The steps and advice I give here on registering domain names are from more than ten years of experience as a web designer. You will only get some of these tips from someone with experience of actually working in the field and with small businesses, not a blogger or journalist who is googling the answer. 

How to Register a Domain Name Yourself

One of the most important pieces of advice I could give as a web designer who has worked with small businesses to a small business owner who wants to build a website is that you should register a domain name yourself. 

This means that you are the domain owner. If you choose to redesign your website with a new web designer, or move to a new web host, you are in control of your web address and not a third party. 

You could have a dispute with a web designer or they could go out of business. Or worse, they could get seriously ill, die or just disappear on you. 

Best practice is that you separate domain names, web hosting and email from each other. This way, if one of those three services or providers are having issues of downtime, then theoretically the others will not be affected. 

Click here to go to our recommended domain registrar, Namecheap.

Why Do You Need A Domain Name

If you intend to build a website for your business, or use a professional business email address like [email protected], you will need a domain name. 

If you need to, you can get your email from Google Workspace, Zoho Mail or Microsoft 365. 

Then get your web hosting from our recommended best small business web host, Cloudways

How To Choose Your Business Domain Name

Choosing a domain name may seem simple and straightforward, but it’s not always the case. Some quick tips in choosing your domain name are:

  • You should always try to align your domain name with your company name or brand
  • Try to get a .com TLD
  • Don’t use hyphens
  • Keep it short

4 Steps to Register Your Own Domain Name

  1. Brainstorm Domain Names
  2. Search Availability
  3. Research The Past
  4. Purchase Domain Name

Brainstorm Your Domain Name Ideas

Open up a document or grab a pen and paper and start to write down your domain name ideas that are relevant to your company or brand. 

If your business name or brand is short, your first instinct would be ‘brandname.com’.  You can also use an acronym. For example, Professional Dental Services would become PDS. 

Other options are combinations with keywords or locations for local businesses, like ‘PDS Miami’.

Search Availability

To find out if your domain name ideas are available, you need to do a search. Visit Namecheap.com and you will see their domain search bar on their home page at the top. 

Enter your ideas to see if they are available and to get the annual and renewal price as well. If you see one that’s available, then great! 

When you’re searching, you might find that short keyword domains or acronyms, in the majority of cases, have already been registered. 

Premium Domains

The simplest and cheapest thing to do here is to keep looking for one that’s available at the moment. But in some cases, a specific domain name would be great for your brand or company to own and you may want to acquire it, even if your search says it’s already been registered.  

These premium domains would cost a lot more than a .com domain name that is available now, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars. There’s nothing wrong with looking into whether that domain name is actually for sale and what it would cost. 

If you think it’s in your budget to acquire, go for it! It could be great for your brand or company to own it and it would have resale value in itself. 

Research Past

It’s a good idea to do some research on the domain name you desire. You will be trying to find out if the domain name has been registered and used before, specifically in any bad or spammy way. 

There are two things I would look for here: 

  1. What it was used for in the past, using the Wayback Machine at Archive.org, and
  2. If the old site has links from other websites still, using a backlink checker tool

The answers to these questions will give you a way to be more strategic in choosing the domain name you want to register. 

Check For A Past Website

Enter the domain name you want to check in Archive.org. This will usually let you see any past websites that were on that domain name. 

If the past websites look like real businesses, keep it as an option. If you think they look fishy, like a one page long sales page, scratch that off your list. 

Check For Old Backlinks

Then check for old backlinks that are still pointing to the site using a free backlink checker tool, like the one at Ahrefs. 

If any of your options happen to have links from other big, recognizable websites, then it can go near the top of your list. It’s safe to ignore any links from lesser, even spammy-looking websites. 

The domain names with links from good websites will help to get traffic from Google to your website when it launches. 

Purchase The Domain Name

I highly recommend you purchase your domain names from Namecheap and that you register a domain name for the maximum period of ten years. 

Once you’ve decided on which domain name you would like to get and it’s available at Namecheap, click the “Add to Cart” button next to the domain and proceed to checkout. 

While you do not have to choose any other items at this time, you should ensure you get the free privacy protection.

You can then get web hosting and a free SSL certificate from Cloudways. Remember you can get a 3-day Cloudways free trial to set up your new website. 

