How To Buy & Register A Domain Name

Domain names fulfill several functions, such as enabling users to access and remember your website. Additionally, they often become a part of your brand. The problem is that registering a domain name can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before.

Fortunately, the process of buying and registering a domain name is quite simple. All it takes are a few steps. In less than ten minutes, you could have a new domain name ready for your website.

In this article, we’ll talk about some things you should consider before buying a domain name. Then we’ll show you how to set up a new domain. Let’s get to work!

What to Consider When Buying a Domain Name

Ideally, whichever domain name you pick for your project will stick with you for a verylong time. That means you need to give the choice a lot of thought. Let’s go over some things to consider before and during the process of buying a domain name.

Keeping an Eye Out for Hidden Fees

Typically, when you want to buy a domain you’ll go to a website that sells them, called a ‘registrar’. There you can look up the name you’re interested in. The registrar will show you whether it’s available or not, as well as other extension options beyond .com:

Usually, you’ll also see how much it costs to register each domain for a year. However, some registrars will also tack on additional charges to your purchase or offer you extras, such as domain privacy.

To get a full picture of what your domain will cost, add it to your cart and go through the checkout process until you see the final pricing, but don’t complete the purchase. This way, you’ll know exactly how much you’ll end up spending, and can avoid extra charges for features you don’t need.

Protecting Your Domain’s Privacy

Domain names are part of the public record. That means anyone can look up who owns a particular domain. This can be problematic, as those records often contain sensitive information.

What you can do to protect your information is sign up for domain privacy (also known as Whois) while buying your domain. Every reputable registrar will offer this option to protect your information from prying eyes.

If you use Whois privacy, when someone tries to look up your domain they’ll just see some proxy information:

Some people try to circumvent this by using fake information when registering domain names. This is against most registrar policies, however, so we don’t recommend it. However, it is worth mentioning that most hosts will charge you a small additional fee for Whois protection.

Checking for Trademark Infringement

Before you commit to a particular domain name, it’s best to verify a few things first. For example, determining whether the name is already trademarked or not can save you a lot of problems later on. 

Your first stop should be the U.S. Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. There, you can search the registered trademarks for any that might conflict with your desired domain name:

From there, you can conduct a customized search, and even look for both ‘live’ and ‘dead’ trademarks. This should help you determine whether or not you may be challenged at some point over your ownership of the name you want.

Picking a Top Level Domain (TLD)

Top-Level Domains (TLDs) are the extensions at the end of every domain name. The most popular TLD option is .com, because it’s the one that people most often associate with websites.

However, there are hundreds of TLDs you can choose from. Some of them tend to go for cheaper than dot-coms, while others are much more expensive.

In our experience, sticking with .com is a safe choice. These TLDs usually cost around $10 per year, which is a bargain. Other safe TLD choices include .net, .org, and even .io if you’re in the tech business.

Of course, you’re free to pick any TLD you want. However, some TLDs can look a bit gimmicky (we’re looking at you .ninja) or be hard to remember. So we recommend mulling over your options before making a purchase.

Creating a Social Media Presence

If you consider the fact that North America alone has a social media penetration rate of 70 percent, it’s safe to say that you can’t ignore those platforms. With that being said, you’ll want to be able to claim usernames on your target social media platforms that are similar to your chosen domain name. 

After all, it’s important to make sure you can represent your brand consistently across all of your online channels. Therefore, it’s a good idea to check out key social media platforms to see if usernames related to your desired domain name are available. If not, you may want to reconsider your choice.

How to Buy (and Register) a Domain Name

The process of buying a domain name is simple, but what happens in the background is quite interesting. When you buy a domain name, what you’re doing is registering ownership of it with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN maintains a registry of who owns which domain. The purchase process usually involves registering a specific domain for at least a year. At the end of that period, you’ll have the option to renew that ownership by paying a fee, usually for the same amount as the initial purchase.

If you don’t renew your domain registration, it becomes available for purchase once more, which you don’t want unless you’re planning to stop using the name. Usually, all of this happens through registrars, which are authorized middlemen for ICANN. In some cases, however, web hosts will also enable you to purchase domains directly from them.

