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The Small Business Guide to Domain and Web site Registration
Are you considering a website as a part of your business? The internet changed business forever by creating an immediate way to market your products and services to millions of customers all around the world. An effective website is the only storefront millions of your internet customers will ever see. That is, if they can find it.
Just like your physical store, your online store has an address. That address is your domain name. Your customers use your “web address” to find your online store quickly and effectively. Even if you don’t sell products or services from your site, you created it to attract visitors. An effective website, one that comes to mind quickly when they think of your organization, is invaluable.
Why Should You Register a Domain Name?
While every website has a domain name, every business does not have to create and register a unique domain name. You can just use the general domain name of your web host and a unique tag for your URL. Think of it as renting a suite in a business complex. Everyone has the same address but you are the only business in Suite 24.
If you can use a general URL, why go to the trouble of registering a domain name if you don’t have to? Do the benefits really outweigh the costs? See for yourself.
- Credibility: Do you want to look like a small start-up business or do you want customers to think of you as established and respectable? A unique domain name gives your business credibility. You will draw higher caliber suppliers and more customers with an established domain name. Without your own domain name your customers may pass you by in favor of an established competitor.
- Portability: You may change web hosts in the future. You could outgrow your current web host or simply want to make a change. If you have your own domain name you can bring it with you to your new web provider. Why worry about changing your domain name in the future? Changing web addresses doesn’t seem like a problem until you consider all the customers and suppliers you will have to notify. It’s often a very disruptive situation for your business.
- Marketing: A unique domain name is a great marketing tool. If you get a domain name that uses your business name or product name customers will remember it easily. Now they don’t have to look at business cards or marketing material to find you online. They can just type in www.yourbusiness.com and immediately find themselves in your virtual store. Your domain name is just a part of a good branding campaign.
How to Get a Domain Name
Getting a domain name is not as easy as it might sound. Unlike a physical address that is predetermined by the location of your business, your domain name is up to your imagination and availability. You have to create it and recreate it until you find a name no one else is using.
Every domain name is unique, just like every address. This means that you can’t just make up a domain name and then use it. You have to create a name that no one else is using and register your domain name online as yours. Internet domain name registration assigns the domain name you register to you and your business and prevents anyone else from using your name.
You can buy a domain name from someone who owns it but isn’t using it, but this isn’t as easy as it seems. Individuals and businesses hold domain names closely, often registering domain names they are not planning to use just to keep the names available for future use. In fact, domain registering is a part of the competitive strategy of many businesses.
Selecting a Domain Name
If you want to register a web address, the first step is to select a domain name. It’s important to get your domain name right. Here are some simple things to consider…
- Make It Unique: You can’t register a domain name that isn’t unique. You would be surprised, however, at the number of people who add a hyphen or a number or slightly change the spelling and register domain names that are technically unique but not very memorable. Don’t take the chance that your customers will land on the wrong page because they forgot a hyphen.
- Use Keywords: Cute domain names are nice, but not always effective. The best domain names have either your business name or keywords about your business in them. The goal of your domain name is making you easy to find online, not showcase your creativity.
- Make It Easy To Say: You don’t want to register a web address that is a tongue twister. It’s your address, the link to your online storefront. You will verbally direct customers and friends to your site hundreds of times. Make sure you can speak comfortably and clearly, even over the phone before you register a domain name, even a clever one.
- Avoid Copyright Infringement: Brand related keywords are often subject to copyright. You might be an expert using Microsoft Word, but registering www.MicrosoftWordExpert.com is going to get you in trouble with the government. If you aren’t sure, check out copyright.gov and search for your domain name before you register it.
Choose the Right Extension for Website Name Registration
A web domain registry is a database of all domain names registered with a top-level domain. The registry is maintained by a DNS registrar and spaces are limited. Confused? Here’s an example to help you understand.
Think of the zip code or postal code for your physical address. Perhaps your business is on 123 Brown Street. While there could be a 123 Brown Street in every city around you, your address is unique because of the postal code. Each city has a unique code and this groups all the street addresses together. Web extensions are just like postal codes.
