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So you are ready to get a domain name and create your own website?
The good news is that, compared to hosting a website, domain names are generally pretty low-cost if you can find a name that hasn’t been registered yet.
With this handy guide, we’ll help you navigate the process of purchasing a domain name – whether one that’s unregistered and available, or one that’s already been registered by someone else.
First things first: What is a domain name?
A domain name is a unique address on the internet, used to access a website easily, such as tooltester.com. You can also create an email address with that domain name (e.g. [email protected]). Keep in mind that a domain name can only be rented and will remain registered to you as long as you continue to pay the annual fee.
Unregistered vs Registered domains
This plays a huge role for the price you are paying for a domain name. So let’s break it down:
Registering a domain name: what does it mean exactly?
This process involves selecting a unique domain name and paying a fee to have it registered in your name. Once you’ve registered a domain name, it becomes your property and can’t be registered by anyone else as long as you are paying the registration fee.
If your domain name has already been registered, things become more complicated. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get it: in some cases, the current owner may be willing to sell the domain name to you. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase the domain name through an online marketplace or domain broker.
How do I know whether a domain has been registered?
The easiest way to do that is going to a domain registrar and type in your desired domain name (e.g. Namecheap). There you can check for pretty much all endings that exist (.com, .co.uk, .us, .org, etc.).
There’s ICANN Lookup, which belongs to the official organization who manages domain names. The downside is that you can only look up .com domain names. However, there you can also obtain the owner’s information if it’s not redacted for privacy reasons.
Let’s now find out how much an unregistered domain name is and how you can register it.
However, the cost can vary widely depending on which extension you choose. If you want your domain name to end in .ai or .io you are looking at a much higher yearly cost ($40+). Most domain registrars often run promotions for cheaper first-year terms.
Let’s look at the 2023 prices for a range of extensions for new domain names. This screenshot was taken from Namecheap, which is one of the most popular domain registrars (along with GoDaddy and Google Domains).
A few things to consider:
- Usually you get a discount in the first year
- .com is one of the cheapest extensions, however, it will be most difficult to find a good name that is still available.
- More unusual or trendy domain names tend to be more expensive. For example, the .ai domain has a renewal rate of almost $80 per year.
Fun fact: the .tv domain originally belonged to the little island nation of Tuvalu. Because of its popularity as a general-purpose domain for video-related content, it was later licensed to a US company that now markets it.
Here are a few places you can look to purchase a domain name – provided it’s still available:
Domain registrars are companies that specialize in registering and selling domain names. Some of the most popular registrars include:
GoDaddy: the world’s largest domain registrar. Their customer support is good but can be salesy. You also need to be aware that their renewal prices are often a lot more expensive than the price for the first-term.
Yearly cost for a .com domain: $4.99 (first term), $19.99 (renewal)
Includes free privacy protection.
Namecheap: our go-to registrar and the global number 2. We like them because of their fast and efficient live chat support. Their prices are competitive.
Yearly cost for a .com domain: $9.58 (first term), 13.98 (renewal)
Includes free privacy protection.
Google Domains: you can use your existing Google account, which makes signing up easy. Google doesn’t increase the price in the second year. If you want to keep it long-term, this is the best option.
Yearly cost for a .com domain: $12
Includes free privacy protection.
If you’re going to host a website with a web hosting company or a website builder, you can also register your domain there. This is going to be more convenient than going through a registrar, but it will also cost slightly more. They also don’t always offer all domain name endings.
Many web hosting companies also offer domain name registration as part of their services. For example, these hosting providers allow you to register a domain name when you purchase a hosting plan:
- Siteground (.com for $17.99/year)
- Bluehost ($12.99/year, no free privacy protection)
- Dreamhost ($7.99 first year, $17.99 renewal)
If you’re planning to use a website builder, you may also be able to purchase a domain name through the platform:
- Wix ($14.95/year)
- Squarespace ($20/year)
- Weebly ($19.95/year)
- Zyro ($13.99/year, no free privacy protection)
All include a free domain name for 12 months for most of their premium plans.
By simply navigating to the domain name, you’ll sometimes see a web page full of ads. But if you look closely, you might see a banner like this one:
This means that the owner is interested in offers. When you click the link, you’ll usually get taken to a form where you can register your interest. In some cases, you’ll even see the amount the seller demands.
