Thanks to the Internet, your business can seamlessly run both locally and internationally. With the world becoming a little smaller every day, your products and services can tap into all different kinds of markets and audiences. However, in order to make this happen, you need a central hub - a sort of online headquarters if you will. The solution? An all-encompassing and professional website. Your domain name is the address by which your audience can find you online. It’s your own piece of online ‘real estate’. A good domain name can be crucial for your business success, but, how much should you really pay for a domain name?
Since your business won’t be the only one taking advantage of the technological world, sustaining a level of brand consistency is key to discoverability. That means, your website should be as recognizable as any of your other online or offline marketing assets - such as your social accounts, logo, packaging or business cards.
This is where your domain name comes into play. On top of making your website easier to be found by visitors (and potential clients), it shows that you own your address on the Internet, positioning your business as more authoritative and reputable than others.
But what elements should you take into consideration when acquiring your own domain name? In this comprehensive guide, we cover all the questions that you might ask yourself, from the importance of a customized domain name, to finding the best registrar and understanding how much your domain name will cost:
What is a domain?
If your website was a home, your domain name would be its address. More precisely, every website in the world is attributed a specific IP address. But since this one comes in the shape of a series of numbers and dots, it makes it extremely hard for human visitors to remember and type. This is why domain names were created - which is basically the legible label connected to the specific IP of a site. All domains ‘live’ on the domain name system (DNS), which is a universal system that assigns addresses to servers and web pages.
Example: Want to access our website builder? You can use our domain: Wix.com or our IP address: 220.127.116.11. Either way, you will arrive on the same page.
Why is having your own domain name so important?
Your website is the first impression you make on the Internet. A customized domain name looks professional and alerts customers that your site is authoritative and credible.
It makes your website easier to find, as a domain name can be more easily remembered than an IP address (a series of dots and numbers). And if you change your web host (more on this below), you will still be able to keep the same domain, making your online presence stable over time.
Acquiring your own domain is a necessary step if you plan on getting your own business email address (with your brand name after the ‘@’).
From an SEO point of view, your domain name gives Google an indication of what your website is all about. Thus, increasing your chances of ranking higher in search results.
Altogether, these factors contribute to your online visibility, which translates into more business opportunities, and ultimately - more sales. This is why registering your own domain is a crucial step to take when creating your own professional website.
Domain name structure explained
The structure of what we usually call a ‘domain name’ is made of two parts: the actual name (Second Level Domain) and the extension (Top Level Domain). It’s important to understand this, in order to avoid registering the wrong one. Unlike the English language, domain names are read from right to left. This explains why the ‘Top Level’ section is actually the last part to appear in your URL.
SLDs: The Second Level Domain is the actual ‘name’ of your domain. In many ways, your SLD is the identity of your website and should therefore represent your services or products. For example, taking the domain wix.com, the SLD part would be wix.
TLDs: A Top Level Domain refers to the last segment of a domain name, after the last ‘dot’ in your URL. The most common TLDs that you’ve encountered when browsing the Web are ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.edu’, and ‘.org’. Here are the main groups of TLDs that businesses and particulars can acquire:
gTLD: Generic Top Level Domains are the most common extensions you will find such as: ‘.com’ or ‘.org’. With time and the growing demand, more gTLDs were offered to website owners - the list now counts more than 1,000, including ‘.design’, ‘.biz’, or ‘.guru’. All of these extensions are available for registration - although some registered gTLDs, such as ‘.name’ or ‘.pro’, will require proof of eligibility within the guidelines set for each.
ccTLD: Country Code Top Level Domains give recognition to a specific country, usually in the form of two letters. For example, ‘.us’ stands for United States or ‘.za’ for South Africa.
Did you know? You’ve probably heard about the word ‘URL’. This abbreviation (that stands for Uniform Resource Locator) actually describes what you see in your browser when you’re reading a web page. It’s made of the following elements, from left to right:
The transfer protocol (HTTPs or HTTP) + The machine name (‘www.’) + The Second Level Domain Name + The Top Level Domain Name + The folders and directories (each specific page of the website)
What is web hosting?
In order to have a fully professional website, you need a domain name, but you also need a web host - which is the service, offered by a company, of storing your website on a server. Thanks to the web host, your website exists and is made visible somewhere on the Internet - meaning that your website is displayed every time a visitor types in your address in their browser.
Most website builders will charge you a fee to host your website, as well as additional fees to register your domain and connect it to your site. Some companies offer more flexible options, like Wix. It gives each one of its users free web hosting from the second they hit the ‘Publish’ button, and with no time limit. The best part: When you publish your site with Wix, your web content is stored on secure servers that are located around the world, making your website accessible in a safe and fast manner for each and every one of your visitors.
How to choose a good domain name
Now that the crucial concepts have been explained, it’s time to get into what makes a good domain name. In order for your domain to be successful, it needs to be:
Simple: It should be simple enough for people to pronounce, spell and therefore remember. Saying that, avoid using peculiar spellings or arbitrary symbols.
Short: Because the longer it gets, the harder it is for visitors to remember.
Branded: Your domain should incorporate your brand’s name, or at least a variation of it. This will make your website immediately recognizable and consistent with your other branding elements.
SEO friendly: Your domain name is one of the first things Google looks for when ranking your site. Consider incorporating relevant keywords that describe your biz. Examples include your type of business (JohnDoePhotographer.com) or your location (JohnDoeColorado.com) if you’re looking into acquiring customers through local SEO.
