Where should I register my domain name?

Wondering where to register a domain name?

That’s a common question. There are 100s of domain name registrars to choose from, all with different pricing, services available and levels of customer service quality. Refer to the comparison of some of the best domain name registrars’ pricing and features.

How do you buy a website domain name?

You can register a domain name at any domain name registrar company. Most registrars also offer web hosting services, but you can host a website at any hosting company, even if it’s registered elsewhere.

Registering a domain name gives you full, exclusive rights to use that domain name for as long as you continue to renew the registration period. This means you have total control over what is hosted at that website address.

Technically, you never actually “own” a domain name, even though that’s often how people speak. You can transfer “ownership”, or registration, to or from other people or companies by “buying “or “selling” a domain name. So even if a domain name is already taken, it may be possible to buy it from the current registrant.

Ways to get a domain name for your website

  • Just sign up

If the domain name is currently not registered, all you need to do is visit a domain name registrar and register the domain. This will cost you anywhere from $5 to $75 depending on the top level domain (TLD). .coms and common TLDs usually cost around $10 per year, but can be cheaper if bought in bulk or with other promotional offers. Some hosting companies will give you a free domain for a year if you buy their website hosting service.

Some international domains like .de (Germany) can cost $75/year, but as with most Country-specific TLDs, you must have an office or residence in that country in order to register a domain name there.

  • Buy it from the current owner

If the domain name is already registered, or “owned”, by another person or company, you may be able to buy it from them, if they are willing to sell it. Depending on the domain, this could cost you any amount of money from $25 for a low-value domain to millions of dollars for a prominent domain name that is an important keyword for any number of reasons.

There are several domain buying services that can help you negotiate with the current owners.

  • Grab it when the current registrar fails to renew it

Sometimes a domain name owner will let a registration lapse, in which case you can simply register it yourself after a grace period that varies depending on the current registrar company, but usually is 30 to 60 days.

Check out the feature and price comparison for 5 of the most popular domain name registrars.

How to choose a domain name for your business website

A website name for your business!

So you’ve decided to build a website for your business? Excellent! Your website will represent you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, engaging your customers even while you sleep. It’s your online calling card, the home of your digital community,  and the easiest way for people to find you whether they are searching on their home computer or already shopping and looking for stores on their mobile phone.

Finding the best domain name is the first step

Whether you are going to use a website-building tool like yola.com or set up a hosting account and do it yourself, one of the first steps is picking your new domain name.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the name of your website. “SEOhowto.ca” is the domain name of this website. To help in selecting the right domain name for your business, let’s get a bit of background information first. (For a much more technical explanation of domain names, see the Wikipedia page).

What is a website, exactly?

A website is a collection of files on a computer that is connected to the Internet, and publicly accessible through the World Wide Web. The computer where the website’s files are stored is called a server, and is said to be hosting the files. When you build a website for your business, you will be creating a collection of computer files, which are the pages of your website, stored on a server at your web host.

Today, almost all websites are hosted by web hosting companies, although it is possible to host websites on your own computer if you have the right kind of Internet connection and enough technical knowledge to do it right. Most people and small businesses use hosting companies because they not only cover all the technical stuff that has to be done to make a web server work, but they offer customer support and some level of security, backup and up-time guarantees as well.

Is a Domain Name the same thing as a URL?

A domain name is a unique address on the Internet, such as amazon.ca or google.com. A domain name is part of a URL, which is the full location of a file such as your website’s home page, such as “http://www.mywebsite.com/index.html”.

In most modern Web browsers today you can simply type a domain name into the browser’s address bar and the browser will automatically add the “http://” part (the “protocol”) and the web server will simply send the default home page, i.e. the “/index.html” part.

So this is how typing a domain name into a web browser will get you to a website’s home page. In this respect, there isn’t much difference between a domain name and the URL of a website’s home page from the end-user’s perspective. It’s important to know the difference though, if you are going to be the master of a domain of your own.

How will people navigate to your website?

Most browsers today will let you type anything into the address bar, and if it’s not a URL or a domain name, the browser will actually execute a search for the words you’ve typed in. So if you type “mywebsite.com” into your browser it will take you to the home page of mywebsite.com, but if you type “my website” into your browser you will likely see a search results page, hopefully with mywebsite.com at the top of the results. This will be in Yahoo! or Bing or Google or whatever other search engine your browser is set to. In the world of SEO, the words or phrases that you type into an online search are referred to as keywords.

So what should your website’s name be?

Your first inclination might be to pick the exact name of business as your website name, for example, if your business is Jimmy’s Shoe Store then your website would be JimmysShoeStore.com. This is the same as jimmysshoestore.com since domain names are not case-sensitive. You should definitely register one or many domain names that match the name of your business, but there are other things to consider if you want to get the most visitors to your website.

People search for keywords

If people already know the name of your company, then they might type it into their web browser. This is handy if you have 30 years of corporate marketing and advertising behind you, like Nike does for example.

