A domain name is your website's equivalent to a physical address. It helps users find your site easily instead of using its internet protocol (IP) address, giving your audience an easy way to find you without memorising a string of random numbers and letters.
Your chosen domain name is unquestionably one of the most crucial elements of any website, and without a good one, your business could be over before it’s even started. You can have the most stylish, functional website out there, selling the best product at the lowest price AND be giving away a free puppy (an extra cute one) with every order, and still fail. It makes no difference what you’re offering if nobody can find it.
Not only will your domain name impact how likely people are to find your website, but it will also play a huge role in how they perceive you from the get-go, an important aspect of any growing business.
As of May 2022, there were 1.93 billion websites, and there are around 576,000 new websites going live every day. Before you reach the end of this article, an estimated 3,600 new websites will have been created and are going live.
It’s a saturated market (to put it lightly), and you’re going to need to do everything you can to ensure your website stands out from the crowd while looking professional and credible.
When you purchase a domain, you’re carving out your own corner of online real estate, so it’s important to consider your options before taking the plunge. It’s an exciting step for any new business, but there’s more to it than just finding the perfect name.
Read on to discover our top tips for making the process of buying your domain name as stress-free and successful as possible.
First things first, you need to decide on a name!
Now technically the domain name is just the name of your website, but you’d be foolish — and most likely regretful — to not give it some serious thought.
The domain name is the first thing potential customers look for when they’re seeking you out online, it’s the name people will use when recommending you to a friend, and it’s ultimately your brand. If you have a confusing, unmemorable name, there’s going to be a disconnect at best, at worst they’re going to get lost en route.
Think practically about a site you use all the time, say Google.co.uk. It’s been 24 years since it launched, and you’ve probably used it tens of thousands of times since then if not more.
Google is a made-up word, but it’s snappy, it’s short and it’s easy to remember — just like it’s domain Google.co.uk. Now imagine when it first arrived on the web scene the company was called Google, but the domain name was Goooo7539x-gle.online, for example. Do you think that as many people would have committed its name to memory, visited it frequently and ultimately turned it into the behemoth it is today? We think not.
With that in mind, here are our key tips to help you find the perfect domain name:
If you decide on the domain name of your dreams and find it’s already owned by someone else, don’t lose hope. It’s possible that it was purchased many years ago as a potential investment, or that it belonged to a now-defunct business. Many registrars offer broker services and will get in touch with the owner for you with a bid. Alternatively, you can find their contact details online and go for a more personal approach. There’s no guarantee they’ll want to sell or will ask for a reasonable sale price but if you don’t ask you don’t get.
If you’re still unsure, try a domain name generator like Domain Wheel. These handy free tools automatically search for your defined keywords and provide you with an extensive list of possible domains.
You’ll also find most domain registrars almost all have a handy generator built into their search function that’ll offer up suggestions and a list of alternatives if your name of choice is taken.
A TLD or Top-Level Domain is the extension you see at the end of a website address such as .com., .co.uk, .net, .biz, etc.
Most people have only heard of a handful, but there are currently 1,591 top-level domains currently in use according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit that regulates and coordinates the internet domain namespace.
.com. and .co.uk are the most commonly seen (.com domains account for over half of all websites worldwide) and are the most trusted so well worth choosing. You might find a domain name with a less common TLD will be a lot cheaper to purchase, but this is a clear case of needing to spend money to make money.
70% of consumers said that they don’t trust newer and less recognizable domains, so you’d really be shooting yourself in the foot here in an attempt to save cash.
If you’re a UK-based business and the vast majority of your audience are UK customers, a co.uk domain is a good choice. If your services are available globally, then a .com address is preferable. It can be tricky to change from a .com to a co.uk address (and vice-versa) down the line so think realistically about the projected growth of your business. It doesn’t hurt to hope and plan for the best here, in fact, it’s a savvier business decision.
There are quite literally thousands of domain name providers to choose from, each one offering a different product package. Some keep it simple and sell only domain names, whereas others offer everything from web hosting to website design packages. To ensure you make the right choice it’s important to spend some time researching what each one offers and who will work best for your requirements.
With so many options out there, choosing the best provider for you can be a daunting task. No matter what your site is offering, your budget and your business plans, there are some key aspects everyone should consider.
Follow our top tips and you’ll be able to find the right one for you:
1. Pricing and promotions: A budget should be at the top of the list for any fledgling business, but that doesn’t mean you should jump on the cheapest domain name available. Many domain providers offer deals for as low as £0.99 a year, but these super-affordable deals are rarely what they’re cracked up to be. Note that the average price for a .com. or a .co.uk address is currently between £7-£12.
