Internet users trust website names to shop, get information or communicate with each other. Your company’s website has a URL composed of the domain name or domain (launchberg), or what comes after "https://www.," and the domain extension (.com).
Without domains, people would have to remember and type a unique set of numbers—also referred to as the Internet Protocol (IP) address representing your company—to find you on the web. For instance, Google's IP address is 192.168.1.1. Meanwhile, Facebook's IP address is 220.127.116.11.
Because a domain name helps establish the legitimacy of your business and build your brand, you must register your business name as soon as possible. The number of registered domain names has grown to 370.1 million as of August 2020, indicating that millions of impressive domains are already out there.
Registering your domain allows you to claim the name before cybersquatters come up with a similar name that they'll sell to business owners at an inflated price. Moreover, others make money from trading domain names, also referred to as domain flipping.
Best Domain Name Registrars
A domain name registrar is the best place to buy domain names. Domain name registrars sell and manage domain names. They receive accreditation from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a US-based non-government and non-profit organization that manages the global allocation of IP addresses and domain names. GoDaddy and Domain.com are two examples of domain name registrars.
Not all registrars accept all domain extensions. Some only allow top-level domain extensions (TLDs) like .com, .net, .org, .io, and .biz. Meanwhile, other registrars only accept country code suffixes such as .uk, .us, and so on.
A registrar notifies the registry of a domain extension to reserve a full domain once a person or group registers it. Part of the fee that a registrar charges goes to the registry for that purpose. The registry then becomes the owner of the purchased name while the registrants become the "lessor" and pay annual fees to use it exclusively.
Leading Domain Registrars
Here are some of the best places to buy your domain name:
- Google Domains
- 1and1 Ionos
Established in 1997, GoDaddy manages more than 78 million domain names for almost 19 million customers. It has access to a variety of popular domain extensions and offers over 100 subdomains.
The company bundles domain registration with a hosting service but sells email forwarding plans, inclusive of email storage and email aliases, and domain privacy separately. Its main turn-off is the company's excessive and constant upsells.
Domain.com, which was founded in 1998, offers the most popular TLDs and more than 25 ccTLDs. When you add their hosting service to your registration, you'll also gain free access to a basic website builder and email forwarding or an email address specific to your domain.
It charges a separate fee for domain privacy and SSL certification.
Over 5 million domains are currently under the management of Namecheap, which was formed in 2000. Its main draws include its free WhoisGuard domain privacy for domain name registrants.
Clients also appreciate its practical domain search. When your preferred name is taken, you can offer to buy a domain name from the current user from Namecheap's website. However, Namecheap only offers 24/7 chat support and no phone-in service.
If you want to sign up with a registrar with zero upsells, Google Domains is the place for you. Launched in 2015, the registrar offers free domain privacy, 100 subdomains, and up to 100 email aliases.
However, it doesn't have access to some domain extensions, including common ones such as .tv and .mobi. The annual renewal fee costs the same as what you paid for your first year.
Registrants also gain access to its Cloud DNS, so you enjoy premium-level speed.
Bluehost, set up in 2003, is among the world's top hosting providers. Purchase a hosting plan from Bluehost and you’ll get free domain registration for the first year. You also get free SSL certificates and domain lock security upon signing up. However, domain privacy is sold separately.
It has a more than 750-strong support staff and an extensive and searchable knowledge base that you can turn to for troubleshooting assistance.
This 23-year-old firm offers free domain privacy (WHOIS registration) when you sign up. The hosting provider, which has more than 400,000 customers, hosts more than 1.5 million websites. You can choose from over 400 TLDs from this registrar.
It's the only company that offers you unlimited subdomains when you register with them.
Besides its round-the-clock live chat and a robust knowledge center, DreamHost has a community forum for exchanging queries and experiences.
Name.com offers domain name registration for free if you're hiring the company for web hosting. The registrar, which began operations in 2003 and now has over 16 million clients, offers more than 520 TLDs. Domain privacy comes at an additional charge and may not be available for certain domains.
Its chat and phone-in support are only available within a specific timeframe. You can turn to its knowledge center when live support is unavailable.
8. 1and1 Ionos
Popular in Europe, 1and1 is a Germany-based web hosting company founded in 1988 that currently manages at least 12 million domains worldwide.
You'll get a custom email address, WHOIS privacy protection, and an SSL certificate when you register with this provider. It also offers up to 10,000 subdomains.
BuyDomains offers premium domain names or already registered names that are sold by third parties. The domain names cost higher as they're short and brandable.
Its domain search will either show the price of a domain name immediately ("Buy Now") or within an hour or so when you choose "Request Price" from the company. Unlike the other providers on this list, BuyDomains is not ICANN-accredited.
Hover is the registrar to turn to if your preferred domain name is taken but you want your business URL to deviate as little as possible from the name you had in mind. With its automated name engine generating numerous suffix variations and wording suggestions, you're likely to find a domain name and extension that will best match your brand or company's name.
The Canada-based registrar only handles domain registration. They don't offer any hosting service, but email forwarding is available for an additional fee. WHOIS privacy comes free with registration.
Hover's customer support is only available for limited hours throughout the week.
How to Choose the Best Domain Registrar
The best registrars offer the following:
Long history and a good reputation
When researching the registrar's profile, check the customer reviews. Watch out for feedback regarding slow-loading websites, long response times, or issues with credit card payments.
Convenient and honest purchase process
Check the domain name price and payment terms. While most registrars offer a minimum period of one year, others have a two-year minimum or more.