If someone is looking for new shoes, they might type “nike.com” into their web browser or search engine. But most likely they will type in keywords instead. They might type “shoes” or “new shoes”. People are most likely to search for what they need, so you need to think about what your business offers from the perspective of your customer.

Most shopping trips start with online research

When people are further along in researching a purchase, they will type in successively more specific keywords like “white running shoes”, and keywords that indicate intent (called converting keywords) such as “buy shoes” or “shoes on sale”, or more location specific keywords like “shoe store Toronto”.

If someone is searching “Nike LunarGlide on sale in Toronto”, they are probably on their way out the door to buy shoes (Nike LunarGlides) or are already out shopping and are doing comparative research on a smart phone. If you have a shoe store in Toronto and you have Nike LunarGlide shoes on sale, you want this person to find your website!

Of course, most businesses have more than one product or service to offer, so it wouldn’t be practical to have your website be “NikeLunarGlideSaleToronto.ca”. This is also way too long for a domain name, even though most searches are 4 words long or longer, but more on that later.

But I wanted to illustrate that the advantages of having a keyword-match domain name are significant enough that you should think about whether jimmysshoestore.com or torontoshoestore.ca is the best name.

Which domain should I have? .com, .net, .info or .ca, .co.uk, .com.au?

These are called Top Level Domains, or TLDs. The .com top level domain is the most commonly used one, at least in North America. If possible, register the .com. You can register the .net or .info as well, but people generally assume that a website will be .com. Search engines do not give advantage to .com over .net or .info, but people generally consider .com to be more authoritative.

If your business is tied to a specific country, register the country domain as well: .ca in Canada, .co.uk in Britain, .com.au in Australia, etc. Registering a domain gives you control of that domain for as long as you keep it registered for, so you can lock up as many domains as you like and protect them from your competition. Search engines do give geographic preference to country TLDs. So if I search for “shoe store” from a computer in Canada I might get shoestore.ca at the top of my list, while the same search in the U.S. will have shoestore.com at, or near, the top of the search results.

Register multiple website names and forward them

You can forward web addresses just like you can forward phone numbers. When someone goes to a domain name that has been forwarded, their browser is automatically re-directed. For example, amaxon.com forwards to amazon.com as you may have discovered if your typing is as sloppy as mine.

So, if my business were Jimmys Shoe Store in Toronto, I would register jimmysshoestore.com jimmysshoes.com and jimmyshoes.com. Since the store is in Toronto, Canada, I would register jimmysshoesstore.ca, jimmysshoes.ca and jimmyshoes.ca and set them all to forward to one domain. I think jimmysshoes.ca would probably be best, but because of the double “s”, it might be cleaner to just be jimmys.ca if that’s available, although that would lose the advantage of having “shoes” in the domain name.

We talked about the advantages of exact match keyword domain names, so it would be good to have torontoshoestore.ca or shoes.ca or shoestoretoronto.ca, if you can. If you host your website at one of these keyword match domains, you’ll likely get more traffic from people who are searching these names, but this will be a branding decision you’ll have to make.

Ideally my business would be named something better from the start, like Downtown Shoes, Inc or Queen Street Shoes, then I could have my business name and my keywords in my domain name!

Other things to consider with domain names

  • Domain Name Length: shorter is better

The shorter a domain is, the easier it is for people to read, remember, type and say. Don’t forget, your domain name is going to go on your business card and any other promotional materials you have such as ads, t-shirts and so on. Search engines also prefer shorter domain names as longer domain names are often used by spammers.

  • Dashes in Domain Names: not recommended

Another alternative is jimmys-shoes.ca, but there is some debate about how user-friendly dashes are in website names. Plus you’ll be telling people to go to “Jimmys dash shoes dot c a” which is a bit awkward.

  • Exact Keyword Match Domain Names: an advantage

As a rule of thumb, if you can get an exact keyword match domain you should. Most likely, unless you can be very specific about one main product or a very small geographic location, then the best keyword-match domain names for you will already be registered by someone else. You can always offer to buy them, but the good ones will cost a small fortune because of the amount of type-in traffic they get. New domain names cost about $10 per year, which is why it’s worth finding your own new ones, and why you can afford to register 3 or 5 or 10 or more.

  • Numbers in Domain Names: not recommended

Numeric characters are allowed in domain names, but should generally be avoided because of the confusion they can cause (is it “3bakers.com” or “threebakers.com”?) and again, search engines don’t like them as much because they are often used by spammers.

Do I really need a website for my business?

It depends on what your business is and what it does, but today it’s hard to imagine a business that wouldn’t benefit from having a website. Considering how easy it can be to get a website setup for your company, a good return on investment is almost guaranteed.

This is the first post of the SEO How To blog. I will be adding SEO resources, SEO tools, tips and advice, and reviews of different search engine optimization and website-building services. The focus is on websites for small businesses in Canada, but will be relevant and useful to businesses anywhere, as well as for anyone interested in starting their own online business or building a website for their community association, club, church, group or family.

Interested? Then follow, like, join, tweet, share or bookmark this site and be sure to visit again soon! Got a similar SEO blog and want to connect? Let me know!


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