Most often you’ll need to sign on to a longer-term contract, or the domain name will only be offered with a less trustworthy TLD. It’s common for a registrar to offer promotional pricing at an extremely low cost, but then hide lots of fees in the contract, lock you in and charge high renewal rates. All domains come with a limited time validity, after which you’ll need to renew (assuming your website is still in use). Some registrars may offer a £1 deal for the first year and then hit you with a £14.99 a year renewal fee — a not insignificant price hike.
When you come across these rock-bottom introductory prices the first thing you should check is how much you’ll have to pay to keep that domain once your deal comes to an end.
These deals may also lack basic security, privacy, transfer and domain management tools, and then try to upsell you these as extra features when checking out, vastly increasing your total. We’re not saying it’s impossible to find a good deal, just that now is not the time to ignore the fine print.
As a general rule, give preference to a domain provider that offers excellent service, a transparent and easy renewal process and no tricky terms all for a reasonable price.
2. Review additional extras: As it’s standard for most domain registrars to also offer a whole number of other web-related services it’s common to find these bundled and offered to customers when you’re looking to purchase a domain name.
Typical offerings may be web hosting, email hosting, a website builder, and additional security features. It's worth making a list ahead of time of the services you’ll need in addition to a domain name, and you may be able to save yourself time and money by purchasing this way. Just don’t be swayed by a hard upsell and end up signing up for a package you don’t need for a price you’re not comfortable paying. It might keep things simple, but you’re under no obligation to buy these services all from the same place, and there may be better deals to be found elsewhere.
One extra that’s always worth signing up for is auto-renewal or renewal reminder emails. Your chosen domain name must be renewed to stay active, and the consequences of letting it expire could be significant if your business still uses and requires its website. Having this handy feature just means it’s one less thing to worry about.
To find the best deals and learn more about web hosting, read our articles The Best Website Hosting Companies UK, and visit Top Tips – Website Hosting to find the right service for you and your business.
3. Consider customer service: As we all know, shit happens, and when it does you want to know ahead of time what kind of customer support you can expect. Problems can appear from nowhere, and you may need to contact your domain name registrar for assistance.
You want to know that should something go wrong with your domain it’ll be fixed quickly before it can have any negative impact on your business and potentially sales. Look out for providers who offer 24/7 customer service via chat, email, phone, and social media.
Some less reputable registrars don't technically have support staff, but instead, have salespeople who are trained to get you to buy add-on services that you may not need. This is a hellish scenario to find yourself in if you’re desperate to get your domain issue resolved.
Most importantly, research and read unbiased online reviews and listen to what people are saying about a company’s customer service team. Keep an eye out for any that keep finding themselves at the top of any customer satisfaction lists. You want a registrar that offers courteous, swift, and professional service and assistance, and following these steps will help give you confidence that you’re making the right choice.
4. Data protection and security: With the rise of online consumerism, security has unfortunately become an issue for many businesses. It’s not uncommon to hear reports of security breaches, data leaks and various online crimes every week, and if you own a website and domain, and want to keep it safe then this should be an important consideration.
During your search, you’ll notice a lot of companies offer WHOIS privacy (or their own version) for free. When you sign up for a domain, this becomes a public record and by law, you must disclose some personal details including your name, address, and email. If you don’t want these details visible to anyone searching for them, then a privacy protection add-on is a must. Many registrars offer this for free, or for a small fee. Either way, it’s an important feature to sign up for to avoid any identity theft issues down the road.
As well as the security of your own details, ensure to take every step possible to secure your domain name. Finding your domain name has been hijacked is a nightmare for any website owner, and it could have catastrophic effects if it means your audience cannot reach your site. In these cases, a domain name is ‘hijacked’ and transferred, with the intention of selling it to one of your competitors, or back to you, at an often exorbitant fee.
Be sure to pick a reputable registrar with a reputation for taking extra measures to prevent data loss and domain hijacking. It’s worth spending a little extra to sign up for a contract that includes domain locking and multistep authentication as standard.
5. User experience: If you’re launching a website, chances are you have a lot going on behind the scenes, and any provider that makes your life easier can be worth its weight in gold.
A domain provider's website should be intuitive, easy to navigate and offer a clear and transparent pricing structure and detailed terms and conditions, so you’re not hit with any surprises later on. Their customer support services should also be easy to access and won’t send you around in circles chatting to a bot before they’ll give up any real email or phone number information.
Look for transparency in all aspects of the website. It should be easy to find details on important information like the renewal process (and any charges), domain transfer and the cancellation policy. If a company appears to have nothing to hide, its services are likely to be more dependable.
Ready for the next step? Visit our article Best Domain Name Providers UK to see our pick of the best registrars out there and find the perfect match for you.
Starting a new business or online venture is an exciting process and choosing and buying a domain name should be a fun rite of passage.
There are plenty of things to think about, but it needn’t be a daunting task.
Following our guides, you can side-step some of the pitfalls that face every newbie to make sure that your domain name, website and ultimately business is a resounding success.