Domain Name Buying Guide

domain names
In this easy domain name buying guide, we'll show you everything you need to know about domain names.

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Every website needs one, and it’s an important part of your brand. Choosing a domain name can be a tough decision. In this domain name buying guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to make a confident decision.

Quick find…

What is a domain name?

Part of creating an online business involves building a website. Websites are identified primarily by their domain name. At its most basic form, a domain name is a string of text that identifies a specific website on the internet.

Domain names are used as addresses – to identify websites so that users can access them. Think of a domain name like your home address – without a home address, how could a postal worker deliver your mail?

Without a domain name, how could you access a website? Well, originally, this was done via typing in the IP address of the server the website was hosted on.

However, how easily could you remember an IP address? Domain names present an easier way to access a website and essentially direct users to the address of the server, without the complication of typing an IP address!

Domain names are generally broken into 3 sections:

  1. www.
  2. Digitalsupermarket
  3. .com

The section: www represents the top level domain – www is essentially a generic identifier for the internet, or the world wide web.

The middle section, i.e. Digitalsupermarket is the subdomain. This is typically the business name. Finally, the end section, i.e. .com is the domain extensions – we have detailed this in below sections. 

What is a domain name server?

An integral part of domain name usage is the DNS or Domain Name Server.

Without DNS, we would not be able to translate website addresses into their actual location on the internet. The primary function of a DNS is to translate a domain name into an IP address.

If you are interested in finding the IP of a website, you can always use sites like whatismyip.com. Without a DNS server, your computer or smartphone would not be able to access any website – even something simple like Google.com.

Domain Name Servers interact with name servers – the name servers keep a list of records that correlate IP addresses with their relative domain name. It is this system that enables the internet to work, and allows domain names to exist.

how a dns works infographic
Image credit: Aws

How to pick a domain name

Choosing a domain name is incredibly important for your business. It is how customers will search for your business, and something they will come to associate your business with.

Here’s how to pick a domain name:

  1. The domain name should ideally include your business name.

  2. It should also convey what your business is or what it does.

  3. If possible, it should be catchy and memorable.

  4. Shorter domain names are also preferable as they are easier to remember.

  5. If possible, it should contain high-ranking keywords associated with your business

It’s not just a simple case of choosing a cool address!

Take time to draft different domain names, and plan your choice carefully using the above pointers.

Domain name extensions 

A domain name extension is the final string of characters after the sub-domain text. For example in www.digitalsupermarket.com, .com is the extension.

There are a myriad of different domain name extensions that have different meanings and often apply to different industries. Consideration should be given to what extension you choose as it can play a role in the effectiveness of your website.

Common domain extensions include:

  • .com – short for commercial – the most popular extension

  • .co.uk – united kingdom websites

  • .edu – short for education – commonly used by educational institutes

  • .net – short for network – originally used for companies involved in networking

  • .gov – short for government – used for official government websites

  • .mil – short for military – used by official military groups

  • .org – short for organisation – a generic extension used for business

For general business, most companies choose .com as it is seen as a “global” extension. However, it could be beneficial to look at specialised extensions too.

domain name

How to buy a domain name

There are several ways to buy a domain name:

  1. Buy directly from a domain name registrar
  2. Buy a domain name as part of a larger website package

Firstly, there are domain name registrars that deal specifically with buying and selling of domain names. You can buy domain names from websites like Domains.com, Namecheap.com, and 123-reg.co.uk.

Compare domain names prices here.

These sites have the authority and means to distribute domain names. Alternatively, many hosting sites, and website creation sites also have the ability to sell domain names.

Compare web hosting here.

Website builders like Squarespace and Wix include a domain name as part of their website builder packages.

How to get a domain name free 

It is possible to get a domain name free – but only as part of a larger package, or by using a sub-domain.

Firstly, many website builders like Wix and Squarespace provide a free domain name as part of their basic packages. You obviously have to pay to build your website, but you get a domain name thrown in for good measure – in most instances it will be a private domain name too and you can choose the name.

Alternatively, many website providers will offer a free subdomain name – the downside of this is that it will have the prefix of the hosting company. For example a subdomain address could be www.weebly.yourwebsite.com – it works, but it doesn’t look as professional.

How to sell a domain name

Most domain name registrars will provide the means to sell your domain – either back to them, or to a different owner. Alternatively, you can find a range of websites dedicated to the trading of domain names. Websites like Sedo, Flippa, and NamePros provide the means to buy and sell domains in a secure environment.  

Valuing a domain name

Did you know that domain names have an associated value? There are some iconic domain names that could sell for millions if the owners we so inclined.

Typically, short domain names, or catchy domain names have a great value. Also, domains that are similar to popular brands and businesses will also have a higher value.

You can look at websites like DN Journal which document domain name sales and give valuations on different domains. Alternatively, to find a value on your own domain, you can use valuation services like EstiBot.com – these services value your domain based on different parameters.

How to transfer a domain name

There may be a situation where you have to transfer ownership of a domain – to the new business owner, for example. To do this, you must contact the original registrar of the domain name.

This is why it is important to keep all information and records relating to any domain name you buy. Usually, domain registrars will provide a transfer option.

This transferral will have secure mechanisms which both you and the new owner will have to complete – this is to prevent fraud and to prevent the wrongful transferral of any domain names. It may include an email confirmation, or even an SMS code or authentication code.

How is a domain name registered

All domain names are managed by ICANN – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

To register a domain name, the following process happens:

  1. You buy a domain name from a domain reseller

  2. The reseller registers the domain with an ICANN accredited registrar

  3. The registrar contacts a registry operator who updates their name server records

  4. The registry operator updates this information with ICANN

How to buy a domain name permanently

For the general public and business owners, there is no possible way to buy a domain name permanently. Licenses and registration rights for domain names are usually refreshed annually.

This means each year you have to re-register your domain name to extend your ownership for the next year. Most domain registrars like www.123-reg.co.uk will allow you to buy a domain for multiple years – but never permanently.

However, you will generally receive notifications before your domain ownership is due to expire. This means that if you register a domain, you can keep it indefinitely, providing that you pay your fees and keep on top of the re-registration process.  

How to buy a domain name from someone

There may be an instance where you have found an amazing domain name – it would fit perfectly for your business! However, someone else owns it!

Generally, to buy a domain name from someone you would need to contact the registered owner directly and put forward to them your proposal. Domain name registrars will generally not provide any means of sale or any method to trade domain names.

Alternatively, there are some fantastic trading platforms that specialize in domain name trades and auctions. Using websites like NameCheap you can search for domain names that are available to buy and they regularly host domain auctions.

Domain names are an important aspect of the internet and digital businesses. A domain name is what defines your website and what customers will type in to access your content – it is an important aspect of your online branding.

Compare domain names to find your perfect new web address at the best price!

Compare Domain Name Prices

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