Before you start working on building an online presence, you need to know your options for securing your perfect domain name. While you can choose to go with any available domain, it can be vitally important to find and register one that adds credibility to your business and instantly separates you from the millions of websites out there and your competitors. Getting this process right can be crucial. So, in this guide, we’ll dive deep into the various domain registration options to help you avoid any missteps.
What Are the Best Tools for Domain Registration?
We’ve done a lot of research on this topic and have found many good options for securing your perfect home on the web. Here are our preferred picks among the many domain registrars on the market today:
Bluehost gives users a free domain name when they sign up for its hosting plans, which are some of our favorites on the market. Get signed up with Bluehost and take care of domain registration and web hosting in one step.
Domain.com offers incredible pricing for new domain registrations, including .com URLs. Register your domain using our special ‘CRAZYEGG’ code to get an exclusive 25% discount.
More Top Domain Registrars
Choosing a domain registrar is one of the more important decisions you’ll make when creating a new website. To help you find your ideal partner, we did a deep dive into the most popular domain registrars to identify the best options to cater to different use cases. See all of our top picks for domain registrars to help you find the best match for your requirements.
What Are the Options for Registering a Domain?
The vast majority of domain registrars make it easy to search for and secure your preferred domain in mere minutes.
It mostly depends on which route you take from the two main options: using a domain registrar or securing a domain through your hosting service.
Since hosting and domains go hand-in-hand, we often encourage readers to take advantage of domain services through their web hosting provider. Bluehost is consistently one of our favorite choices for that, with their great hosting rates and the perk of getting the first year of your domain for free.
To claim your free domain, head over to Bluehost’s website and navigate to the Hosting tab. Do NOT go to the Domains menu. If you go this route, then you won’t get the first year for free.
Select any of the hosting packages. For new websites, shared hosting will be fine.
Bluehost will immediately prompt you to set up your domain. Simply enter your desired name in the Create a new domain box to verify its availability.
If it’s available, Bluehost will automatically add it to your cart and proceed to the next screen.
This is where you’ll fill in all of your information to finalize your plan terms and create your Bluehost account.
Scroll to the Package Information section of this page to confirm that the domain you selected is free for the first year.
Then simply add your billing details and create your account to secure your free domain.
This is the fastest and easiest way to get your domain registered, hosting set up, and website live—all from a single provider.
If you want to secure a domain separately from your hosting, it’s even easier. Just head to Domain.com, search for available options, and see their pricing or alternatives that are available if your top choice isn’t.
Domain.com helpfully suggests alternative extensions if the .com version of your ideal domain isn’t available.
Before checkout, you can set the span of time you want to register the domain for (usually a range of one to five years) and potentially add on privacy and protection to keep your personal information from becoming public through WHOIS search.
How Does Domain Registration Work?
Registering a domain isn’t rocket science. But there are a few details to be mindful of beyond searching for and purchasing a domain name.
First, when evaluating the pricing of different providers, you’ll want to look into their contract lengths and terms.
Some providers require a minimum registration period that can last anywhere between one to three years. Others offer discounts for long-term registration, which is actually desirable if you’ve found a domain name you want to hold onto for the long haul.
By and large, you’ll see options for term lengths between one and five years, though some registrars go up to 10 years and we’ve seen one even offer 100-year terms. While locking up your URL for a century may be a bit excessive, longer terms keep you from having to worry about paying more upon renewal of your domain or, worse, losing it to someone else because you didn’t renew in time.
Don’t forget to factor in additional fees for critical add-ons that go with domain registration. WHOIS privacy and protection is a big one. When you purchase a domain, identifying bits of information used during the purchasing process are publicly searchable and viewable via WHOIS lookup. Thus, paying the extra few bucks to keep your private information off of the WHOIS database is often worth it.
If you get your domain through a hosting provider, there are likely other add-ons that will be offered that are more pertinent to your website and hosting, such as SSL certificates, DNS management, and email service.
Second, chances are that your first choice for a domain is taken. The internet has been around for a while now, so a lot of the good .com URLs are taken. Don’t pin your hopes on getting copywriting.com or something like that through registrars like Domain.com or Porkbun.
That presents you with two options. If your heart’s dead set on your first choice or your brand absolutely needs a specific keyword to serve as your URL, you can try to purchase it from the current owner. That can get mighty expensive (just ask Steam or Major League Soccer how hard it is to pry steam.com or mls.com from their current owners), but it’s possible. In that case, you’re going to want to go through a domain broker that can negotiate the best price.
On the other hand, the cheaper, less stressful, and more straightforward way is to find alternatives to your first choice. You can try different keywords that fit your brand or look into other types of domain extensions using your business name or primary keyword. That leads us to our next question…
What Types of Domains Are Available to Register?
