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Since 2004, I've penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including the late, great 1UP; Laptop; Parenting; Sync; Wise Bread; and WWE. I now apply that knowledge and skillset as the Managing Editor of PCMag's Apps & Gaming team.
Once you've decided to build a website, you must make an important decision, even before you consult our list of the best web hosting services: What's your domain name going to be You know, it's the [yoursitename.extension] web address by which all your (hopefully) many visitors find you. Your domain name is, in effect, the name of your website, so you want to make sure you get a good one.
Purchasing a name is a relatively simple process, but finding one that isn't already taken can be a challenge. In addition, you should make sure that you understand the contract between you and the domain name registrar. If this is starting to sound a bit complicated, don't worry: We're here to help you get started.
Domain names put a friendly face on hard-to-remember numeric internet addresses. Every computer on the internet has a unique internet protocol (IP) number. A domain name represents this IP number. For example, the IP number for the domain name whitehouse.gov is 22.214.171.124. The purpose of a domain name is to give users an easy-to-remember handle so that when sending an e-mail to, let's say, the President of the United States, you can type [email protected] instead of the more unwieldy [email protected]
Anyone can buy a domain name. The most straightforward way to do so is to visit a domain name registrar, such as A2, GoDaddy, Google Domains, or Namecheap, key in the domain you want to buy, and pay a fee. The first two mentioned companies are web hosting services (more on that in a bit), while the last two are dedicated domain sellers.
If you're having trouble finding a domain name (because of crowding or cyber-squatters), check for a help facility on each registrar's site. Domain registrars typically house search engines that return a listing of available names similar to the one you want. When you search for a domain name at Namecheap, for example, you get both the status of that name and a list of suffixes available for that name. Maybe [Sitename].com isn't available, but [Sitename].biz or .org is.
The suffix identifies the name as belonging to a specific top-level domain (TLD). There are numerous TLDs available for general purchase, including .com, .edu, .game, .green, .hiphop, .net, and .org. The most popular of these by far is .com, which is supposed to indicate commercial sites, but in reality has come to include almost everything.
You can expect to pay anywhere from $1 per year to Scrooge McDuck bucks, depending on the domain name and suffix. In fact, if you're in search of a highly desired domain with a popular suffix, you may have to open your wallet in a big way, because chances are someone else already has it registered. Carinsurance.com, for example, sold for nearly $50 million(Opens in a new window)! As mentioned, there's also a thriving industry of squatters who look to flip domains (even those that are less obviously important than carinsurance.com) for profit. Some of them ask you to make an offer, suggesting that anything less than $500 will be ignored.
You don't always need to go to a dedicated registration service to buy a domain name, though this is the most direct approach. Many top-tier web hosting services, such as DreamHost, HostGator, and Hostwinds routinely offer a free domain name when you sign up for a web hosting package.
Keep in mind, however, that free domain names are usually free only for one or two years, after which the registrar bills you for the annual or biennial fee. In other words, the web host only pays for the first billing from the registrar. Also take note of whether or not the web host charges a fee for setting up a domain name. Most services offer to transfer an existing domain name to their servers at no cost, but sometimes you'll find a setup fee over and above the registrar's fee.
We'd all like to think that, once bought, a domain name is ours forever and under all circumstances. This is not necessarily the case. Be absolutely certain to research what you're getting before you pay. The contract you sign with the registrar could affect you in a number of ways.
Many registrars reserve the right to revoke your domain name for specific reasons, typically if you use the domain for illegal purposes or purposes deemed unacceptable (such as spamming). Many contracts contain a clause letting the registrar delete your domain name for no apparent reason. The implication, of course, is that the domain name is the registrar's, not yours.
Furthermore, practically all registrars reserve the right to make changes to the registration agreement whenever they wish and without letting you know. The takeaway here is that every registrar needs to be checked out carefully.
You may not be able to use the domain name for several hours, or even a few days, after you register and pay for it. The domain must propagate, meaning that the official domain name registry must be updated with your website's Domain Name System information. That's something that occurs on the backend without any need of input from you.
Some registrars promise to have the name up nearly immediately, but the delay could be as long as seven days. Typically, however, you should expect to see the domain name up and running on the web within 48 hours.
Note that you can also transfer your domain name from one registration service to another. You'll want to do this if you're not satisfied with your current domain hosting service, if you find a better deal when your current registration is coming due, or, most likely, if you've signed up with a web hosting service that will also transfer your name to its site. Expect to get the transfer for free, but if that isn't offered, search for another domain hosting service.
Under no circumstances should you pay more to transfer a name than to get a new one. Check what the transfer requires. Does the new service handle the task completely Or do you have to go into your current registrar's site and change the technical details manually Finally, check the transfer policy of the registrar before registering your domain name.
As a general rule, you can't transfer a name during the first 60 days after registration, but the period could be much longer. Don't expect any registrar to refund money you've paid for months of service you won't use, either.
For more on the basics of getting your website up and running, check out How to Build a Website, 7 Things You Need to Know When Building an E-Commerce Website, and How to Get Started With WordPress.Neil Randall contributed to this story.
When someone types a domain into a browser, it gets routed through a DNS server. That server translates the name to figure out which IP address it points to. Then it grabs the data for that website and delivers it to the browser. This process happens in a matter of seconds, letting you find and view a website fast.
There are also TLDs for different countries (.ca for Canada, for example) as well as niche domains like .coffee or .cheap. In all, there are more than 1,500 different TLDs to choose from, and the list continues to grow. But the cost for different TLDs vary. Some carry more \"weight\" than others, which should impact your decision when buying a domain.
Note: Country code domains, along with some other top-level domains, are unavailable to register or transfer into Mailchimp at this time. See all our domain extensions and top-level domains.
When you buy a domain name through domain registrars, you register it for one year with the option of a multi-year registration. You will be able to renew your domain name registration when the initial period finishes, and will usually be alerted by the registrar to do so. Domain names are also sometimes included in your web hosting plan and if not, usually offered by your hosting company.
A domain name with a common top-level domain, such as .com, can be had for as low as $12.99 per year, and promotions are often available. Internet domains purchased through Mailchimp also come with free WHOIS privacy protection and a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate to provide your website with free verification and encryption.
But if you do decide to go with an extension other than a .com, make sure you take a look at what type of website is currently on the .com extension. Someone is bound to go there accidentally while looking for your brand. If the site holds fishy or offensive content, you might want to steer clear of that name altogether.
The downside to short domain names is that there are fewer of them available. But, if your brand name is 100% unique or has some other creative element to it, you might be able to find something to fit the bill.
To get a domain name, you should first find a registrar that is accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is the nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating all of the numerical spaces on the internet. Mailchimp offers domains governed by ICANN.
Paying for your domain might seem like the last step in the process, but you also need to verify your ownership. This step lets you send email using the domain (email@example.com, for instance) and keeps other people from using it without your permission.
All across the world, .com domains are the most popular and memorable domain names. That being said, many business owners choose to register several different domain extensions, as well as any typos or misspellings of the .com domain. Choosing the right domain and making sure you keep up with domain registration helps you build a strong online presence. 59ce067264