How does buying a domain name work?

Online branding is essential for any business, and this starts with your business name and website. Your website URL should match with your business name, which is where domain names come in. However, for entrepreneurs launching their first businesses, it could be daunting knowing where to start with buying a domain name.

Here we’ve outlined everything you need to know about choosing and buying your first domain to help launch your first business and website.

Choose an available domain name

When picking a name for your business, it’s important to make sure that the domain name is available to buy, and is within your budget. You may find that an existing business is running a website with your chosen name, meaning you will either have to change the name of your business, or choose a domain name that’s less of a direct match. It’s important not to pick the same name as another business, as this could confuse potential customers. Your domain name defines your brand and acts as a first impression to your business, so you want it to stand out and be memorable.

You may consider choosing different domain extensions for your brand, such as ‘.net’ or ‘.me’ to stand out from the crowd. However, branding experts Novanym recommend sticking with ‘.com’ when buying a domain name, as it is the strongest, and most common extension. So if the ‘.com’ version of your desired domain is unavailable, it’s worth going back to the drawing board.

Research into your domain name

Looking into the fine print of your domain name can save you in the long run. You want to make sure you have all the information about your domain, including how long you’ve bought it for. You can buy domain names for one year, or buy them for a few years at once. If you’ve chosen to pay annually, you will need to make sure you remember to renew it once the year is up. There have been horror stories of companies forgetting to renew their domains, causing them to stop running for hours. You can opt to auto-renew your domain name when you purchase it, giving you peace of mind for the future.

You should also look into the history of your domain name. Available domains can be exposed to legal issues, especially if the name is too similar to an existing trademark. This can tie you up in legal fees before you’ve even got your business off the ground. Expired domains may also be risky to buy without doing the relevant research, as a previous owner may have broken Google terms and conditions, leaving the domain name blacklisted from Google searches.

Ensure you change all your DNS settings

A domain name on its own is just a web address. Without well-configured DNS (Domain Name System) settings, it doesn’t lead anywhere. The DNS controls the website that appears when a user visits a domain, and email settings associated with the address.

The site your domain’s visitors go to depends on where your domain is registered and hosted, and also allows you to use the domain with services from other suppliers, such as Gmail or Outlook for emails.

You will need to configure the DNS settings to “point” to your website in order for people to find your webpage. You may even want to change which company hosts your website, for example if you need a faster speed as your website grows. Rather than going through the long process of updating your entire website and settings, you can simply update the DNS entries to link it to the new host account.

If you want your business email address to end with your domain name (yourname@yourbusiness.com) you will need to configure your DNS settings to set up your own email server.

Make sure your domain has a host

Your website needs to be hosted on the internet in order for it to be a live webpage your customers can reach. You also need to register your domain name, in order for it to be recognised as a legitimate website. There are a couple of different options you have when it comes to hosting your website, which come with their own pros and cons. A web hosting service can offer various levels for your business, including shared hosting, which means you share a server with other websites. However, while this can be cheaper, it can often be slower and is best suited for websites that don’t use a lot of bandwidth. For a faster performance for your website, you can have more dedicated servers, or even go for Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or cloud servers, which will allow you to scale resources as and when you need them.

You can register your domain with your host, and keeping everything in one place may make things easier for you. However, there are some drawbacks to this approach. Registering your domain elsewhere, and simply pointing it to your host via your DNS settings can offer added security. If your website ever gets hacked, the hackers will only be able to take over the site, rather than take control over the entire domain (provided your login and password details aren’t the same). Having your domain registered anywhere other than your web host can also make moving your site easier, as you only need to update your DNS settings to point to the new host.

Setting up the website for your business may seem daunting, but knowing what to look for and how to find, register, and host your domain can make the process much easier. Once you’ve bought your domain, you can start branding your business, and growing your company.

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