Check for any hidden fees. Some registrars charge higher rates after the first year of registration. Also, watch out for pre-selected add-ons. Always review your shopping cart for any pre-checked additional services.
While good registrars allow easy transfers of your domain name to another registrar, others will charge an extra fee.
Quick domain name search
Registrars offer a quick domain search that would tell you whether you can register or buy your desired domain name. The best registrars also have access to numerous TLD extension options, including country-code TLDs (ccTLDs such as .us, .uk, or .ca) and niche extensions (.kitchen, .fit, .doctor, and others). Different extensions have respective costs.
The registrar's dashboard must be simple to navigate, with clear buttons for parking and transferring domains as well as editing settings.
Simple domain name system (DNS) settings
The DNS connects domains or URLs to web servers containing your website's files. The best domain registrars give domain owners easy-to-use tools for moving their websites or servers without changing domain names.
Many web hosting companies—or firms that handle the management and storage of your website's files—let you register a domain name for free when you choose them to host your site. You can register your name with a web hosting firm if you don't plan to buy additional domains in the future. This way, adjusting your settings due to website data changes won't be much of a hassle.
Reliable customer service
Look for registrars with 24/7 client support you can count on. Go over reviews and read about issues the company has faced and the solutions they offered.
Some upsells may be helpful and worth purchasing, such as domain privacy, email hosting services, and extended expiration protection.
How to Register a Domain Name
Now that we’ve covered how to evaluate domain registrars and the background of today's top registrars, let’s talk about the steps for registering your preferred domain name.
1. Decide on the domain name to assign your business.
Since the domain name will be your business's website, it should be the same as—if not very closely related to—the name of your company, brand, store, or product.
A custom-made domain name should be short but clear and memorable. Avoid numbers and dashes as much as possible, since they may be quite hard to remember. However, you can put them in if you want. Never use spaces.
You can use domain name generators to help you create and choose your domain. Also, be sure it's not a trademarked name.
2. Check the availability of your domain name.
Because thousands of domains are registered daily, your preferred name may already be taken. You can use domain name checkers like Knowem to help you verify if your chosen domain name is already registered.
You can also launch Namechk and verify if your chosen name hasn't been used yet in today's most popular social media sites. If your website name is still unclaimed, you can also use it for your social network.
3. Find and choose a domain name registrar.
To have an operational website, you need to register your domain name and secure an account with a web hosting service provider for storing your website's files. Creating, designing, and launching the actual website can come later.
4. Finalize your choice and purchase the domain.
Select the suffix or extension for your domain (.com, .net, .org, and so on). Once you've verified that no one else owns your domain and suffix, then you can buy it.
How to Buy A Domain from Other Providers
The steps above show you how to buy a domain name through a registrar. But you can also buy a domain name elsewhere if your idea has already been taken. You can check credible platforms such as Sedo and Flippa or forums like NamePros to find premium domain names that offer secure transfers of ownership and tools for conducting seller due diligence.
Moreover, some website hosting providers and website builders offer free domain names. However, site builders such as WordPress have limitations, and your name will appear only as a subdomain (e.g., www.mywebsite.wordpress.com).
Does it matter where you buy a domain name?
Deciding on where to buy a domain name depends on the domain you want to register. As mentioned in our step-by-step guide, you'll have to look at different registrars to find one that offers the unclaimed domain name and suffix you want. If the URL extension is taken, but you're open to using other names that are close to your original idea, then choose registrars like Hover.
Your budget also affects your choice of domain registrar. Domain names currently owned by another entity or sold by a third party cost a lot more than those offered by registrars. There's no limit to pricing—they can start from a hundred dollars and then reach millions.
When buying pre-registered names from a marketplace or aftermarket, investigate both the vendor and the history of the domain name you want. You can look up the domain name in WHOis.net to check who registered it and how to contact the person or company.
Use the Wayback Machine and Security Trails to check how it was used and what content they used to publish. Meanwhile, tools like Google Search Console can help you verify if the name has received a penalty, or currently faces one.
How do I permanently buy a domain name?
You can't own your domain name forever. You have to pay an annual fee for your business to use it exclusively.
How much does a domain name cost?
Registrars offer their respective pricing plans, but they generally charge higher for TLDs and domain extensions that are currently in high demand. Registration for a new domain name can cost $10 to $20 per year. Pre-registered domains are more expensive.
Charges also differ depending on the length of your contract and add-ons.
What is a reasonable price for a domain name?
Most of the domain registrars featured in this article charge $9 to $15 in annual fees. But rates depend on domain extensions, with some suffixes such as .io reaching values as high as $50 (Domain.com). As mentioned earlier, some web hosting companies offer them for free in the first year when you choose them as your hosting provider.
Why is a domain so expensive?
The basic fee for brand new domain names can be worth below $20 annually. However, you may have to pay extra to ensure your site's privacy, site-building services, speed, and so on, through various add-ons.
Meanwhile, domain names sold in the aftermarket can be pricey due to the amount of traffic they can produce, particularly when they contain keywords critical to a business. Some people pre-register catchy domain names and resell them to businesses at a higher cost.
In the end, choosing to buy a premium domain name is worth the investment if it generates organic traffic on your website. Premium domain names contain words or phrases that many people search for on the web. They are short and easy to remember, and they have a strong domain history, which translates to a higher page ranking in search engines.
Do I need a website to register a domain name?
No, registrars don't require you to have a finished website to get registered. You can register your domain name before building your company website.