your domain registration doesn’t lapse.
  • A domain name typically costs $10 to $20 per year, although specialty domain names can cost much more.

How Does a Domain Name Work?

A domain name is a unique name that visitors can use to access a website. Examples of domain names include “techopedia.com” and “google.com.”

Behind the scenes, domain names are shortcuts to a website’s IP address. When a visitor types a domain name into their browser, the domain name is mapped to the website’s IP address, and your browser takes you to the address.

Domain names are a lot easier to remember than IP addresses. For example, it’s easier to remember “google.com” than Google’s numeric IP address, 142.251.46.238.

How to Choose a Domain Name

Choosing a domain name is one of the most important decisions you’ll make when setting up a new website. Your domain name is how customers will remember your site, and it’s an important part of your overall brand identity.

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a domain name.

Top-Level Domains

First, you need to decide what top-level domain you want for your website. A top-level domain, also known as a domain extension, is what appears after the period or dot in your domain name.

The most popular top-level domain by some way is “.com,” short for “commercial.” Internet users expect most sites to have a “.com” extension, so this is a good choice for any personal or business website. Other common domain extensions include “.org,” “.net,” “.xyz,” “.io,” and “.co.”

There are dozens of other top-level domains available, including options like “.shop,” “.world,” “.live,” and more. However, these extensions aren’t as commonly used, and it may be difficult for visitors to remember them. You may want to avoid them unless they fit with your brand.

Tips for Picking a Domain Name

The hard work of choosing a domain name comes when deciding what should precede your extension. Here are a few tips:

  • Your domain name should reflect your brand and be memorable. If your business has a unique name, consider using that as the domain name for your site.
  • Avoid generic domain names that could apply to any site or any business in your industry.
  • Keep your domain name as short as possible – under 15 characters is preferable. Avoid numbers and special symbols.
  • Make sure your domain name is easy to understand and spell. It’s a good idea to say your potential domain name to a friend and ask them to spell what they heard.

How to Check if Your Domain Name Is Available

Once you’ve decided on a name and a domain extension, check whether it’s available. Most registrars, including GoDaddy, Namecheap, Name.com, and Domain.com, allow you to search for domains at no cost. Website builders like Wix and Squarespace, which offer domain names, also let you search for domains.

You may find your preferred domain is already taken. In that case, consider picking an alternative top-level domain or slightly tweaking your name.

If you choose a different domain extension, be sure to check if there is a website using your name and a “.com” extension, as customers are likely to land there by accident. If it’s a competitor’s site or a website with offensive content, you may want to choose a different domain name altogether.

Alternatively, you can try to purchase your preferred name from its current owner. We’ll cover how to do that in more detail below.

How to Buy a Domain Name

Buying a domain at Domain.com
Buying a domain at Domain.com

Once you’ve settled on a domain name and know that it’s available, you can purchase and connect it to your website by following these four steps.

Step 1. Choose a Registrar

Domain name registrars perform the essential tasks of assigning a domain name to your website and protecting your ownership after purchase.

There are hundreds of registrars to choose from. Some of the biggest include GoDaddy, Namecheap, Tucows, Network Solutions, and IONOS. Website builders like Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, and Jimdo are also domain registrars, which means you can buy a domain directly through your site builder platform.

All domain registrars have access to the same pool of available domain names, so you don’t have to worry that your desired domain will be available at one registrar but not another. However, different registrars may offer different pricing for the same domain, so it’s worth shopping around before you settle on a registrar.

In addition, the platform that hosts your website may have a domain registrar business. You can often get discounted pricing when purchasing hosting and a domain from the same company.

Step 2. Purchase Your Domain

Search for your domain through your chosen registrar and add it to your cart. At this point, you can choose how long you want to register it for. Most registrars offer plans ranging from a few months up to ten years.

Generally, you’ll get a lower annual price with a longer registration period. However, don’t expect a refund if you stop using your domain or want to transfer it to another registrar in the future.

At checkout, you’re required to provide information for a public database managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This nonprofit organization coordinates domain names across registrars to ensure all purchased domains are unique.

You must provide your name, address, email, and phone number. By default, this information is publicly visible in ICANN’s database. However, many registrars allow you to hide your personal information for an additional fee.

Step 3. Turn on Auto-Renew

After you purchase your domain, it’s a good idea to turn on auto-renew. This ensures your domain registration won’t lapse if you forget about it, potentially enabling someone to buy it before you can renew your subscription.

All major registrars offer an auto-renew option that can be found in your account settings. If your credit card information changes, make sure to update it to keep auto-renew functioning.

Step 4. Connect Your Domain to Your Website

To connect your new domain name to your website, you’ll need to share information between your domain registrar and web host. The process will vary slightly depending on the specific providers you use, but we’ll lay out the basic steps here.

  • In your domain registrar account, locate an option labeled “DNS Management” or “Name Server Settings.” You’ll see two empty boxes labeled “Nameserver 1” and “Nameserver 2” or “NS1” and “NS2,” respectively.
  • In your web hosting account, locate an option titled “Domain” or similar. You should see two nameserver addresses, which will look like “ns1.webhost.com” and “ns2.webhost.com.” Copy these nameserver addresses into the respective nameserver address boxes in your domain registrar account and click “Save.”

It can take up to 48 hours for your domain to be connected to your website after completing these steps.

How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?

Domain.com domain pricing
Domain.com domain pricing

You can typically purchase a domain name for $10 to $20 per year. You may be able to get a domain name with a less popular top-level domain, such as “.world,” for less than $5 per year.

Many web hosts and registrars also have attractive introductory offers. If you purchase hosting, for example, you may get a free domain for a year. Many registrars charge less than $1 for your first year of registration before increasing the price.

Popular domain names can be more expensive, however. For example, the domain name “shopping.store” costs $6,500 per year on GoDaddy as it’s considered a premium domain. The domain “shopping.online” costs $16,250 per year.

What To Do If Your Domain Is Already Taken

If your perfect domain name has already been taken, there’s still hope. You may be able to buy the domain directly from its current owner. This requires negotiation and can get expensive. You should be prepared to pay a premium for a domain that’s already taken.

To get started, you first need to determine who owns the domain using the ICANN database or information on the website associated with the domain. You can then reach out directly with an offer, or you can hire a broker like Sedo or Name Experts to mediate a deal.

Always use an escrow service to pay for a domain you purchase through negotiation, as it’s risky to send funds directly to someone on the internet.

Transferring Your Domain Name

You can also transfer your domain name to a different domain registrar if you want. You might do this if another registrar offers better pricing or because a website builder you’re using enables you to host your website and domain on the same platform.

Most registrars will transfer your domain for free. However, you typically won’t receive a refund from your current registrar if you transfer your domain before your plan is up. See our guide more advice on how to migrate a website.

Summary – How to Buy a Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is essential for driving traffic to your website. It’s important to choose a domain that’s memorable, easy to type, and descriptive of your brand. Once you pick out a domain and confirm its availability, you can purchase it from a registrar and connect it to your website.

Check out our guide to the best website hosting to get started building your site today.

FAQs

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Michael Graw

Michael Graw is an experienced writer in the business and B2B tech fields. His articles can be found on Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Tom’s Guide, and TechRadar, and cover everything from corporate finance to crypto and international tech regulation. A prolific copywriter and entrepreneur, Michael has worked with a wide range of SaaS and tech companies and has his finger firmly on the pulse of B2B tech and finance.