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Finding and Registering a Domain Name


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Finding and Registering a Domain Name

Finding an appropriate domain name is essential. We look at how you can find the best domain name and domain name registrar for your site.

An important part of setting up and running an affiliate site is finding an appropriate domain name. In this lesson we look at Finding and Registering a Domain Name - we'll look at how you can find the most effective available domain name and what to look for in a domain name registrar.

Brainstorming

The first step before you register a domain name is actually coming up with a suitable idea. How you do this is up to you - with a computer or with pen and paper - pick your favorite brainstorming method.

You'll see many affiliates lamenting the fact that the best and shortest domain names are already taken - sadly that's often true. However, we recommend trying variations of your keywords.

Keep these technical points in mind:

  • It should be short (3 words or fewer with a max of 20 characters excluding ".com")
  • It should end with ".com" (.org or .net are second best)
  • It shouldn't be hyphenated
  • Make it easy to remember (think brandable), and at least somewhat related to your site topic

You want it to be easy for people to remember and type into their browsers without frequent misspelling incidents. It also seems more professional.

You can make a domain name short in two ways:

  1. Fewer characters: A domain name like www.iliketosniffpits.com doesn't have so many characters, but it has a lot of words.
  2. Fewer words: A domain name like www.armpitinvestigators.com has a lot of characters (letters), but it's only two words.

They're both about as good as each other, but the best solution is to have fewer letters and fewer words, while keeping it memorable, eg. www.pitsniffer.com.

Why a .com?

Until other TLD's (top level domains) such as .guru or .tips become more commonplace, a plain old .com comes across as more trustworthy to your audience. Also, if people remember your website and want to try typing it in, you don't want to lose them because they forgot you were a guru, and typed the .com they're expecting.

Why not a hyphenated domain?

It's a similar consideration for hyphens. People might forget the hyphens when typing in your website, and it doesn't look as professional or genuine. You don't want to lose traffic to confusion, or someone simply not liking the look of a link to you.

Domain Name concept-building ideas:

  • Use a name - Is bakingtips.com taken? Try bobsbakingtips.com. It adds a personal touch, just make sure you choose something memorable and easy to spell. 
  • Use a place bakinghouse.com, bakingshed.com, bakingden.com, bakingboat.com, bakingbarracks.com... things can happen in a wide variety of places! Find one that's catchy, but preferably one that makes sense!
  • Use a "the" - If bakinghouse.com was taken, you could consider thebakinghouse.com. Facebook.com started out as TheFacebook.com, so you're in good company! Just check what sort of site is at the original (bakinghouse.com) first. If it's an established site with a strong brand you might want to back off. If it's just someone squatting (there is no website at the moment) you should be good to go.
  • Use an adjective - Put a describing word at the start. How about bestbakinghouse.com, redbakinghouse.com, hotbakinghouse.com

To help speed things up, you may want to employ some tools to help ease the dirty work of finding available domain names. There are a few out there:

Lean Domain Search

With Lean Domain Search, simply type in a word, and Lean Domain Search will find available domain names that contain that word:

lean domain search

Lean Domain Search will generate a very wide variety of options for you. This means that a lot of them probably wont be what you're looking for, but you will usually find some good (and amusing) options.

Tip: Don't enter an entire search phrase. Stick to one word that you REALLY want to have in your domain name. The shorter, the better.

Bust A Name

Bust A Name is similar to Lean Domain Search, but rather than adding new words, it will find different combinations of the exact words that you enter:

bust a name

Again, try a variety of words you know you want, and then see what stands out to you. Try playing with the options underneath. Do you want 2 or 3 words as your maxiumum? Do you want a prefix such as "my" or "the"? There's a lot to experiment with, so explore your options.

Domain Registrars

What is a domain registrar?

A registrar is simply a company that allows you to buy and control your domain names.

How do you choose one?

When it comes to choosing a registrar, it pays to shop around. Prices for domain names can vary wildly, from $5 per year up to $35 per year. Don't always assume that if you pay more you'll get better service - for the most part, once you've bought your domain name you don't actually need much in the way of "service" anyway, and you can easily still get terrible service with a $35 domain name.

