What is a domain name?
Before I talk about how to buy a domain name, you might be asking ‘What is a domain name?’. A domain name is a unique address, which internet users type into a browser to find and access your website. In other words, the domain name is your website name. No two websites can have the same domain name. A domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers, and it can be used in combination of the various domain name extensions, such: as ‘.co.uk’, ‘.com’ and more. We will go into extensions later.
It’s worth making a point about domain names and web hosting, which is they are two separate things. View our post about What is web hosting? for more information on that. Web hosting refers to a service provided by a company who rent out space on their computer/servers to store your website files. A domain is like a phone book, when someone types your domain in a browser, it tells the browser where your website is hosted. It is also used to setup your email.
Buying a domain
There is an easy process when buying a domain name. Follow these steps:
Once you have thought about the domain name you want, you need to search to see if it’s available. You can buy domain names from a number of sources. We recommend Nimbus Hosting. You can search for your preferred domain name on Nimbus. and it will let you if the name is available, as well as the extensions (e.g. ‘.co.uk’, ’.com’ etc).
Hopefully the domain name you want is available, otherwise you will need to try other permutations. Perhaps adding a prefix, suffix or adding unique characters.
In addition, you should also, be aware of the domain extension.
What is a domain extension?
A domain extension refers to the letters that come after the dot to the right of any domain name. The most common examples are ‘.co.uk’ and ‘.com’. If your company is based in the UK, you should ideally choose ‘.co.uk’, as this extension identifies your website as being based in the UK. The extension ‘.com’ applies for companies who are USA-based, but as it was the first domain name, it’s very well known.
We always recommend our clients buy both ‘.co.uk’ and ‘.com’, as this stops anyone else who may be a rival to your website from buying it. This could be confusing to customers. Other extensions are available, but these are less common in searches and can also be expensive to buy. People automatically try ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.com’ when typing in a domain name, so it’s best to go with those. You can find out more about extensions here.
Once you have found your domain name and extension that’s available on the domain registrar’s website you are searching on, it’s time to purchase it. You can buy the domain name on that website or you may choose to buy from a different provider, as pricing and deals can vary. Make sure you do the following when buying your domain.
- Make sure your domain is registered with your company’s details (name and address).
- Ensure you have access to the control panel where it was purchased and keep the login details safe.
- You should register your domain for a period of time, usually 1-2 years or more. If you fail to renew it after your set period, it becomes available for someone else to buy.
- Setting the domain to ‘auto renew’ is therefore best. If you don’t, be sure to check for emails from the domain registrar once it’s up for renewal, otherwise it will become available for someone else to buy.
- Privacy Protection is a service that’s available when you are purchasing your domain name. This service hides all your contact information from the public on WHOIS listing. It’s something well worth doing, as if you don’t, you might receive a lot spam emails via your website.
Once your domain has been purchased (registered), the DNS (Domain Name Servers) will need to be updated to get your website and email working. This can be done in the control panel of the registrar’s website you’ve purchased from. If this is complex you can always contact support and they will help you.