How To Buy Domain Names
In this guide I will explain how to buy domain names for your business or hobby site.
Buying a domain name might not be a top priority when you are starting out.
If you’re setting up a new business or a new blog and you’ve got a ton of things to do.
But amongst all of these tasks there is one thing that really needs your attention and it could have a huge impact on the future of your business.
Yes, we’re talking about buying a domain name!
They’re not expensive and it takes seconds to buy a domain, but don’t think this is something that you can leave to the last minute.
In fact, registering your domain name should be one of the first thing you do, otherwise you could have a whole lot of changes to make to legal documents, printed materials, etc. further down the line.
But which is the best domain name for you out of the dozens of different types of domain?
Well we’ve prepared some sure fire tips to make sure that you get the right name when you buy domains and you can hit the deck running.
What Is A Domain Name?
The first thing you need to be aware of is that your domain name is your internet real estate. As such it is a valuable resource for you and your business.
In this guide we’ll give you as much advice as possible, but one really important point to remember is that once you register your domain name, and assuming that you are not infringing anyone’s copyright or trademarks (we’ll come onto that shortly) then nobody can take it away from you.
Domain names are pretty cheap and you decide for how long you want to register them for so there is no long term obligation. If you decide not to renew your domain name, no problem, you’re under no obligation. So if you’re not sure then it’s always worth buying a domain for the minimum period, say 1 year, and then letting it expire at the end.
Does my domain name need to be the same as my registered business name
This is a question we often hear. People assume that because they have registered their business legally (say with Companies House in the UK) that their domain name needs to reflect this exactly.
But that isn’t the case (certainly in the UK – please check with a legal expert in your jurisdiction). Don’t worry, you have a great degree of flexibility here and no one is going to start legal proceedings against you because your domain name isn’t exactly the same as your registered business name.
For example, let’s say that you’re starting a barber shop and your name is Eddie. Maybe you’re going to register your business as ‘Eddie’s Barber Shop Ltd’. You offer traditional gent’s hairdressing and beard trimming.
So here you have a certain degree of flexibility. You could buy a domain like one of these:
The point is that you have a few options to play with. You certainly don’t just need to limit yourself to EddiesBarberShopLtd for your domain name.
Which Domain Extension is best?
OK, so now that you’ve got a few ideas for the possible name you need to think about which domain extensions are best for you.
Again, this is a question that often arises and there is simply no cut and dried answer. It all depends on personal preference.
However, as a starting point we would always recommend that you only buy a domain if you can register all of the main extensions, starting with the .com.
The reason for this is that .com domains are way out front the most popular domain extensions (they are referred to as Top Level Domains or TLDs). Whether or not you ultimately intend to use the .com or not, we would always advise you to purchase domains where you can buy the .com to avoid anyone else from domain squatting (also known as cybersquatting – see below).
So, once you have established that the .com is available there are 3 other points you need to consider:
- Value Added
Let’s have a look at each in turn.
Localised Domain Extensions
By localisation we mean that you can buy domain names related to where you are located. Starting at country level (e.g. .co.uk for the UK, .es for Spain) you can even drill down to cities (e.g. .london).
Many of our clients are based in the UK so we would always recommend that they purchase a .co.uk domain name too.
Any further down than that, e.g. to city level is purely a question of choice. If you are on a tight budget then maybe that is not the best use of your budget to buy a domain name you’re not going to use immediately when you’re just starting out, but you could always come back and buy it later.
Now if you’re getting a bit concerned about buying all these domains and what will you do with them all, then don’t worry we’ll show you a way to organise them all in a moment.
Organization Domain Extensions
Some domain names are better suited for different types of organization and should definitely be considered too.
For example the TLD .org is often used for organizations such as those run on a not for profit basis or charities.
In the UK the equivalent is .org.uk. So if you need to buy a domain name for a charity these would be a good choice.
Then there are other types such as .net (network or internet related businesses), .biz (for businesses) or .eu (businesses or organizations in the EU).
If you are in one of these categories then you should buy domains that are a natural fit for your business.
However, let’s take a situation where your preferred domain extension (e.g. .com or .co.uk) is not available but the .org or .org.uk is available. It might be tempting in this case to go for the .org or .org.uk alternative.
However, there are a couple of compelling reasons not to do this.
Firstly, .org and .org.uk are considered for not for profit ventures. If you are running a business then visitors to your website may think that they have gone to the wrong website. They may be looking to purchase and you are just sending them the wrong impression, despite what your website actually looks like or says.
Secondly and most importantly, you would normally register one of these because your first choice alternative of .com or .co.uk, etc. is not available.
This could be for one of two reasons:
- Someone has just registered the domain to take it off the market. In that case a website may appear there in competition with you at some point in the future
- Someone already has a business set up using the more desireable domain(s)
Either way, it would not be wise to buy a domain like .org, .org.uk etc. on that basis as you would always be looking over your shoulder at them.
