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How to buy a domain name

Updated

It’s possible to set up a free website without purchasing a domain name, but the address you’ll get at that price doesn’t look professional. More often than not, the url you receive will have the name of the service in it.

To avoid this problem, you can just buy a domain name and add it to your website. Domain names that haven’t been claimed are inexpensive, usually starting around $12/year, and they come with two nice benefits:

1. You can use a domain name to create an email address that matches your website.

2. You own it, so it’s always possible someone else may want to buy it.

That second option is an interesting one, because claimed domain names can potentially sell for thousands up to millions of dollars. For such a low cost, domain names can be a valuable investment.

The barrier to buying a domain name is low as well. You don’t need to be a tech nerd or a computer scientist to figure out how to buy one. It’s really no different than signing up for any other online service. So if you can set up a Netflix account, you won’t have any problems buying a domain name. You just need to know how to check if a domain name is available.

Where to search for domain names

You’ve probably heard of GoDaddy from its superbowl commercials. It’s one of the most popular places to register a domain name. However, you may want to shop around some before going straight to a domain registrar’s website.

Think about it this way. Have you ever seen an offer for a credit card that was made through a partnership with another business? You might see these offers when you log into your bank account or visit a travel website. When you receive offers that way, they’re often better than what you’ll get when you visit the card issuer’s website directly.

Buying domain names works the same way.

By clicking an offer from another website, you can get a much lower price. And depending on where you look for available domain names, you may even have a better experience.

Here’s why: almost every website that allows you to search for domain names only looks for one name at a time. You type a name in a box, press the search button, then find out if that one domain name is available. If you want to search for another name, then you have to start the process all over again.

All these steps make domain research a frustrating process. But when you use a site like Instant Domain Search, you can find what you’re looking for faster.

For every letter you type in the search box, you’ll immediately see a list of domain names related to it. When you type more letters, the list of options changes. You don’t even need to press a search button–it does it all automatically.

Now that you know how to find a domain name, it’s time to think about what it should be.

Be strategic in how you pick a domain name

There are a few important things to consider before buying a domain name. Primarily, it should reflect the name of your business or organization. And whenever possible, buy an available domain name before selecting the name of a business. It’s much easier and cheaper to do it this way. The business name you select may already have a claimed domain name, so it could be very expensive to purchase it.

Here are a few more considerations you should make:

Length - Really long domain names are hard to remember. Really short ones probably aren’t descriptive enough. Try to keep them somewhere in between so they’re easy for your audience to use. A good strategy is to keep your domain name one or two words in length.

Extensions - The most popular domain name extension is .com. If someone knows the name of your organization, they might try typing it with .com expecting to visit your website. So whenever possible, you want to at least own that one. There are many other options to consider, such as .org, .info and .us.

Specificity - Try to think about the keywords that people might use to search for your organization. If you can include them in your domain name, it will help it rank higher in search engines, which means your audience will have an easier time finding you.

Don't give up on unavailable domain names

Depending on your budget, you may want to buy a domain name that’s already claimed. Just keep in mind, the price is almost always negotiable, so don’t automatically give up if you see an expensive price. The seller may be more motivated than it seems!

Here are a few of the common ways you can buy a claimed domain name:

Direct sales - If a domain name is claimed but you don’t see it listed for sale anywhere, it’s possible to contact the owner directly. A whois search is the best place to start. If you don't get clear contact information this way, another option is to hire a domain broker. They have more extensive tools to track down domain owners.

Domain auctions - Auctions for domain names work like eBay, you make a bid, and if it’s the highest when time runs out, you get to purchase the item. Some domain names also have a flat price if you just want to buy them immediately. These are linked in the results you get from Instant Domain Search.

Direct backorders - Domain name registrars release previously claimed domain names in batches or individually. These are domain names that the owner has stopped paying to own. If one of these domain names hasn’t yet been released, sometimes you can backorder it. As long as it gets released, you’re guaranteed to get it. This is another option available in results from Instant Domain Search.

How to register a domain name

This is the easy part. When you click the button to buy a domain name, you need to provide your contact (name, address, phone, email) and payment information. Once you’ve submitted your payment for an unclaimed domain name, you are immediately the owner and can start using it.

It may take a little longer for ownership to transfer to you for claimed domain names, but the process is essentially the same.