With all of that in mind, let’s walk through the process of picking out a domain name and setting it up with your website.

Step 1: Choose a Domain Registrar

At this stage, you should already have some domain name ideas. What you’ll want to do first is choose a registrar you like and visit its website. You may want to explore several options, looking for one that has reasonable prices, no hidden fees, and a straightforward purchase process.

In most cases, we recommend going directly through a registrar instead of using a web host. The former tends to offer more TLD options, and in many cases better prices. No matter where you buy your domain, you’ll be able to use it with any web host, so that’s not a concern.

Step 2: Choose a Domain Name and Make Sure It’s Available

To see if your desired domain is available, you’ll need to conduct a simple search at your chosen registrar:

The registrar will show you if that domain is available, and which TLDs it recommends. In many cases, it will also list several alternative options:

In the event that your first choice for a domain isn’t available, you may have to do a few searches. Once you’ve decided on which domain to purchase, there should be a button you can click on to add it to your cart.

Step 3: Buy the Domain Name You Want

This part of the process is pretty straightforward. You get to choose how long you want to register your domain for right off the bat, and enable auto-renewal if you like:

You can also decide to use Whois protection, which some registrars throw in for free. In addition, you’ll probably see some extras you can opt into, such as a Domain Name System (DNS), email hosting, and more:

Once you’ve made your choices, confirm the details of your order and move on to the next stage. To complete the process, you’ll need to enter payment information and your full billing address:

Remember that if you enabled Whois protection, these details won’t be available to the public. So don’t use fake information. When you’re ready, complete your purchase and you’re good to go. Now, all that’s left is to add the domain to your web host, so you can link it to your website.

Step 4: Verify Ownership of Your Domain

In some situations, you’ll be asked to verify ownership of your domain name. For example, in order to use Google Search Console or certain tracking tools, you’ll need to prove that you own the domain in question.

There are several ways to verify your domain. However, the easiest option is to first create a simple HTML page. This page will include information provided by Google (or whatever application you are providing verification to). 

Then, you’ll upload that page to your website’s file directory. By doing so, you’ve verified that you own and can access the domain.

Frequently Asked Questions About Domain Names

Buying a domain name for the first time might leave you with quite a few questions. Before you throw down cash for the name you want, check out these answers to common inquiries about domain names.

How Much Do Domains Typically Cost?

It’s hard to give an average cost for domain names. This is because they run the gamut from a few dollars per year to a couple thousand. With that being said, you can expect most .com domains to be pretty budget friendly – around $10 to $20.

However, you can expect newer TLDs such as .inc to be at the higher end of the price range. Just to give you an idea, the average cost of a .inc domain is around $2,000. This is also true of domains that contain popular words or phrases.

Can I Buy a Domain That Is Already Registered?

In some cases, you can purchase domain names that have already been claimed. As with car parts, these are called ‘aftermarket’ domains. They might have been purchased and not used, or were bought with the intention of turning a profit on their resale. 

Just as you’d research the history of a car or house before purchasing it, you should do the same with an aftermarket domain. You can check its ownership history on Whois, or do some Google research to see if it has been used in the past.  

Can I Change My Domain Name in the Future?

It is possible to change your website’s domain name. However, it’s best to avoid doing so unless you have a very strong reason to. Since your domain is an important part of your brand, you don’t want to cause confusion unnecessarily. 

Essentially, changing your domain name involves three steps. After you obtain your new name, you’ll need to change it in your WordPress settings. Then you’ll have to make sure your wp-config.php file is updated with the new information. Finally, you’ll want to verify that the new domain is up and running.

Start to Build Your WordPress Website With WP Engine

There are a lot of registrars that enable you to buy and manage domain names with ease. However, once you have a domain, you’ll also need a web host and the appropriate developer resources to help get your website up and running.

If you’re in the market for hosting services, we offer several plans that guarantee top performance and access to a great support team. Go ahead and check them out!

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