Choosing a Domain Name

Jason Orellana writing on orange board. Text: I chose a domain name…and that has made all the difference

If you want to set up a website for a new business and you already have a business name, your first step is to buy a suitable domain name. This is the web address (URL) that you will direct people to on your business cards, directory listings, email signatures, and in person.

Price for a domain name

The price of a domain name depends on many factors including:

  • the perceived desirability of the name
  • the Top-Level Domain (TLD)
  • availability
  • the domain registrar
  • and other registrar algorithms.

If the domain name is available, you can expect to pay between $12-$25 per year. Prices can go up to a few thousand dollars if someone else already owns it.

Choosing a domain name

Domain names should be easy to remember, easy to spell, as short as possible, and reflective of you or your business. Once you know what your ideal domain name is, keep it close to you. You may want to have a list of alternative names ready in case your ideal name is not available.

Hot tip: don’t search for your domain name until you are ready to buy. It’s said that searching for a domain name and not buying it can alert other domain name buyers of your interest. They could end up taking the domain name from you or you may end up affecting the price of your desired domain name.

Choose the Right Top-Level Domain (TLD)

As a rule of thumb, if you are a for-profit business, you want a dot com (.com) TLD. Likewise, if you are a non-profit organization, you want a dot org (.org) TLD. With so many organizations out there, sometimes the name you want is already taken. If you don’t want to change the name of your business, then you can choose from a wide variety of other TLDs available. Some popular alternatives are dot net (.net) or dot biz (.biz) but there are many more to choose from.

Industry Specific Top-Level Domains

One option you have is to use an industry specific TLD. For example, if you are a wine shop, you may want to consider using dot wine (.wine); A car dealer might want to choose a dot autos (.autos) domain. Many churches have started adopting dot church (.church).

Country Specific Top-Level Domains

Many countries have their own TLDs such as dot fr (.fr) for France, dot ca (.ca) for Canada, or my personal favorite, dot us (.us) for the United States of America. These TLDs are usually restricted to residents of that country. A company that has major business operations in a different country may be able to use that country’s TLD.

Other Top-Level Domains

There are many other TLDs such as city TLDs (.nyc, .la, .atl) or fun TLDs (.party). Domain name registrars are very good at making suggestions. Make sure you consider how the TLD may affect your professional image. From experience, we know that some people still get confused with alternative TLDs but it is becoming less of a problem as time passes.

Choose a registrar

A registrar is a company certified by ICANN to sell domain names. Our current favorite registrar is Google Domains. You can buy a domain name and they include free privacy protection. Some of the other registrars charge an extra fee (usually around $10/year) for domain privacy protection. Another advantage to Google Domains is the ease of integrating a Google Workspace account. Workspace is a bundle of services that includes email hosting, file storage, and other useful business services.

A disadvantage of Google Domains is that they do not offer a wide variety of TLDs. In that case you can try other registrars such as GoDaddy, NameCheap, or Network Solutions.

Web hosting companies

We must also mention that some hosting companies will give you a free 1-year domain name registration if you buy hosting from them. This is usually only offered by shared hosting companies such as SiteGround, Bluehost, Dreamhost, or GreenGeeks and by proprietary website platforms such as Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace. Most managed WordPress hosting companies do not offer domain or email hosting services.

Should I keep my domain name separate from my hosting?

In most situations I would recommend keeping your domain name separate from your hosting. Keeping your domain name separate gives you more control over your online presence and makes it easier to switch hosts if you ever need to. If you want to save a few dollars, go ahead and take advantage of the domain name included in your hosting plan.

Stay in Control of your Domain Names

I’ve seen it happen a few times… a web developer sets up the domain name and hosting for the customer and the developer retains control over the domain and the hosting. Then the relationship between the client and the developer sours for one reason or another. I’ve even seen one situation where the developer passed away. The client loses everything. They may have put in a few years of work into the content of the website and it is all gone. While losing hosting is bad, there are sometimes ways to recover content and rebuild. A lost domain name can be tragic. Good domain names can be hard to find. Even if you find a new domain name you like, search engines will view you as a new business. It may take more time to rank on search engines.

If you have your domain name and hosting separate, you can give the developer access to only the service they need access to. This is especially important if you haven’t built a relationship with your developer yet.

In closing the three major steps to purchasing your very own website address are:

  1. Choose your ideal name
  2. Choose the top level domain
  3. Choose your registrar

And seal the deal! Every registrars sign up process is different but they are all usually intuitive.

When you have chosen your web hosting provider, you can then do a Google search for “Connect domain from [your chosen registrar] to [your chosen hosting provider]”. You should get results with detailed instructions on connecting your domain to your hosting. If we can be of any help, please contact us.