Understanding how to buy domain names is essential for anyone who wants an online presence. The domain name, or URL, is your address on the Internet. It lets people find you in cyberspace and it serves as your calling card, heralding your brand. It's like real estate you own, and it's a good feeling when you buy one.
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It's not hard to buy domain names, but...
It does require some research and luck since many domain names are already taken. Plus, you have to be careful that you don't accidentally buy a domain name that's too similar to another company in your same line of work. That could cause a trademark dispute, even if there's really no chance an average person would mistake the two (it's the ultimate test of trademark confusion). In general, keep in mind that generic phrases by themselves tend to be harder to protect.
Here are 5 Things You Must Do to Buy Domain Names, plus Resources
The first thing you need to do is brainstorm for domain names. The name for your website could be your own name, your company's name, or the name of the online business you're setting up. Really it could be anything that represents you and your work in some way.
If you have different types of work with different target audiences, consider setting up multiple sites. In that case you would buy a unique domain name for each one.
For instance, this site you're on now is my central hub on the Internet. I also have other sites for other purposes related to things I co. On my official author site, Travis N. Ward, I have information about my novels and links to many magazine articles I've written. For my consulting business, Pearl Multimedia LLC, I have another website with a completely different tone and focus.
If, instead, you have different areas of one type of work that require distinct domain names, you might want to buy domain names that are connected.
For instance, if you run a business called Smith's Gardening, you may want to buy smithgardening.com for your commercial business, But if you also want to set up an online network where gardeners can meet and share ideas, you may want to buy smithgardening.net as well.
2. Enter the name of the domain name in a database to see if it's already taken.
Domain names in the U.S. are overseen by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a nonprofit organization, but lots of companies can sell you a domain name. To check if a name is taken you can go to the website of a web hosting company.
One web hosting company that I like to promote is InMotion Hosting. I've hosted my websites with InMotion Hosting for many years and I only have great things to say about it. Both the technical support and the sales support teams are fantastic; technical support is also free, 24/7. I've learned so much from them about hosting my own websites!
The other web hosting company I suggest looking into is Bluehost. Many successful entrepreneurs use it and love it for the same reasons I love InMotion Hosting. I've heard so many great things about Bluehost and I feel confident recommending them.
You can even check the domain name you want right here by entering it below.
When you do a search for a domain name, you'll get a few key pieces of information: who owns the domain name; when the domain name was first registered; and when it expires. If the site doesn't have a privacy feature turned on with its server, then it may tell you where the owner is located and contact information, too.
3. Check the Expiry Date
That means the date that the current registration will be up. Some people buy domain names and "park" them, hoping to sell them some day. If a domain is coming up for renewal soon, you may want to check again after the expiry date passes to see if it's now available. I have bought websites in the past for projects I planned to pursue, but gave them up when I realized I wouldn't. You shouldn't assume a name is taken forever if you really want it. If the owner hasn't let the name expire, you can always consider trying to buy it by making them an offer.
4. If You Want to Buy Domain Names That Are Taken, Consider Trying a Different Extension
By now many people have already bought lots of the .com domain names. If you have a somewhat common last name (like Ward), you may find the domain name for your first and last name has already been bought! In that case consider altering the name you want slightly. In my case I added my middle initial on my author site (www.travisnward.com) and I added my maiden name, Neighbor, on this website.
The other alternative is to change the extension. That means you could use .info, .biz, or any of the other extensions instead of .com.
5. Once You Find the Domain Name You Want and It's Available, Scoop it Up Fast!
ICANN doesn't sell domains on its searchable database, so in order to buy it you will have to go through an authorized Internet registrar. Often these registrars are also Web hosts (i.e. Internet service providers), like InMotion Hosting and Bluehost. They can purchase the domain name on your behalf, host your website, allow you to create email addresses tied to your domain name, and more.