Your web address registration includes an extension that identifies your business with a certain group of organizations. When people see your domain name, they make assumptions about your business or organization because of the extension. Make sure you pick the best extensions as a part of your online image. Here are the most common extensions and their groups.
- .COM signifies business. Over 90 million businesses are registered as a .COM. Many domain names are taken at the .COM extension, but it’s worth your time to register domains with this extension. If your chosen name is already registered, try and find an equally powerful domain name that is still available.
- .NET & .BIZ also signify a business domain but are not as commonly used. Your customers will look for you at .COM first but will also eventually try these two. It’s a good idea to consider buying domain names with these extensions as well. The best scenario is to register your business domain name at all three. That way anyone looking for your business will not happen upon the domain names registration of your competition.
- .ORG signifies a non-profit organization. If you are running a non-profit business, consider this extension to identify yourself as non-profit with your customers.
- Other Countries: If your business is located outside of the United States, you have the option of registering a domain name with the appropriate country extension. (.ca for Canada and .uk for the United Kingdom, for example.)
- Restricted Extensions: Some extensions are restricted. For example, .GOV is reserved for governmental agencies and departments and .EDU is reserved for educational institutions. You won’t be able to use these extensions without meeting the qualifications for them.
Consider registering your domain name with multiple extensions to protect yourself and your brand. While registering can involve purchasing a domain name or the right to it from a registry, there are providers that offer free domain name registration. Free domain name registration only limits some of the additional benefits you might get with a paid registration. The web address registration itself is identical whether you buy the web address or obtain it for free.
How to Register a Domain Name
You’ve selected your domain name. You’ve decided which extension you would prefer. You’ve even decided to register your name with as many extensions as possible to protect your brand. Now you are asking yourself “How do I register a domain name anyway?”
Start with a few good domain names and an idea of the extensions you want to use. Unless you are willing to buy domain names previously registered by others you’ll need more than one possible web address. Start with a hand full of variations on one or two basic names. It’s frustrating to try and register domains that are taken. Preparation will avoid needless anxiety.
Have your credit card handy unless you have a PayPal account. While it’s possible to register a domain name for free, the majority of domain name registrars require payment. Having a form of payment ready allows you to register an internet name and immediately hold it.
Do you have a web site registration with a web host? Many people start out with a web host and register a URL within that host’s domain because they don’t know how to register a domain name for themselves. If you are one of these people who started out slowly, don’t worry. You just need a some simple information so you can point your newly purchase domain name to your website.
You need the names of your web host’s primary and secondary name servers. You can find this information on your web host’s website, usually in the FAQ’s page. If you can’t find it, call or email them. They are accustomed to these types of requests and will be happy to help you.
If you don’t have a web host, don’t worry. Maybe you haven’t discovered how to register a website yet either. No problem. You can register domain names and park them at a temporary website that is created just for this purpose.
“Yes, But How Do I Register a Domain Name?”
There’s a lot of information available on how to purchase a domain name, how to register a domain name for free, and how to register a website. Most of it is general. Talk about frustrating!
Here is the specific step by step instruction on how to register a domain name. Ready?
- Gather all the information from the above section.
- Select a domain name registrar or a web host that also provides web address registration.
- Follow their individual instructions.
That’s right. There is so much vague information about how to purchase a domain name because there is no one unified process. When you purchase a domain name from a registrar or even register a domain name for free you have to follow the process laid out by that particular web site registration organization.
Where to Buy a Domain Name
When you consider where to buy domain names you have many choices. Study each web site register carefully. They all feel they are the best place to register a domain name, but they each offer slightly different services and charge widely ranging fees. Let’s look at a few.
GoDaddy.com is the world’s largest registrar and extremely popular for more than its aggressive marketing campaign. Not only do they allow you to purchase a domain name, they also have a web interface to let you easily buy multiple domain names and manage them efficiently.
If you are wondering how to buy a domain name that is already taken, check out GoDaddy.com. They have a free “for sale” page where people list domain names they aren’t using but are offering for resale. They will also register your web site, offer a free starter web page for you, and redirect customers for you from one web page to another. GoDaddy.com charges for its services, with domain names starting at $9.99 per year.
