How do you get a domain name?
I have two practical tips for choosing your business's web address.
People commonly refer to “buying” domain names, but this isn’t quite accurate. What we’re really doing is leasing them for a period of time (1 to 10 years). The company that leases the name to you is called a Domain Name Registrar, and the process is called registering.
There are many registrars out there, with different prices and features. They all have access to the same central database of domain names, so there’s no difference in selection or availability of names.
My favorite, for ease of use, low prices, and good customer service, is Namecheap.com. They’re easy to use, inexpensive (as their name implies) and responsive to questions.
Practical domain name tip #1: .com is still king
“Dot-com” was the first domain name suffix available for commercial use, and it remains the gold standard.
If someone types your domain name in and doesn’t remember the suffix, they will assume it’s .com. Also, if they type a partial URL and leave off the suffix, today’s web browsers will automatically add .com to the end (try it: Open your browser and type in the single word “Amazon.” Where do you end up?). Both of these “default” behaviors will benefit you—but only if you have a .com address.
If you cannot find your business name in either .com, .net or .org, you may want to consider changing your business name.
There are a couple of suffixes that are available for specific industries or professions. For example, .pro domains may only be registered by doctors, lawyers, and CPAs; .travel is reserved for “travel-related entities,” and .coop is for co-ops. Here’s Wikipedia’s complete list of suffixes and the restrictions and requirements for registering them.
In some cases, even an “open” (anyone is eligible to register) suffix like .name, .info or .mobi might be perfect for your individual situation.
But in general, you should try to get a .com address, and supplement it with additional suffixes for good measure.
Practical domain name tip #2: Domains are cheap! Go ahead and buy a bunch
The most I’ve ever paid for a .com domain for one year is $10. If you register for more than one year at a time, and if you register more than one domain at a time (NameCheap.com has bulk domain registration, for example), the price comes down.
The point is, it’s hard to over-invest in domain names because they are very cheap. For something that represents your business to the entire online world, 10 bucks a year is a fantastic bargain.
So don’t limit yourself to a single must-be-perfect domain name. Buy 10 or 20 or 50 and use domain forwarding to point them all at the same website (or use specific domains for specific products or campaigns).
After you purchase multiple suffix versions of your domain like .net, .biz and .org, you can start to look at spelling (and other) variations. If you spell your name unusually, then snap up the phonetic spelling or a couple of variants (like Andersen and Anderson, for example).
Consider registering versions of the domains you already have, with hyphens between the words. Other options to consider include plurals, verb forms, and locations.
For example, say your business is all about being a positive parent. You could register:
…and that’s just for starters. Brainstorm a list — it can be fun!