Choosing the right domain name is an important first step for setting up a new website, but in order to claim it for your exclusive use and share it with the online world, you’ll need to learn how to register a domain name. Registering a new domain name requires only a few steps and relatively little money, and you can take this step even if you aren’t ready to set up your website just yet.
Why Register a Domain Name?
It’s possible to have an online presence without a domain name. A variety of fully hosted sites and even social media sites allow users to create a blog, web page, or even a simple site. Your online “address” for this kind of site then becomes a subdomain of the main site—and while that address identifies your space, it isn’t your own domain.
Buying and registering a domain name establishes your own unique locator on the Internet. It’s a user-friendly stand-in for the long string of numbers that make up your site’s official Internet Protocol (IP) address, and it’s also searchable based through search engines on the words—or keywords—that you build into your domain name. Registering a domain with a domain name registrar is the first step in launching your new site online. The domain registrar is the company that manages domain name reservations.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers maintains and coordinates the supply of IP addresses worldwide, which makes sure that every entity on the Internet has a unique address and a unique domain name that represents that address. When a new domain name is created, it must be checked against ICANN’s databases of domain names that are currently in use to avoid duplication. If the domain name you want is already registered to someone else, you won’t be able to use it for your own site, but if your new domain name is not already in use, you can register it. As long as you continue to renew your domain name, it will remain exclusively yours.
Registering your new domain name is relatively simple. All you need is an available name, a way to pay, and either a domain registrar or a web hosting provider that offers domain registration. You’ll also need to choose a hosting service, a hosting plan, and obtain an SSL certificate.
How to Check Domain Name Availability
In order to choose a domain, you’ll first need to check the availability of your desired domain name. You won’t be able to register a name that’s an exact match with any registered domain names. You can check your desired name against domain names that are already registered with any of the many free domain name checking tools available through domain registrars and web hosting providers. All you need to do is to type in your desired name along with the Top Level Domain extension that you want to use, such as .com or .org. Generic top-level domains include:
As a general rule, .com is the best choice for a new website. Originally intended to encompass just commercial websites, the .com extension is now commonly used for websites of all purposes.
If the name is already registered, you’ll be told that it’s taken. Name check tools typically offer a number of similar alternative names, along with choices of available extensions, so you may be able to secure the name you want with only a few tweaks, or the choice of an extension other than the highly desirable and very familiar .com. If need be, feel free to use a domain name generator to come up with an available name for your website. When the name you want is marked available, you can take the next step in the registration process.
How to Register a Domain Name
Domain names can be registered with an independent domain registrar, or with a web hosting provider that will host the website attached to the name. They are responsible for checking name availability and maintaining records on registered domains. Domain name registrars must be accredited by Top Level Domain registries, which are in turn accredited by ICANN.
Registrars don’t provide web hosting; they simply manage the databases of domain names in use. If you don’t currently have domain web hosting, or you’re simply reserving your ideal domain name or names for later use, registrars can “park” your domain name temporarily until you’re ready to launch your site. If you’ve already set up an account with a hosting provider, you can complete the entire name search and registration process on the provider’s site.
To register the domain, you’ll simply need to provide your chosen name and some information about yourself as the registrant who will be responsible for the domain. Registrars typically request standard contact information such as a physical address, phone number, and email address. This information goes into a Whois database, which stores contact information about domain registrants and makes it available to the public, so that anyone can look up the owner of a domain. If you are worried about privacy, many registrars offer privacy protection packages for a small fee.
To complete the domain name registration process, you’ll be asked to sign a contract. It’s important to review the registrar’s contract carefully since it generally contains provisions about things like transferring your domain from one registrar to another, or limits on the length of time a domain can remain parked without being deleted. These time limits allow other users to register domain names that have lapsed into inactivity.
You’ll also need to select a term when it comes time to renew your domain name, typically one, three, or five years, and then pay the required fees for your chosen term. Although people speak about “buying” a domain name, in reality, users are simply paying for its use for a particular period of time. If a domain name isn’t renewed at the appropriate time, it could lapse and become available again. Unused and lapsed domains are often bought and sold at online auctions and domain marketplaces.
Set Up Your Site
Once you’ve registered your new domain, you can begin planning to set up your site. If you haven’t already arranged for hosting, it might be time to shop for a host that offers the features and pricing you want. And if you aren’t ready to do that yet, your domain can remain parked as long as you keep up the registration. Domains that are registered through a web host are typically ready to set up using the tools provided by the host. If your domain is parked at a registrar site, you may need to take some additional steps to make sure that your domain name points to your website.
Registering your domain name is the first step in the process of launching your website. With relatively low costs for registration and renewals, your domain name is the unique “address” that connects your brand with the world.
Ready to build a website? Give our Bluehost experts a call today for further information on our domain registry and web hosting services.