Once you've wisely determined that building a website is an essential part of your business, you need to make another important decision, even before you consult our roundup of the best web hosting services: What's your domain name going to be? You know, it's the [yoursitename].com web address by which all your (hopefully) many customers will find you. Furthermore, how do you go about staking your claim for it? Purchasing a name is a relatively simple process (although finding one that isn't already taken can be a challenge), but there are many factors that you should consider. Since your domain name is, in effect, the name of your website, you want to make sure you get a good one. But what makes a good one? And since it's also the address of your website, you want to make sure you understand the contract between you and the domain name registrar. Is it starting to sound a little more complicated? Don't worry: This primer can help you get started.

SnapNames is a web domain name marketplace - meaning that they only deal specifically with domains that are currently owned by somebody else. They offer daily and premium auctions, private brokerage of domains, and buy-it-now listings for buying and selling domain names, including over 30 million domain names that aren't all, as you'll find on some services, exorbitant. They have over three million customers, including a significant number of small businesses, which is worth it.


Don’t get discouraged in your domain name search if what you’re looking for is already taken. We have a couple of ways for dealing with such a situation. You can try our Domain Buy Service, where we negotiate acquiring the domain from its current owner. We also offer a Domain Backorder service, where you purchase a backorder credit to give you a chance to get the domain when it goes into auction.


Under no circumstances should you pay more to transfer a name than to get a new one. Check what the transfer will require. 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.


There are organizations that are called registries that manage each TLD option. When you register domain names, you would first visit a domain registrar who would in turn check with the registry that manages that TLD to see if the domain is available. If the domain for the TLD you want discovers that it is in fact available, the registry adds it to their registry and gives you access to it. If the domain has already been registered by another user for that TLD, you will be shown during the domain registration process that the domain isn't available.

Hostwinds remains a user-friendly option for registration and hosting, even if you're transferring from another service. It lists out all the extensions to create your domain name with prices to register, transfer, or renew for each extension, unlike some services that bury these within the website. You simply enter the domain name you want and check the availability, and can theoretically get going in a few clicks (if it's available or taken). It will then tell you if it is available or taken. They've also got live chat, email, and phone technical support before purchase too, which is rather rare.


For more than a decade, Jeffrey L. Wilson has penned gadget- and video game-related nerd-copy for a variety of publications, including 1UP, 2D-X, The Cask, Laptop, LifeStyler, Parenting, Sync, Wise Bread, and WWE. He now brings his knowledge and skillset to PCMag as Senior Analyst. When he isn't staring at a monitor (or two) and churning out web... See Full Bio
In order to register any domain, you must provide certain personal information that you may not wish to be publically searchable in the Whois database. Signing up for WhoisGuard is a great way to keep your registration data private. WhoisGuard acts as a "shield" for your searchable information, displaying the address, phone number, and email of the domain registrar (Namecheap, e.g.) instead of your own. Keep in mind that WhoisGuard is an optional security add-on that must be renewed separately when you renew your domain.
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