Industry Domain Extensions
Another popular type of domain extension are industry specific extensions which tell people exactly what you do.
For example, if you are photographer you might want to buy a domain with a .photography suffix. If you sell bikes then you could buy domains that are .bike based.
Again, this is purely down to personal preference.
At the time of writing (March 2016) these types of domain are not as widespread as the classic domains like .com, .co.uk, etc. but they are increasingly popular and in the future they could become much more accepted so they are definitely one to consider.
Value Added Domain Extensions
A final category of domain extension that may be worth considering are value added extensions which help you to spread your online footprint. The types of domain are ones like .mobi or .tv.
The .mobi was originally intended for setting up mobile versions of a website, but nowadays with the increased use of Responsive Design in websites the .mobi is not so relevant.
Likewise with the .tv extension, these can be used for websites that intend to include a lot of video in their content output as well as being perfect for companies operating in video or television markets.
Usually though unless you are specifically involved in these markets you can probably do without these extensions.
The exception here is if you are a larger brand and there is the possibility of cybersquatting. In this case, for a small annual fee you could just register the domain and set to auto-renew.
Should You Choose Domains for Better SEO?
OK, so you’ve seen that you’re not restricted to getting a domain name that matches your registered business name and you also have a lot of choice when it comes to the type of domain extension.
But another question that often arises is whether you should register a domain name to get an advantage in the Search Results, like Google. Some people will tell you that you should first run some keyword research and then use that to inform your decision on domains names.
For example, let’s go back to Eddie’s Barber Shop. Let’s say that he’s based in London. Now a search in the Google keyword tool might tell us that the most popular search terms are something like this (please note that this is a hypothetical example):
Best mens hairdresser London
Recommended gents hairdresser London
Cheap gents hair stylist London
If you wanted to try to game the system you might choose a domain like ‘bestmenshairdresserLondon.com’ or ‘cheapgentshairstylistLondon.com’
But would you really want that to appear on your business cards or when you have to tell someone your website address. Unlikely, I’m sure. Not only does it look spammy it just sounds unprofessional.
However, there would be nothing wrong with adding some kind of geographic element to your domain name, for example you could use:
However, whilst they are an improvement, they still look a bit spammy and they just don’t sound as nice as the shorter version.
If you are focused on SEO and getting more traffic then you will have plenty of opportunity to do that throughout your website. Google and the other search engines look at the URLs, the metatags, the headings, the internal link structure and the text that appears on the pages of your website. These are more appropriate places to add keywords to tell them where you are and what you do.
That is a complete subject in it’s own right, but overall there is absolutely nothing wrong with including either your profession or your location (or both) in the domain. Just try to exercise some discretion and try not to focus too much on squeezing in keywords. You have your whole website to do that.
So in a nutshell don’t buy domains purely to game the system. Focus on having a well optimized website which is fast, mobile friendly and has loads of great content.
Should you include a hyphen in your Domain Names?
So you’re narrowing down your search and you’ve found a couple of options, but the problem is that someone has registered one of the main extensions you want, say a .com or a .co.uk.
But not to worry you think, if I can buy domains that are similar and just add a hyphen in there ‘-’ then all of the extensions I want are available. For example, let’s say that you want to register eddiesbarbershop and the .co.uk is available but someone has reserved the .com. You might want to buy domains like eddies-barbershop.com or maybe eddiesbarber-shop.com or even eddies-barber-shop.com.
The problem here is that people (i.e. your clients or prospective clients) might forget where the hyphen goes. If they misspell the domain they might not find your website.
For that reason, unless you can absolutely avoid it, we strongly urge you to avoid the use of hyphens when you buy a domain name.
Copyright and Trademarks
Another issue that is worth looking at is copyright and Trademarks. Now we are not legal experts so we strongly recommend that you get the necessary legal advice if you are unsure.
So if we take an example where maybe you are a vendor of a well known household brand, maybe a world famous manufacturer of home computers or smart phones.
Unless you have their express permission you should avoid using their name when you buy a domain name. It might seem innocent enough, but remember that business that have taken the time and money to protect their brand usually have a larger legal team than you do.
As we say, take legal advice if you are not sure but usually you will know yourself in advance.
You have been warned!
Domain Squatting/Cyber Squatting
Starting your new venture is an exciting time and you are looking positively to the future. We don’t want to introduce negative thoughts, but understanding domain squatting/cyber squatting is important for you especially when you are just starting out, so let’s quickly address that point.
Domain squatting is when someone purchases your domain name but with a different extension. For example, if Eddie decided to buy Eddiesbarbershop.co.uk (because he is based in the UK) then a cyber squatter might buy the other domains like .com or .net.
They might then try to sell it back to Eddie for a much higher price.