How To Register A Domain Name For Free

You can get a free domain name by participating in a free giveaway or contest that is being run by a domain registrar or other business. 

But unfortunately a domain name that is being offered by a web host as part of a web hosting package is not truly free, as you’re already paying the host and they’re not giving it to you out of the goodness of their heart.

The cost of free domain names are being covered by the web hosting fees you will pay over the coming year. 

How to make a small business website

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Register A Domain Name Yourself

Can I Buy A Domain Name Without Hosting?

You can purchase web hosting and a domain name separately, and from two different providers as well. They do not need to be bought from the same company nor at the same time. 

This way, you can choose the best or cheapest option for buying your domain name and then do the same for your hosting provider.

How Do You Determine If A Domain Name Is Available?

You can check if a domain name is available by doing a search for the domain name at almost any domain registrar. They all typically have a domain search box or tool where you enter the domain name and they will tell you if it’s available or taken. 

Sometimes good domain names may be registered but may actually be available for sale from a reseller or broker at a higher price than a first time registration. These are usually referred to as Premium domain names.

What Should You Do After You Register Your Website Domain?

After you register a domain name, you can purchase web hosting and get branded email addresses like [email protected] 

You can also begin the process of planning your website or having a logo designed for your business or brand. 

Our recommended web host is Cloudways and you can get a great logo at an affordable price on Fiverr. 

You should also definitely proceed to register any social media handles such as on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram that would correspond to your new domain name.

When I Register A Domain Name, Will Your Name And Contact Information Become Publicly Available?

When you register a domain name, your name and contact information are included as owners or the registrant of that domain, and that information is sometimes displayed to the public in a global database called a WHOIS directory. 

You can choose to hide the WHOIS information regarding your domain name. Some registrars include free WHOIS privacy when you purchase from them, and others provide domain privacy as a paid add-on. 

We recommend Namecheap to register your domain because they provide free domain privacy and their .com, .net and other top level domain names are reasonably priced.  

What’s The Difference Between A Domain Name Registrar And A Web Host?

A domain registrar sells available domain names (yourbusiness.com) to their customers. A web host provides a way to display a website on the internet. 

You can connect the domain name to the web host using an IP address and A record so that when you visit yourbusiness.com, you will be able to see the website there. 

As a way of increasing revenue and lock in customers, some companies that started out as domain registrars then started offering web hosting and other related services. Then some web hosting companies started offering domain registration. 

Are You Required To Sign Up For Hosting Services From The Same Company Where I Registered The Domain Name?

You are not required to sign up for web hosting services or email services or any other service from the same company where you registered a domain name for your business. 

It is best practice that you separate these services so that if one provider is temporarily down or inaccessible, you should still be able to access the others. 

Should I Get A Domain Name From A Registrar Or Through A Website Builder?

You should always try to register your own domain name from a reputable registrar and not from a website builder or web hosting company. That way if you ever decide to make a switch to a new site builder platform or web host, you can do so easily. 

We recommend Namecheap for domain name registration with free privacy. 

How Much Does Domain Name Registration Cost?

The price of a first time registration of a .com domain name can be anywhere from US$.99 on sale to $20 full price. Like in every other business, prices vary per provider as well as their offer at the time. 

Many providers give you a heavily discounted price for the first year in order to lock you in for longer periods at the full price. 

How Do You Register A .Com Domain Name For Lifetime?

You can only register domain names for up to a maximum of 10 years. Whether it’s a .com, .net or any other domain extension, it cannot be registered for a lifetime. 

What Happens To Your Domain Name Once Its Registration Expires?

When your domain name expires, meaning that you did not pay to renew it on the domain renewal date, you are first given some time to complete the payment, typically not more than a few weeks.

Depending on the registrar, you may also have to pay a penalty to be able to renew it after the domain renewal date, up to a certain time. 

If you don’t complete the renewal, the domain name is considered dropped. It can now be bought by anyone. 

Should You Register Your Domain Name Privately?

To protect your privacy, you should always register your domain name privately, There is no real, legitimate reason to have this information visible to the public. 

In fact, names, email addresses and telephone numbers that are publicly visible and available through WHOIS databases are an easy way for spammers and scammers to get your private information. 

This is one of the main reasons we recommend Namecheap for domain registrations as they include free domain privacy. 

Click here to register your domain name at Namecheap for 10 years with free privacy protection.

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