It’s rare to come across a business without a website these days.
Even the smallest local stores selling just a handful of items have a digital display of their goods.
Websites help businesses expand their reach beyond their immediate surroundings and add a dose of professionalism to the proceedings.
Plus, with the advent of so many new technologies and dumbed-down, “paint-by-numbers” software, it’s easier than ever to create a digital home for a brand.
The biggest challenge - particularly for tech-phobic businesses - is getting a website set up in the first place, and it all starts with registering a domain name.
Your domain name is essentially your website name; it’s the address that people type into the search bar to find your site. While you can get free domain names that have a host’s branding attached to it (e.g. yourname.wordpress.com), having one without the tag of another company comes with far more benefits (e.g. yourname.com):
Before you even think about registering your domain name, you have to come up with the right name. You might already have your business name set in stone, but does it work for a domain?
For example, if your brand is established as The Bed, Pillow, and Soft Furnishings Company and you’re thinking of putting it online with a website, having the full name as your domain name might be overkill (can you imagine people having to type thebedpillowandsoftfurnishingscompany.com into their search bars?).
Instead, your domain name should be:
Top Level - this refers to the end of your domain name, or the letters that come after the dot. Suffixes like .com, .co, .net, and .gov are considered top level and generally have more oomph in the online world
Memorable - when people have to rack their brains to remember your domain name, they’re more likely to go to a competitor
Simple and Short - just think about The Bed and Pillow company example above
Legal - you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or find yourself in a legal dispute for breaching a copyright
Available - this goes without saying (and, actually, you can’t register a domain name if it isn’t available)
Imagine getting excited about your new business name and going to register the domain only to find it’s already been taken. It’d be heartbreaking, right? Not to mention you’d have to go back to the drawing board.
So, before you get too attached, quickly run your domain name ideas (and here it helps to have a couple of backup ideas) through a domain search engine.
Something like Name.com does the job well.
Once you’ve determined that your domain name is available, it’s time to choose a domain registration company.
It’s worth researching each one to see which provides the best service for your needs. In particular, look for things like their pricing and registration periods, what their policies are around transfers and expirations, and whether they have any add-on services that might be useful for you.
You’ll usually want to register for a minimum of a year, but some registrars offer a discount if you register for three years or more upfront.
The final step is paying the registrar, and voila! - you are now the proud owner of your very own domain name. Afterwards, you can connect it up to your webhost and start designing your site (basically, the fun part can begin).
If you’re buying your domain name from a separate company than your web hosting, you’ll have to pay. But, if you’re buying from the same company, usually they’ll throw in the domain name for free along with your hosting.
At the moment, there is no way you can register a domain name forever. You can, however, register it for ten years and then register it again once those ten years are up.
Yes, you can register your domain name before you invest in a hosting provider, but you won’t be able to start building your website until you have a host - you’ll simply own the domain name until you are ready to do something with it.
Firstly, you’ll need to connect up your domain name with your hosting provider (this is usually very easy and differs with each hosting provider, so check out how your specific host runs things).
You’ll then have the option of creating a dedicated email address for your domain. From there, you can start playing around with the design of your website.
A typical domain name costs between £8-£10 depending on the registrar you use and the type and length of contract you choose. Some domain names are more valuable than others, which means they’ll likely set you back a bit more.
The best thing you can do is run an availability search which will tell you the average price of your chosen domain name.
Registering a domain name can seem like an overwhelming activity, particularly if you don’t know where to start. But, if you want to create a professional online home for your business, it’s a vital piece of the puzzle.
Follow the steps in this guide and you’ll have your shiny new domain up and running in no time at all. Then, it’s just a matter of designing your website to attract customers and generate sales.