Now that might not be an issue for Eddie as he isn’t really thinking of expanding to the United States, but for just a small annual fee, Eddie could have saved himself the hassle. As we said previously, it is worth buying the main Top Level extensions like .com and possibly the .net just to take them off the market. Remember – domain names are cheap and you can just set them to automatically renew each year.
One final point on domain squatting is that with the .uk domain extension there is some protection for you. With these extensions, only the person or business who already owns the existing .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .plc.uk or .ltd.uk. This condition exists up until 10 June 2019 though.
Directing Your Domain Names to your Website
Once you have decided on your domain name, if you decide to purchase several extensions then you might be wondering how to get the best use out of them.
Usually you will have one domain which you use as the website. Using our example, let’s say that Eddie has settled on Eddiesbarbershop.com
He also decides to buy domains like Eddiesbarbershop.co.uk, Eddiesbarbershop.uk (he owns the .co.uk so he has the right to the .uk version) and Eddiesbarbershop.london.
So now he has 4 domains in total – the main .com domain and 3 variations of domain extensions.
For now, just to be on the safe side what we would recommend is that Eddie sets up domain parking for the 3 alternatives. Domain parking is a web hosting feature that allows other domains to be ‘parked’ on the main one. If someone types in one of the parked domains then they are taken immediately to the main website.
So in this case, if someone types in Eddiesbarbershop.co.uk by mistake they are taken straight to Eddiesbarbershop.com which is the correct address for the website.
That is the real advantage of purchasing several domain options. People may write the domain extension incorrectly or maybe they do it from memory, but by using parked domains you will always be sure that they end up where you want them to – on your home page. Domain parking is free with Pickaweb’s hosting services and you can park as many domains as you like.
In the future he might want to buy a domain like Eddiesbarbershop.hair if and when the .hair domain extension becomes available for public registration. As and when that happens it is just a question of parking that domain too. Simple!
What about Misspelling Alternatives?
One area that can cause a little bit of uncertainty is whether or not to register alternative domains based on possible misspelling by people.
Overall this is probably over-hyped and is could be avoided simply by choosing a less complex domain name in the first place.
For example, let’s imagine that you offer Search Engine Optimization services. Or is it Search Engine Optimisation (with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘z’)? If you were thinking of a domain name that includes the word Optimization/Optimisation then you would need to decide one way or the other.
But what if your potential clients spell it the other way? And to make matters worse your main competitor spots this and registers the alternative. Now you’re in a real pickle and you wish you’d bought the other spelling too.
Isn’t it best to just avoid all of this in the first place and try to avoid using any words that may have common alternative spellings or be difficult to spell?
The alternative is to just buy domains with loads of alternative spellings of your domain name and pay the ongoing costs to renew them each year.
What is the best length of a domain name?
In terms of the length of your domain, whilst you have 63 characters to play with, there is obviously no need to use them all. Their reaches a point in terms of the number of characters where you get a diminishing return.
What we mean is that it may be tempting to try to stuff as many words into your domain name in an attempt to game the search engines, but there is no certainty that this will help you and it will certainly make life difficult for potential clients trying to write it out in their browser.
If you check back to the section on SEO, then it would be far wiser to create more pages with more focused content around specific keywords rather than trying to squeeze everything into a super-dooper-mega-extensive-catch-absolutely-every-single-possible-keyword-combination-known-to-humanity-domain-name.com
It’s really down to personal choice, but as a rule of thumb shorter domains are easier to remember.
Can I hide my personal details with my domain?
Of course privacy is a huge issue these days and that is no exception when it comes to your domain names. Anyone can perform a Whois search on the publicly available whois database and see who owns a domain name.
In some cases it will show your contact details, address, email address, telephone number etc. (with UK domains like .co.uk and .uk your phone number and email address will never appear).
Now to reassure you, it is always possible to hide your details if you are an individual and in some cases for businesses too, but there is sometimes a cost as we shall explain.
Whois Privacy for Top Level Domains (like .com, .org, .net)
With domains like .com, .org, .net, etc. there is a whois privacy service. There is an annual charge for this service and you can activate it when you register your domain or any point thereafter during the domain’s registration period.
With Pickaweb you have the ability to manage your domain’s contact details in your client area. However, if you are tempted to change the contact details to something other than your own then you run the risk that if the registry does an audit and your contact details are false then your domain name could be suspended. Also, if you change your email address then renewal reminders may not get through to you.
Whois Privacy for UK domains (like .co.uk, .org.uk, .uk)
With UK domains the whois privacy is only available to individuals. It is not available to businesses.
If you are a business and someone does a whois search on your domain then they will see your company name, the registrants name (individual or company) and the company address. It has been known for businesses to try to circumvent this by registering a domain as an individual rather than as a company. This is against the Registry’s terms of service and can result in your domain being suspended.
