Before you sign up for Web hosting and start building a website, you need to buy the domain name where visitors will find your site. Hundreds of different registrars sell domains, so first and foremost, know that domain names work the same no matter which registrar you use. You don't need to buy your domain from the same company that will host your site. Aside from picking a registrar -- and, of course, your site's name -- you also need to pick a top-level domain like .com or .org.
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
Technical contact. The technical contact manages the name servers of a domain name. The functions of a technical contact include assuring conformance of the configurations of the domain name with the requirements of the domain registry, maintaining the domain zone records, and providing continuous functionality of the name servers (that leads to the accessibility of the domain name).
Even if the term isn’t trademarked, don’t buy domains that are just a variation of another domain name. This means avoiding plurals if the singular is taken (mediatemple.net vs. mediatemples.net), hyphenating a phrase (media-temple.net), or adding “my” or some other preposition (mymediatemple.net). Alternately, you might consider buying these variations yourself and set them up so that if someone types one of the variations, they are redirected to your main site.
Classic domain extensions work for both options, as well as country specific extensions to build up local relevance. nTLD domain names such as .design, .business, or the eye-catching .nyc are good, .business especially in the case of a website builder package. There's often confusion surrounding the nTLDs, and it's good to know that the TLDs that imply a geographical reference are classified as generic top level domains by Google. For those who opt for website builder packages, it may be worth registering more than one domain extension, especially the classic extensions such as .com, as many users will remember this one better than the nTLDs – if you own the .com version but prefer the nTLD, you can always set up domain forwarding to avoid competition from other websites.
Anyone can buy a domain name. To do so, you visit a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Namecheap, key in the domain you want to buy, and pay a fee. You can't buy just any domain, of course—only one that isn't already registered by another person or business and that bears a valid domain suffix. In general, you'll want to buy something that is catchy and short so that it's both easy for people to remember, and easy for them to type in—like "PCMag," for example. That good search engine optimization (SEO) and it's also common sense. You might also want to do some research on key terms for your business. If you can get a good one into your site's name, that's all the better, from an SEO perspective.
While numbers like the ones seen above are impressive, most domains sell for significantly less extravagant prices and are generally in the two or three-digit range. Not long ago, those who were able to secure general terms (like icecream.com or pizza.com) not protected by trademark rights often found themselves sitting on virtual gold mines. The glory days of this boom have long since passed, and those looking for a profit in today’s market need a keen sense for coming trends.
The dispute was over the innocently-named Site Finder Service, launched by Verisign in 2003. With traffic to every .com domain going through Verisign, the Site Finder Service redirected anyone accessing an unregistered domain (via a typo, for example) to a Verisign website with sponsored links. The company argued that this was more useful to Internet users than seeing a generic error page. Whatever their reasoning, this made Verisign the de-facto owner of every unregistered domain (what else does it mean to own a domain?), and skyrocketed them from 2,500th into the top 10 most visited websites. The best part? Verisign launched this without running it past anyone.
Sedo is where I bought my domain - over Escrow - and is a global marketplace to buy, sell, and park domain names. They've over 18 million domain names for sale, but the big part is that they're a huge, well-respected company. This may not be important if you're spending $150 on a domain, but in a $15,000+ purchase - which happens in many cases - you will be potentially buying from a foreign entity, that you don't know, and many of them will suggest an escrow payment. This means you put the money in an account owned by a third party that will hold it and only pass it on once the domain has been transferred over into their name (which in this case is what Sedo does). This can be quite disconcerting - but Sedo is well-known and has done many, many deals - and the process is about as full of hand-holding as handing tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a domain name can be.
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.