So the first part of any website development process is choosing a good domain name and a registrar to purchase that domain name from. We like to recommend you choose your domain name wisely because it will become the forefront of your branding on the web and is not easily changed once it gains popularity with your clients and the search engines.
Domain Name Choices
We recommend you take one of two approaches, either go for your business name OR find a keyword-rich domain name. For example, If you build decks for a living with a company named Bob’s Custom Decks your options are as follows:
- Business domain name: www.bobscustomdecks.com
- Keyword-rich domain name: www.deckbuilder.com (we recommend you do your keyword research before purchasing this option)
- Geo-location + keyword-rich domain name: www.ashevilledeckbuilder.com (if location is important in targeting your market locally)
- Hyphen domain name: www.deck-builder.com (it is questionable as to whether search engines will downgrade your listing just by using this format, so we recommend highly that you use the non-hyphen domain name if available.)
- Plural/singular domain name: www.deckbuilders.com
- Numbered domain name: www.deckbuilders4you.com
Note: You cannot use any other special characters in domain names like apostrophes, commas, ampersands (&), etc.
We HIGHLY recommend securing the .com extension for your domain name first if available because people expect this and will type that in first, but if you are an organization or network you may want to go with .org or .net. There are many other options like .us, .biz, .info but .com is always the best.
Be wise about your choices because you will find yourself repeating this domain over and over again day after day as you market your business. The “hyphen or plural” versions could create problems if not spelled out to clients because they may end up going to the wrong domain which someone else might own, thereby stealing away your business. And don’t choose a name that is too long or hard to spell. Something quick and easy is always best.
You can also purchase as many domain names as you wish to cover your market (so no one else covets them) and forward them for free through the registrar. The only cost to do so is the annual domain name cost, no hosting required for free forwarding.
To start researching what domain names are available just choose one of the registrars listed below in the next section and use their search box (as pictured below). They will tell you whether it is available or taken. If taken, you can see who owns it through the public WhoIs database if you wish.
Purchasing your domain name through a Registrar
Once you have researched your domain name to see if available and are happy with your decision, you will need to take the next step to purchase. Registrars allow you to purchase your domain name from them on an annual basis and then point the domain name to your host servers so that people can find your website. Keep in mind that they will also try to sell you as many other options as you want to buy including hosting, business registration, e-commerce, marketing/SEO features, etc. but DO NOT be enticed to purchase these cheap low-quality add ons. The only thing we recommend you purchase from these registrars in addition to your domain name is Private Registration (~$10/yr) to protect your identity and email addresses from the public WhoIs database that hackers seem to enjoy abusing.
Below are a list of the most popular Domain Name Registrars but keep in mind that you are not getting any better quality or higher performance with a higher price from these vendors, probably at best only a better purchasing experience. Personally, we find that godaddy’s interface and support is the best and cost-wise very competitive.
Use your Domain Name for your Email Address
We always encourage you to use your domain name for your email address like firstname.lastname@example.org to help market your domain name further. It appears a lot more professional than a gmail or yahoo address which and helps keep your work email account separate from your personal email account. Email addresses are normally included as part of your hosting plan but you can buy email hosting separately through the Registrar if you choose not to host the full domain name yet.
Last Steps: Pointing Nameservers
The last part of this process is pointing the nameservers for your domain name to your website so that they can be “hooked up” and visitors can then view the website. After the nameservers are setup, it may take anywhere from 1-24 hours for the domain name to propagate with all the different ISPs (Internet Service Providers) thereby making the website live.
I have created a video tutorial on how to setup nameservers or forwarding for your domain name(s) through Godaddy’s interface, but you might want to consult us before implementation because sometimes this can be tricky depending on how your email is setup. If you already had a website hosted and are moving your domain name to a different host, then you need to make sure emails are already setup and where the email settings are.
Go to Godaddy to purchase a domain name.
If you are interested in learning about what makes a good webhost, your next step in the process, then continue reading our article “The Good Webhost“.