Things to look for in a registrar

Bonuses

Often you'll be offered a slew of bonuses or optional add-ons when you purchase a domain name. Sometimes one registrar might offer something for free, while another one charges you for it, so have a little dig down before you decide on one registrar over another.

Whois Protection

One extra that you might be interested in is "whois protection" - this removes your own personal contact details, (such as your name, address and phone number), from the "whois" register (which is publicly searchable) and replaces it with that of your registrar, thus ensuring that you can't be easily traced to your domain name. Whois protection is free with Namecheap for your first year, and then it will only cost you $2.88 for a year. Alternatively, GoDaddy charges around $12 per year for "private registration".

Control Panel

Although not critical, a control panel is of considerable use when trying to perform simple tasks such as updating your name servers and unlocking/locking your domain. Although most registrars offer this, some do not and you will be required to ticket their support every time you want something changed.

Support

Just like with web hosting, you want a reliable domain registrar who can respond quickly to any concerns or complaints you may have. Although you generally won't require support for your domain, having it available is always a good idea.

Be sure to check out the registrar's support page - an ideal registrar will provide live chat or email support, but some only allow you to contact them with support tickets via their website. If they do have live chat, you can give it a whirl before committing. If they have a phone number as well then that's a bonus as far as contact options go.

Other things to check

Be careful of registrars who have additional charges or restrictions on things that really shouldn't be charged for - 1&1, for instance, only allow you 5 subdomains, which is somewhat ridiculous; some registrars will also charge you if you decide to transfer your domain to another registrar.

Our recommended domain registrars

GoDaddy

GoDaddy's website can be a little befuddling, and they do hit you up for a bunch of optional "extras" before you reach the actual checkout, but their prices are reasonable, the admin panel is good and customer support is available.

Namecheap

Namecheap has a user-friendly site, has low prices, no hidden fees or restrictions and, often, you'll get one year's "whois guard" for free.

HINT: If you perform a Google search for the name of your registrar plus "coupon" you will often be able to find codes to give you a modest discount on your domain name (perhaps $1 or so!) Not so exciting for one domain name, but if you're registering a few it's worth looking into!

Should I buy my domain name and hosting from the same company?

Whether you want to buy your hosting and domain name from the same company is up to you. There are some things you should know, though:

Pros:

  • If you buy your hosting and domain together, the company will usually set them up so that they work together automatically. It isn't difficult to do it yourself but it can seem complicated the first time.
    (Read our lesson on Linking your Domain with your Hosting)
  • If you have problems, you'll only have one support team to contact and they should be able to sort it out regardless of whether it's a problem with your domain or a problem with your hosting. If you have your services with separate companies you might find yourself being shunted back and forth as each company denies responsibility!

Cons:

  • If you're paranoid about these things, you might not like the idea of having both your domain and your hosting in the hands of one company. Given that a company receives more ongoing business from your hosting account than from your once-yearly domain name registration, they might choose to make things difficult if you want to shift hosting providers. They can, effectively, hold your domain to ransom.

    In contrast, a company that is only responsible for your domain name is hardly going to kick up a stink if you choose to transfer it to a different registrar. They only lose a few dollars.

  • Lastly, you should be particularly careful with companies who offer a "free domain" when you purchase hosting. Be very sure that it is YOU who owns the domain name, not the hosting provider, and that you are free to transfer it to another registrar if you ever choose to.

How to purchase a domain name

Purchasing a domain name is generally very simple. Go to your registrar of choice. Find the domain name you wish to purchase, and then just click the "add to cart" button and proceed to their checkout. You might be prompted to set up a user account first. Once that's done, just decide if you want any of the optional extras, submit your payment details, and you're done! All the information you need to administer your domain will be emailed to you.

Lesson Summary

In this lesson we've looked at ways you can come up with ideas for domain names, and what to do when you've got one you like, including:

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