With Pickaweb there is no charge for the whois privacy for UK domain names for individuals.
How To Buy A Domain Name
Buying a domain name is easy. First run a check in the domain search facility on our website. This will tell you if the domain name is available for registration.
If it is it will also tell you which other extensions are available. As a minimum we would recommend that you purchase the .com equivalent even if you choose not to use it for your website. It is better to prevent someone else from registering it. You can always set it up as a Parked Domain so that it redirects to your preferred domain name when your website is set up.
Then you just need to choose how many years to register your domain name for. Most domains can be registered for between 1 to 10 years.
At this point you need to decide if you want to register the domain name in your name or a company name. There is no hard and fast rule here. However, if you purchase it for your business then the domain name is the property of the business rather than you as an individual.
You also need to decide if you want to use the Whois Privacy Service. This service is free for UK domains like .co.uk but there is an annual fee for TLDs like .com. You will see this option during the ordering process when you buy a domain name.
Once you have completed your purchase your domain name is registered in your name and an email is sent to you confirming this. There is no paperwork involved so you will not receive a certificate or anything like that.
How To Renew Your Domain Names
Finally, your domain names are valuable assets for your business and if you want to keep them all registered and up to date then you need to be aware of how the domain renewal system works.
Basically when you buy a domain name it becomes your property for as long as you register it. Most domains can be registered for up to 10 years into the future.
So when your domain is approaching its expiry date you will be sent several renewal notifications inviting you to renew your domain registration in advance of the expiry date. Typically these are sent 90 days, 60 days, 30 days, 10 days and on expiry so you get plenty of notice.
What happens if my domain expires and I haven’t renewed it?
However, sometimes people forget or they are away when the domain expires or maybe their contact details are not up to date and they haven’t received the renewal reminders.
Well in these cases, if the domain expires there is no need to panic, you still get another bite at the cherry.
The first thing you will notice is that your website stops working once the domain expires and that is usually enough to remind you. But what happens if you have say several domains that you are parking (redirecting) and maybe you don’t notice straight away. Well it all depends on the type of domain, so here are the main processes for the main ones.
Domain Expiry Procedure for TLDs (like com, .org, .net)
With these types of domain you have 30 day grace period after the expiry date to renew your domain(s). After 30 days the domain enters what is known as the Redemption Period which lasts 40 days. During the Redemption Period the registered owner can still renew the domain but there is an additional fee to be paid called the Redemption Fee.
Be warned, the Redemption Fee is not cheap and would normally cover several years of domain registration fees. However, paying the fee and an additional year of domain registration fees ensures that the domain remains your property.
Failure to pay the Redemption Fee means that after the Redemption Period finishes the domain will be released for registration on a first come, first served basis and there is no guarantee that you will be able to re-register the domain in your name.
Please note that some domain extensions like .eu and .es do not have a 30 day grace period and the domain enters the Redemption Period immediately on expiry and the Redemption Fee is payable then.
Domain Expiry Procedure for UK domains (like .co.uk, .org.uk, .uk)
With UK domains the procedure is slightly different than for the TLD domains. Once the domain expires you have 30 days before the domain is suspended by the Registrar (Nominet) at which point all services like email and your website will stop working.
After this, once the domain has been suspended for 60 days (i.e. 90 days after expiry) your domain is cancelled by the UK Registry (Nominet) and the domain is released for registration on a first come, first served basis and there is no guarantee that you will be able to re-register the domain in your name.
Well good luck! It looks like there is a lot to take into account, but if you consider the points we have mentioned here you shouldn’t have any issues.
Here is a quick summary of the main points for you:
- Your domain name does not need to be the same as your registered business name (in the UK – check your local jurisdiction)
- Try to purchase domains where you can get the main TLDs like .com
- Purchase your country domain extension, e.g. .co.uk, .es
- If you are an organization, association or not for profit then a .org or .org.uk is perfect
- Avoid buying domains like .org, .org uk as a substitute for your preferred .com or .co.uk which is not available
- If there is an industry extension (eg: .bike) then this could be an option if you have the budget
- Don’t buy a domain name stuffed with keywords for SEO purposes – concentrate on creating great content in your website
- If possible, try to avoid using hyphens when you buy a domain name
- Don’t infringe another company’s’ trademark or copyright by including their brand in your domain name
- To avoid domain squatting/cyber squatting consider purchasing the main Top Level Domains like .com and .net as well as the country domain extension
- Set up domain parking to redirect domains to your main domain
- Try to avoid complicated spelling or words that have a commonly misspelled alternative
- Keep domain length fairly short if possible
- Set up domain privacy if you are registering as an individual when you buy a domain name
- Remember to set your domain to auto-renew to avoid losing the registration
We hope you have found our guide on how to buy domain names useful.
Thanks for reading and leave your questions below to keep the conversation going.