If the price of your desired domain is very high, don’t be discouraged as (almost) everything in life is negotiable, and this also applies to domain names.
For the example above (wordable.com), we don’t know the asking price. But my guess would be $15-35k as it’s a short domain name that is brandable. A factor that also increases the price in this case is that there is a service with that name which is currently using an .io domain name.
A little inside story: when I bought the tooltester.com domain name, which cost us a low five-figure amount, I spent a year trying to negotiate with the seller . He wouldn’t go down even a penny, which I found extremely frustrating. So unfortunately, there are these cases too, but it’s not the norm.
Costs can vary significantly, and for the most part, depend on the following factors:
- Length and complexity of the domain name: Generally speaking, shorter and simpler domain names are easier to remember and more valuable. As a result, they tend to be more expensive. For example, a domain name like “pets.com” is likely to be more expensive than “petstoreonline.com,” even though both are related to the pet industry.
- Popularity of the domain name: Highly popular or desirable domain names can also be more expensive. For example, a domain name that includes a common keyword or phrase, such as “bestdogfood.com,” may be more expensive than a domain name that is less popular or specific, like “dogfoodreviews.com.”
- Whether the owner actually wants to sell it: if the owner isn’t very motivated to sell, the price goes up.
Sometimes the asking price is simply too high or the seller might be too annoying to deal with – yup, domain name brokers (or squatters as they are sometimes called), are sometimes very stubborn.
Fortunately, there are a few alternative routes you can take:
- Consider alternative extensions: As mentioned above, standard extensions like .com and .net tend to be less expensive than premium extensions like .io or .co. If you’re on a budget, we’d recommend using an alternative extension like .net or .org.
- Use a domain name generator tool: There are many online tools that can help you come up with unique and affordable domain name ideas. You can even use ChatGPT to help you come up with an idea. Simply enter a prompt like: “come up with 10 ideas for available domain names for a realtors business”.
- Purchase a domain name through an auction: If you’re interested in a domain name that is already registered, you may be able to purchase it through an auction marketplace such as GoDaddy Domain Auctions.
- Look for discounts or promotions: Many registrars and web hosting companies offer discounts or promotions on domain names from time to time. We recommend keeping an eye out for these offers, as they can help you get a good deal on a domain name.
I hope our guide has helped you and that you now have a much better understanding of how to get a great domain name for your business or personal website. While it sometimes isn’t easy to get your desired domain, usually there’s a good alternative just around the corner. See this article for more tips on how to choose a great domain.
Please let me know if you have any further questions in the comments below!
While it is possible to get a free domain name, these types of offers can be limited in some way or another. For example, you may need to purchase a hosting plan or website builder package to get a free domain name. Alternatively, the domain name may be offered for a limited time period, after which you’ll need to pay to renew it. Additionally, there are free subdomains that you usually get when signing up for a free website builder.
Moreover, some registrars offer free domains that aren’t subdomains. These usually have obscure endings like .tk or .ga. We generally advise against such domains as we’ve found that the registrars behind the free domains are often shady.
Domain name registrations get stored in the official WHOIS database. It includes the name and contact information of the domain owner. Some domain registrars offer WHOIS privacy protection as an additional service for an extra fee, which keeps personal contact information private. This service may increase the overall cost of your domain name, however, many domain registrars (e.g. Namecheap) have stopped charging for it.
Yes, you can usually purchase a domain name for multiple years at once. It’s usually cheaper, which means you will save money on the overall cost of the domain name and ensure that it remains registered in your name for the long term.
Yes, it is possible to transfer a domain name to a different registrar or owner.
These are the requirements for a transfer:
- The domain is more than 60 days old;
- The domain was not transferred between registrars within the last 60 days;
- The domain is “Unlocked” for transfer. This can be set up in the customer area of your registrar or via customer support.
A domain transfer is generally free of charge. The only fee associated with it is the yearly registration fee.
Unfortunately, it’s usually not possible to get a refund on a domain name purchase. Once a domain name is registered, it cannot be returned or refunded. As a result, it’s important to carefully consider your domain name purchase and make sure that it is the right fit for your business or personal brand before completing the purchase.
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14 Jan 2023 - Definition of domain name added
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