We all know the vaunted .com extension for URLs, as well as many of the most common alternative extensions, like .net, and .biz, and regulated extensions like .edu and .gov. Extensions are also known as Top-Level Domains (TLDs).
Let’s dive into the full array of options out there, as some of these may be new (and worthwhile) to you.
The most common TLDs are .com, .net, and .org, followed by Country Code TLDs like .uk (for the United Kingdom), .ru (for Russia), and .de (for Germany). TLDs that aren’t bound to a country are called generic TLDs.
It’s common practice to look for a .net TLD if your desired .com is taken, but it can be equally likely that the .net is already owned as well.
However, there is a wide, wide world of alternative and new TLDs available now; far too many to list out here. But we can run through some options that can make sense if you’ve hit a wall in trying to find your ideal domain.
Some of the more popular alternatives to .com and .net are .info, .news, .biz, .xyz, and .io. The last of those has become a generic TLD over time and usage, and a popular one in recent years.
Notice, too, the four-letter extensions .info and .news. That speaks to a growing trend in domains moving away from the crowded space of traditional three-letter TLDs to whole-word extensions. You’re not bound to four letters, opening up a world of possibilities for sticky, memorable domain names. For example, if you ran a tattoo shop in Ohio’s third-largest city, you could secure cincinnati.tattoo for under $3 at the time of this writing.
Porkbun, in particular, is a great resource for finding unique but useful extensions, even portioning off a page of their website to highlight new and trending generic TLDs.
Keep your mind open to possibilities when it comes to types of domains. It used to be that opting for an extension other than .com was bad practice. Nowadays, you might be limiting your opportunities (and ability to stick in the minds of customers, fans, or searchers) by settling for a clunky .com over a pithy, clever domain using a non-traditional TLD.
How Do I Choose the Best Domain Name for My Website?
While there is no exact science behind brainstorming a good domain name, there are a few common rules you can use as guidelines to pick something that resonates with your target audience.
Simple domains are always better than their fancy-sounding and complicated counterparts. Think about it: you want people to remember your domain name and type it accurately based on a mention or an advertisement. Short and sweet is key, which can make finding a good alternative TLD to .com even more important.
However, whenever possible, your domain name should match your brand’s name. After all, it’s possible that people will hear your brand name, type in yourbrandname.com, and expect to find your website. Moreso, it can also mean you cede visibility in search results to a website with your brand name in its domain.
There’s a bit of push and pull here. If you run a business called Copywriting Professionals, should you prefer copywritingprofessionals.com or the snappier copywriting.pro? Often, availability and price will make that decision for you, but if you have options to choose from, think about your audience. Will current and prospective customers more easily find you on or remember one over the other?
Perhaps there’s no available options for your brand name. In that case, using relevant keywords will help users find your website when searching for you or your products or services. They will likely recognize what you do or offer at a glance, too. For example, you can include your broad product category (for example, SEO services or coffee) or your current location (for example, Brooklyn or California). To find available domain options.
Be careful with keywords, though. Again, when it comes to domains, less is always more. Shorter names are much easier to remember and type, which also makes them easier for users to find.
What Happens After I Register My Domain?
After choosing and securing your domain, your registar will help you handle the process of connecting it to your website, allowing any user to enter the URL into their browser and arrive at your website.
If you go through your hosting provider, it’s remarkably easy. In most cases, they’ll take care of all the backend work for you. So, going with Bluehost means you don’t even have to do a thing here.
In other cases, such as purchasing a domain separately from Domain.com or Porkbun, you’ll need to connect your new URL to the servers that hold your website. This can be a bit different depending on how you built your site, whether you did it from scratch through a developer, built it on WordPress, or used a site builder like Squarespace or Shopify.
This can be a big way to differentiate options for domain registrars. You may want some help in this regard, so do some research into what sort of assistance a domain service like Domain.com or Porkbun can provide you.
Registering and connecting a domain is supposed to be seamless, quick, and easy. It’s a fundamental part of publishing a new website, something that happens thousands of times each day. If you encounter a provider that’s making you jump through hoops, we only have one piece of advice: look elsewhere.
After you get your domain properly pointing visitors to your website, most of the work is over. Just keep in mind one big thing: don’t forget about your registration term.
Be mindful of when your domain registration expires and make sure you have a plan of action should the renewal rate be more expensive than you’d like. In that case, you’re going to want to know what transferring your domain to another registrar will cost you. You cannot transfer domains within the first 60 days after registration, but other than that, your registrar should let you do whatever you want with your domain name after the probation period ends. Look for alternatives that both offer a better annual rate for your domain and that help with the transfer process, ideally for free or at least minimal cost.