How to Register a Domain

Domain registration is quite quick and easy to do. The largest challenge is to decide whether you want a company to just register a domain or if you also want hosting. If you aren’t sure about hosting or what you will need, go ahead and register your domain. You can always transfer it later and/or get hosting elsewhere.

When Should You Register?

As soon as possible. There are very shady people out there who check through recent business registrations and go in and register those as domains. Their hope is that they can get you to pay them hundreds of dollars because they got the domain first.

Register your domain as soon as possible. Go ahead and register it before you even get your LLC papers or other business info.

Picking a Registrar

A lot of people get into the trap of trying to register their domain and bundle with a lot of other services. Most of the companies that offer this are a “jack of all trades, master of none”. I instead recommend that you pick a good quality register that doesn’t overcharge.

I recommend either Namecheap or Google domains as they provide low cost registration with free domain privacy and easy DNS management.

Namecheap (recommended) Google Domains (recommended) GoDaddy Network Solutions
$8.88 first year $12 first year $0.99 first year (promotions vary) $25 first year
$12.98 yearly renewal $12 yearly renewal $17.99 yearly renewal $25 yearly renewal
FREE domain privacy FREE domain privacy FREE domain privacy $9.99/year domain privacy
Delegate access per domain Delegate access per domain Delegate access to ALL domains or none No delegate access
Easy DNS management Easy DNS management (always use an incognito browser as Google domains doesn’t like it if you are logged in with multiple Google accounts at the same time) Easy DNS management (but I’ve had numerous issues with random changes to DNS records after clients made customer service calls) Painful DNS management

*Delegate access is an important feature. It allows you to give an external person (like your web developer) access to make changes without giving them full access to your account or your billing information. It also allows you to revoke their access if needed.

Domain Privacy

Make sure when you register your site at a registrar you decide if you’ll want domain privacy. Domain privacy is a service offered by host companies which hides your personal info from your public registration info and is generally recommended.

All domain privacy will hide your phone number, email address, and street address. However not all companies will hide your name, so make sure to check into that before you make a purchase.

Selecting a Domain

It’s a simple fact that most people in the US are used to typing in .com for businesses and .org for non profit organizations. These are habits that are well ingrained in most people (especially those over 30). Occasionally people can remember a .net, but most people don’t.

Additionally, if you are considering a less commonly used domain it is likely because the top levels (.com, .org and .net) are already taken. In this case you will be competing directly against the owners of those domains. SEO is hard enough without adding competition before you even get started.

You may also have difficulty getting listed if the search engines don’t think your content is substantially different from the others. Remember, search engines are in the business of finding people answers. If they think you are the same answer as existing sites with the same basic domain name, they will ignore you.

True Story: I know a company that took months to get listed in search engines (and a lot of social media campaigns & backlink building) because they picked .us extension. They picked .us because all the top levels were taken. Well guess what, they offered a very similar service to the ones with the top levels, so search engines ignored them.

In general hyphens (-) are used in URLs to separate words. This makes URLs easier to read. However, people are not used to typing in hyphens when they type in domain names. This means that if someone has www.mywidgets.com and you want to have www.my-widgets.com, you are going to end up sending a lot of your traffic to the folks who have www.mywidgets.com.

You should also be careful about company names with capital I vs lowercase l. They look the same in many fonts, and most people just scan for a name. Domains should always be written out in all lowercase on business cards, especially avoiding using an uppercase I. Also watch out for double ll near i’s.

For example aililli would be nearly impossible to type in correctly the first time. If you do already have a name with i’s and l’s, when writing it out use a monospace font (aillili vs aililli) or font which very clearly distinguishes letters. Similar issues can happen with m’s and n’s or w’s and v’s.

If your company name has a frequently misspelled word in it, it might be useful to try and get a couple of the most common misspellings. Additionally, the longer the name, the more likely there is to be a typo. For example I came across an organization with the domain advocatesforadolescentmothers. It took two tries after looking up how to spell adolescent. Trying to email them would be a significant challenge.

Non-profit organizations will frequently get a .org extension. However, many of them also get the .com extension of their name since so many people are accustomed to typing in .com (and to prevent someone else from getting the .com). The organization may also get their country specific top level domain. For example in Canada people are used to typing the .ca extension.

Country Specific Domains

A country specific domain (like .ca for Canada) is fine, as long as your primary target audience is in Canada. Canadians are used to seeing .ca addresses. However, if some of your audience is in Puerto Rico then search engines may target that traffic away from .ca domain. For US folks, the .us extension is a new one and most people aren’t familiar with it.

Conclusion

  • Go with a quality registrar like Namecheap or Google Domains.
  • Get your domain name quickly, before someone else does.
  • Keep your domain easy to spell
  • Use a top level domain (.com or .org or country specific) to avoid unnecessary competition.

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