In this blog post I will be reviewing how to pick and purchase a domain name. If you are more interested in watching a play-by-play screen cast please check out the video above.
Step 1: What is a domain name?
If you are joining us after watching the video you are probably already clear on what a domain name is and why you need one. Go ahead and skip to the next section. If not read on.
www.getmegeeky.com – That is my domain name.
Many years ago you had to type in http://www.getmegeeky.com (this is called a URL), but now all you need to put in is the domain and it will automatically direct you.
To help you understand purpose and function of your domain name I am going to use the example of a house. All houses have addresses, but they also have another identifier, their legal description. Your house at 123 Mays St. also could be identified as Lot 35, Tract 10 of Subdivision Piney Roads. You local mailman would really struggle if you started requesting that your mail be delivered by the legal description.
In comparison, your website/blog will be hosted on a web server (think house), this web server has a super boring address that looks like this 188.8.131.52 (similar to a legal description). It would be really unfortunate to have to tell your customers, “Hey yeah just visit us online at 184.108.40.206!” So web addresses (like the address of a house) were born. We also call them domain names. For the record that number 220.127.116.11 is called an IP Address.
Alright now that we have that all straight lets move onto Step 2.
Step 2: How to Pick Your Domain
You are ready to buy your domain for your brand new business, PickledPink! Delicious pickles in a beautiful hand painted pink jar. Naturally the domain name has to be www.pickledpink.com. So you go to www.godaddy.com (one of the most popular domain registration sites) and right in the front of their page is a search box where you can look for the domain your want to buy. You put in www.pickledpink.com and GoDaddy comes back with NOT AVAILABLE!!!
Oh no! How can this be possible? Unfortunately, this is the most common experience. Do not spend a lot of time determining your perfect domain name without checking in with GoDaddy for availability. Don’t be surprised if your initial idea for a name is taken. Sometimes it is hard to shift your vision, but try and be creative. Using our PickedPink example, www.pickledpink.com might be taken, but www.pickledpinkjars.com is AVAILABLE! get creative when looking for domain names. Throw out lots of ideas. If you find one you like buy it! Which means onto Step 3.
Tip 1: Stick With a .COM Unless…
Occasionally the domain name you want will be unavailable with a .com on the end, but available with a .net. With the exception of a .org, which intentionally signifies a non-profit organization, you really want to stick with a .com. The main reason being that people naturally search that. If they are looking to buy some of your nice crunchy pickles they will look at www.pickledpinkjars.com… not .net.
Tip 2: Buying (or not buying) a domain off someone else…
If you are dead set on owning the taken domain. You can do your research, contact the person and see if they would be willing to sell. Just remember you are not exactly in a powerful buying position if the seller knows you want it that badly. If money is no object then fine, but for most of you it is far more cost efficient to get creative.
Step 3: How to Buy Your Domain
While you are “buying” a domain name, it is probably more accurate to say you are registering a domain name. I am going to continue using GoDaddy in our example. GoDaddy is the middle man between you and something called ICANN which manages internet related things. When you are ready to register you can do that with GoDaddy, and then they in turn make sure everything else is taken care of.
Press the “add” button, then “continue to registration”.
It will become clear during this purchase process that GoDaddy is the king of up sale. It should be at this point that you get bombarded with offers to buy the .net, .info, .org versions of your domain name. Unless you have reason to believe someone is going to intentionally buy one of those other domains to compete against yours (like if you are Coke for example) you are probably wasting your money. If you are a well established business now getting into the web, it may be something to consider. But for most of my readers trying to start micro-businesses don’t waste your money on all of those other names.
Simply click “No Thanks” to this offer.
Next you will be sent to a registration form. This is pretty self-explanatory except for one part. There is a little box to click if you want to add an email address using your domain, for example firstname.lastname@example.org. My general recommendation on this is no. For two reasons, first off you can typically add this later through your hosting server (or even go back and do it through GoDaddy) and the second reason is these email address are often a real pain to use. If you are building a micro-business it is completely acceptable to use email@example.com instead. Gmail or Yahoo are far better at managing and maintaining email systems than GoDaddy or your hosting server. In fact, you can even use Gmail with a name like firstname.lastname@example.org, but that is for another blog post. Bottomline, I say skip that.
After your domain registration form you are taken to the domain settings page.
There are three things to look at under Domain Settings. The registration length is defaulted to 5 years. Unless you are a long standing business that is finally getting around to a website, you may want to limit your registration time to 1-2 years.
Next you need to take a look at certifying your domain. I recommend against this unless you have a big/popular business brand that you want customers to know you are the legit site. If you are just a micro-business there is really no need for this at all.
Lastly, there is a little link that says “Set nameservers”. If you are planning on hosting your website with another hosting company (I recommend this) say Bluehost or Media Temple you will need to tell GoDaddy that you are going to do that. That is called setting your nameservers. If you do NOT know what you are going to do about hosting yet, do not worry, you can always go back and add that setting later. If you have arranged with a hosting company already do a quick Google search for “bluehost DNS” and you will come back with something like ns1.bluehost.com. There should be at least two. List them in the boxes in the domain settings. Again if you don’t have this information right now, skip this.
The next section is Privacy and Domain Protection. I recommend just sticking with the low level package.
Finally time to Activate Your Domain and Checkout. Congratulations!
Step 4: Post Purchase Follow up
Remember the part of your purchase where you had the option to put in your domain nameservers? Let’s say you didn’t put them in during the original purchase, but now you would like to add them.
No problem, simply sign into your GoDaddy account and press the ACCOUNT button. Below that you will see a list of items starting with “Domains” (not the Domains listed in the main navigation at the top). Click on domains and it will show a list of the domains you own. Click “launch” to the right of that domain.
Lastly click on the “set nameservers” in the bottom left-hand corner. Please be sure to read any information provided to you by your hosting server regarding your domain nameservers. It varies from host to host.
I hope this blog post has helped you take one of the many first steps towards your own micro-business!