Extra reading: What’s in a (domain) name? Many factors need to be taken into consideration when choosing your address on the Internet. To help you out, you can consult this very helpful guide on how to choose the best domain name for your website.
How do I know if my desired domain is available?
Easy! You can check if your name is yours for the taking by using a domain name availability tool, like Wix.com. Here’s how you can check if your dream domain name is available: Choose a domain check service, we recommend this powerful domain name search, that lets you try as many options as you want, for free. Alternatively, you can use one of the multiple domain name generators available online to find more ideas. Then, pick an extension and buy your domain using a domain registrar, like Wix.com.
Is your domain name already taken? Not to worry - there are options! Most probably, your domain will be available with a different extension (TLD). You can also play with variations of your name. Try an abbreviated version of your domain, or add a keyword related to your location or profession. Alternatively, you can use one of the many tools online to find more ideas for a new domain name.
How to buy a domain name
Before you actually take out your card and make that purchase, you should understand why you need to register your domain. Your domain is your little piece of real estate online, and as such, its registration needs to go through the centralized authority: the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).
In order for this to happen, you need to acquire your domain through an accredited registrar, which is accredited to deal, on your behalf, with the ICANN. Your registrar will thus ensure that your domain name is registered correctly and therefore protected. On top of this, it will be responsible for managing your domain and keeping track of monthly or yearly renewals.
Because the registrar you select will be the one dealing with your domain, we can’t recommend enough to check its reputability. Many registrars are active on the market, but not all of them offer the same conditions, and some even practice hidden fees (administration, renewal, etc.) that make your domain acquisition much more expensive than it should be. Make sure you go for a reliable registrar, one that is fully transparent about fees and other terms and conditions.
Our suggestion is to pick a registrar that is also a web host, to make sure that your website and your domain are all dealt with under the same umbrella. That way, your entire website process is centralized in one, easy to access place. Considering Wix has over 150 million users, we would say it’s the preferred choice of many businesses worldwide.
Wix provides all of its users with an SSL certificate and is a proud sponsor of the Let’s Encrypt initiative for spreading the HTTPS protocol around the world. You receive 500MB of cloud storage for your content and 500MB bandwidth for free, but Premium plans are also available for any type of need.
How much does a domain cost?
The price of your precious name will depend greatly on a number of different factors, such as:
The domain extension: ‘.com’ or ‘.org’ are often more expensive than ‘.co.uk’ or ‘.fr’ for the same domain.
Where you purchase your domain from: Not all registrars have the same prices, not to mention the variations on the aftermarket service.
The terms you select: Securing your name for one or multiple years might impact the price of your deal.
Privacy protection: All domain owners are required to share their name and contact to the ICANN, where they are publicly listed. Don’t want to be found? Domain privacy replaces your private information with the one of your registrar.
Considering these elements, certain users will be requested to pay higher fees to acquire their domain - because it’s a competitive market, or because the domain is very sought-after.
But for the majority of domain names, you should not expect to pay more than $20 per year. If the price is higher, it becomes a business decision that you need to weigh out the pros and cons. A useful question to ask yourself is: ‘how much would it cost me not to have the right domain?’. Not getting the immediate recognition, reputability, organic traffic and sales resulting from owning the right domain could outweigh the higher price.
Pro tip: Most of Wix’s Premium plans include a free domain registration for the first year. Interested? You can get started by selecting the Wix package that works for you.
If your domain is already owned and you are set on making it yours, there’s a chance you can still buy it from the domain aftermarket. Reselling already taken domain names has become an industry in itself, with auction sites and domain brokers that save you the hassle of tracking down the current owner of the domain.
Be extra careful though, as in the domain buying world, there are unfortunately many scams. It’s best that you are aware of this and therefore follow the cautious steps before purchasing a domain from a private seller. Don’t fall for services or people that are ‘too good to be true’.
Bear in mind that since this is a lucrative space for money making, prices may be inflated - easily reaching the range of $1,000 - $30,000. Buying your domain through this route also requires more time as it’s a much more drawn out process than buying one online. Think of the effort it takes to find the owner and contact them, and the time it takes to negotiate and seal the deal.
If you’re ready for this route, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to buy a domain that’s already claimed:
First you will have to identify who owns your domain name. You can use a service like WHOis to find the relevant information. By doing this search you should get the name, email and phone number of the domain owner. However, there are cases where the owner’s information is private, especially in accordance with the relatively new GDPR regulations across Europe - making it necessary to resort to a professional broker.
If you are able to, make contact with the listed owner. You can send an email explaining your request. Here, you should also ask if the domain is for sale. You could offer a price that you are willing to pay for the domain in order to start the negotiation.
If the owner does agree to the idea of selling, you will have to do a fair amount of negotiating in order to settle for a price that you are both content with. Before you start the bidding, set a budget for yourself of how much you are willing to spend. In this way, you know your limitation and budget restrictions before the process is too far along to turn back.
Once both parties have come to an agreement, it’s time to pay the piper. In order to protect yourself, it’s best to use a third party payment app like Escrow.com to facilitate the payment (you should also keep the fee of this service in mind when setting up your budget). This way, you feel protected and the seller feels comfortable knowing their payment is coming from a trustworthy source. After the domain has been transferred, Escrow will authorize the wire of the money.
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