How to register a domain name
To register a domain name and get a unique URL (uniform resource locator), you must go to the website of an accredited domain name registrar and find out if the name is available. If it's not already registered by someone else, you can register it for an annual fee.
The registrar conducts the internal business of registration: it communicates with the registry operator, who maintains a database of all registered domain names on the Internet. An entry is added for the domain name you want to register, and your contact information is added to the domain entry.
Do I need a domain name?
A domain name is vital to a website for the following reasons.
- A domain name can make a website easy to remember. For example, computerhope.com is easier to remember and type than webhost.com/user/~computerhope.
- Domain names help with marketing your brand.
- Keywords in your domain name help with SEO (search engine optimization).
- A domain name lets you have custom e-mail addresses. For example, instead of [email protected], you can have [email protected].
What if I don't have a website?
You can register a domain name without already having a website. But, if you are pointing the domain name to a website, this registry also contains the nameserver information for your domain name. When users on the Internet type your domain name in the address bar, their request is forwarded to the nameservers listed in your registration information. These servers are usually the nameservers operated by your hosting service.
You can use free services from Cloudflare to help redirect and manage how a domain is handled without a web server.
Is a domain name expensive?
Registration and renewing a new domain is affordable, often around $10 a year. However, if you're buying a domain from a domain reseller, the initial cost to purchase the domain from them can be several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some highly-desirable domains can even sell for millions. For example, the most expensive domain (business.com) sold for $345 million in 2007.
Suggestions to consider when looking for a domain name
- Always get a .com domain name. Alternative domain suffixes (e.g., .net) for your domain name may be available, but everyone uses the .com domain before any other suffix in the United States.
- Keep your domain name as short as possible. Ideally, less than 15 characters.
- Always try to have important keywords in your domain name for SEO purposes.
- Avoid hyphens in your domain name unless you plan on also registering the domain name without hyphens. For example, if you registered "computer-hope.com" you should also register "computerhope.com."
- Realize a lot of domain names are already taken. With patience, you can find a name you like without paying a premium from a domain reseller or auction.
Does capitalization matter when registering a domain name?
No. A domain is not case-sensitive, meaning you can use uppercase or lowercase in your search. For example, "COMPUTERHOPE.COM," "ComputerHope.com," and "computerhope.com" are all the same domain name.
Finding an available domain name
Before purchasing a domain name, you must find one that's not currently in use. To check if a domain name is available, you can use an online WHOIS service or the whois command from the command line.
Online WHOIS services
Below are examples of online WHOIS services we trust and use. See our WHOIS page for further information about the whois command and other related information.
Can't I use a browser?
No. Entering domain names in a browser only checks to see if that domain has a website. Many domain name resellers, businesses, and individuals register domain names without setting up a website for them.
Could someone steal my WHOIS searches?
There are many stories online claiming to have domains stolen after doing whois searches. Although a non-reputable company could do this, we've never encountered such a problem, and we've registered hundreds of domains over the past 20 years. If you're using one of the online services we mentioned on our WHOIS page, this should not be a concern. If you still don't like the idea of using an online service, use the whois command from your computer (also mentioned on the WHOIS page above).
All the domain names I try are taken
It can be time-consuming finding a domain name that is not already registered. Although it may be possible to buy a domain name from the owner or an auction, we recommend continuing to search until you find a name. A trick we use when registering domains is finding keywords we like and then looking up alternative words in a Thesaurus.
For example, when coming up with "Computer Hope," we initially started with the words "computer" and "help." Because "computer" was an important keyword we wanted to keep, we only focused on "help." Looking up the word "help" in a Thesaurus finds the following words.
advice, aid, benefit, comfort, guidance, service, support, assist, cure, maintenance, remedy, utility, helping, hand
Combining any of these synonyms we like with "computer" (e.g., computeraid.com, computercure.com, computersupport.com, etc.) can give us other ideas to try and see if they're available.
Using a site like relatedwords.org is another great place to find more than only synonyms.
I found a domain I want to purchase
If you find an available domain you want to purchase, you must use a domain registrar to buy it. The company you choose is not critical, so you can shop around for the best price. Also, the company you decide to use doesn't need to host or create the website. For example, you could have a website through Squarespace, purchase a domain through GoDaddy, and manage the DNS (domain name system) through Cloudflare. It's also possible to transfer domains you own to other registrars.
Examples of domain name registrars
Below are examples of companies who help with registering your domain name. Realize there are other companies available for registering a domain name.
What is a domain auction?
Domain marketplaces have auctions that allow anyone to buy and sell Internet domains they own. These auctions are constantly taking place, allowing you to get a domain previously purchased by someone else. One of the biggest marketplaces is the GoDaddy auction website, run by GoDaddy.
Bid, offer, and buy
Most marketplaces have several options for buying and selling a domain. The seller can choose from one of the following options when selling a domain.
- Bid - Those interested make an offer of what they're willing to pay, and the highest accepted bid wins the domain.
- Offer - Send the seller an offer of what you're willing to pay for the domain, and if accepted, get the domain.
- Buy - The seller sets a price, and paying that amount gets you the domain without waiting.
If you're attempting to get a domain from an auction, realize there's a good chance you will be outbid or your offer won't be accepted. It's up to the seller to agree to the transaction, so we recommend only looking at domains with a buy price. When you purchase a domain, you don't have to worry about attempting to negotiate, and you get the domain almost immediately.
Use the Advanced Search option on the GoDaddy auctions page to set your search parameters. For example, if we were looking for domains with "computer," we'd use the advanced search, specify we want a domain containing "computer," with a "Buy now" type, and is a .com domain.
What are domain brokers?
Domain brokers work at the domain registrar or marketplace and can assist you in acquiring any domain name. Realize it's still up to the seller to decide their domain price or if they even want to sell. All a broker may do is get in contact with the domain owner. Also, realize it costs money to hire a broker and they also take a commission of the final sale price.
Should I have more than one domain name?
After purchasing your domain, consider other related domains that could be used for cybersquatting or trick your potential visitors. For example, if the .net and .org versions of your .com domain name are available (e.g., computerhope.net), consider buying them too. If you can think of how users may misspell your domain (e.g., computerhoe.com) and the domain is available, it could be a smart buy.
Extra domains you purchase can be redirected to your primary domain and help prevent others from getting them and using them to trick your visitors or customers.
What is a domain name alias or domain alias?
A domain alias is a cheaper solution pointing a domain name to an alternative website. For example, a user would type https://www.computerhope.com and be forwarded to https://www.webhost.com/user/~computerhope, a blog, or a social networking site.