Dotster.com is another popular registrar. They are a bit more expensive than GoDaddy.com, charging $15.75 per year to register a web address. They offer most of the common extensions and many country specific extensions as well. You can transfer an existing domain name from another web site register for only $6.99 per year.
Register.com has a long history of registering domain names. They were registering domain names before many of the other registers entered the scene. If you are wondering where to buy a domain name and consider experience and reputation to be important factors, Register.com might be for you. You will pay for their reputation though. Their regular price is $37 for a one year registration.
Commercial Web Hosts are another option for domain name registry. These sites are primarily involved in providing small business services but offer domain name registration and web hosting as a part of their service package.
The benefit of using a commercial web host, like Vistaprint and other sites, is ease of branding. These sites offer graphic templates free of charge. You can choose a graphic template that represents your business and create a website and supporting literature with the same cohesive theme. Your domain name is just part of the branding package.
If you are looking for a single vendor for business cards, letterhead, web hosting and domain name registration these web hosts are a good choice. The pricing varies by web host and can be discounted if domain name registration is included with your other purchases.
How to Register a Domain Name For Free
There’s really no such thing as free. Not totally free, anyway. There are ways, though, to get domain name registration for free when you purchase other items from a commercial web host.
Many commercial web hosts will register your domain name free of charge when you pay them for website hosting. Sites like BlueHost.com include domain name registration in their start package. You have to pay for web hosting anyway, so avoiding the additional domain name registration fees make sense.
Popular registrars like GoDaddy.com and Dotster.com sometimes run specials. These promotions allow you to register two or more domain names for the price of one. Sure, you’re still paying something for domain name registration, but you are receiving at least one registration for free.
There is one way to get a totally free domain name. If you register your domain at freedomain.co.nr you will not be charged. Of course, you will have the extension .co.nr instead of the more popular.com or .net extensions. Depending on your needs, this can be a good option.
Don’t Wait to Purchase Your Domain Name
Domain names disappear quickly. If you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to get a domain name for free or how to register a name in the best way, you might find your name is taken. If you’ve spent a lot of creative energy to find the best domain name for your business it will be very disappointing to lose it to another business owner.
What if you don’t have a web host? Don’t hesitate to register your domain name even if you are looking for a web host or are unsure of what to do about a website. You can allow the registrar to park your domain name at a temporary website until you are ready to use it. Registrars like those mentioned in this article normally offer domain name parking free of charge.
Parking your domain name allows you to take time to design your website and other features of it without having to rush. Most registrars will automatically park your name until you tell them where to direct it. Some even allow you to have a free email address on the parked site that uses your domain name. This way you can begin marketing your business even before your site is ready.
It’s Important to Own Your Domain Name Personally
When you purchase a domain name, make sure you own it personally. The best way to do this is to register it yourself through a domain registrar rather than allowing your web host to register it, even if it is included in your package. If you purchase an existing domain name from someone on a “for sale” site, make sure all administrative and technical rights to that name transfer to you.
Why is this important? It’s possible for a web host or an individual to allow you to use a domain name while they retain ownership. Suppose your business becomes highly public and profitable. At that point you have a customer base tied to your domain name. Now someone with questionable ethics has the ability to charge you an extravagant amount of money just to continue to use a domain name they still own.
Unless you are listed as the owner, administrative and technical contact for your domain name you may not be able to transfer it to another web host. You may not be able to use your domain name as you choose, but instead will have to work with the true owner. With a little care you won’t put your business in this position.
Domain Name Registration – Key Points
Select your domain name carefully. Your business will benefit or suffer depending on your choice.
Register your domain name with multiple extensions. Protect your brand by registering your unique domain name with as many extensions as possible or appropriate.
Register domain names you THINK you might use. Domain names go quickly. You can hold on to your perfect domain name, or at least those you believe are perfect, by registering them. If you aren’t ready to use it, just park it. At least it will be available for you when you’re ready.
Make sure you own it. Read the fine print if you register your domain name through your web host. Make sure you own it and you can transfer it whenever you choose. Consider registering your web address with a direct registrar instead of using your web host as a middle man. You have to own it to protect your future use.