Whether you are looking to start a new website or blog or just create your own professional email address — e.g. “[email protected]” — the first thing you need to do is find and buy a custom domain name.
Registering a new domain is a very simple and quick process that only takes a couple of minutes, but what may not be so easy — especially for a beginner — is finding a reliable domain registrar where you can purchase (or register) your chosen domain name and trust that they’ll keep it safe and secure.
There are thousands of companies out there that offer domain registration services. Some of them offer it as a secondary or add-on service, such as web hosting providers, while other companies are all dedicated to selling web domain services and accredited by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), and these are referred to as accredited domain registrars.
ICANN only takes a small fee ($0.18 per year) from registrars for each domain name registration, renewal or transfer. This fee applies to many domain extensions, including .com, .net, .org, etc. Each registrar sets their own prices for new registrations, renewals and transfers, and these can significantly vary from company to another.
The following are three of the best domain registrars where you can buy a brand new, custom domain name at very reasonable prices. These all accept PayPal and other payment forms (credit/debit cards, etc.)
Not only is NameCheap one of the cheapest registrars out there, it is also one of the most reputable. Every domain registration comes with all the features you’ll need to manage your domain, in addition to free Whois privacy which keeps your personal details hidden from public Whois records.
Their interface is quite easy to use and they provide support via live chat and email (ticket system). NameCheap accepts payment via credit cards and PayPal, and they also allow you to deposit funds in your account balance for later use (this can be useful for auto-renewals to ensure you won’t accidentally lose your domain due to payment failure in case you forget to manually renew it).
Dynadot is another well-established registrar with good services and reasonable prices. They have a neat website and interface where you can easily access and manage your domains. They offer free Whois privacy for eligible TLDs.
Their support team can be reached via their live chat system or the ticket system. Dynadot supports various payment methods that include credit/debit cards, PayPal, Skrill, Alipay, and others. You can also deposit funds into your account credit balance for faster checkouts and automatic domain renewal (if enabled).
An important thing to keep in mind when signing up with Dynadot is to remember the birthday and secret question and answer you will be asked to provide the first time you login to your account. These details will be required to perform certain actions within your account later. You can provide any value for the birthday (not necessarily your real birthday), but you need to be able to remember it because you’ll need it to unlock your account/domains in order to do certain things, such as transferring domains out to another registrar.
NameSilo is also a trustworthy registrar that is well reputed among the domainer community for their low prices and good service. You get free Whois privacy with each applicable domain registration and you can pay using different methods, including PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, credit cards, etc.
One minor disadvantage of NameSilo is probably their user account interface, which is a little messy and can use better organization or maybe a fresh modern design. But once you get used to it and you know your way around, it’s quite easy to use.
Need Web Hosting? Get it Separately!
Most domain registrars — including the ones mentioned above — offer web hosting services in addition to domain registration services. However, it is arguably a good practice to keep your domains and hosting services separate from each other and at different companies.
The main reason you want to do that is simply because most of the popular registrars aren’t particularly very reliable web hosting providers and often don’t provide the same level of service and expertise you get from companies that primarily sell hosting services.
It’s easy to pick one or two domain registrars to keep all of your domains at, but you will likely be using different web hosting providers for different domains or even for the same domain in case you find a better deal/service elsewhere.
Finding a suitable web host is often a much more tentative and tedious job than finding a reliable domain registrar. There are so many varying factors to consider in a web hosting package and ultimately it is your job to do the research and decide which service is the best match for your own needs and budget.
With that in mind, the following are two of the most dependable US-based web hosts that are worth considering:
- Scala Hosting: This is an excellent and affordable host for any kind of website project, especially a WordPress website. They offer shared plans (suitable for beginners) and VPS plans (for advanced users), which include automatic WordPress installation, updates, staging, etc. Their servers are highly reliable and powdered by SSD drives (significant speed and performance improvement). Some of their plans also include SShield security feature that protects your website(s) against potential attacks and malicious activities. Their support team is helpful and quick to handle issues either through live chat or email.
- Ultra Web Hosting: Ultra is another affordable, reliable and professional provider of various web hosting services that range from shared hosting to VPS and dedicated servers. They have a WordPress-optimized plan that provides better performance for WordPress websites but comes at a higher price. Their servers use SSD drives and their packages come with plenty of available resources.
Brandable vs. Keyword-Rich Domain Name: Which to Choose?
Unless you have a specific brand or business name you want to use for your domain name, you probably have considered many different options, including brandable names as well as keyword-rich ones.
Brandable names are usually short and snappy, such as Google, Nike, Amazon, etc. However, it is extremely hard to find such a short and catchy domain name that hasn’t already been registered by someone else.
A two-word brandable name would be a more attainable option, and with some creative brainstorming you can come with with several available names to choose from. Examples of these include NameSilo, Scala Hosting, Pizza Hut, etc.
On the other hand, you may be tempted to choose a more meaningful, keyword-rich name, such as Best Birthday Gifts, Cheap Phones, etc. While these names may be more appealing to some web searchers, they usually sound cliche and unprofessional. Additionally, you are highly unlikely to find a nice, keyword-rich domain name that hasn’t been taken already, either by other companies or by domainers looking to sell it at a premium price.
The major attraction of keyword-rich domains is that they are thought to rank higher in search engine results for the keywords they contain. Well, that used to be true a few years ago, but it’s no longer the case. At least as far as Google is concerned, having certain keywords in your domain name is not one of the main ranking factors they consider and it has almost no effect on how well your website will rank in search results.
If you are thinking of paying a premium price for a high-profile domain name merely because it has the right keywords in hopes that it will give you some SEO advantage, then save your money and don’t buy it for that reason!
Must You Go With a “.com” Domain?
The .com TLD (top-level domain) has been the world’s most used and recognized domain extension ever since it was launched back in 1985. Although it was originally intended for commercial websites, it can be used for any type of website and for any purpose. There is no question that .com is the most valuable TLD that most webmasters and businesses prefer, so if your desired name is available in the .com extension then go for it.
Unfortunately, that is often easier said than done because — as you may have already noticed while searching for a domain — most of the good .com names are taken. You’d rarely stumble upon a meaningful .com domain that is available for registration at the normal registration fee. So, if you are out of options for a decent .com name, the typical next TLDs to consider are .net, .co, and .org (mostly for non-profits and educational projects).
But that’s not all. Hundreds of new generic TLDs have lately been approved for public use, and today there are many more options to choose from than ever. While .com still holds the most value, numerous other TLDs have been rising in value and popularity since ICANN opened the window for companies to apply for new generic TLDs in 2012.
There is no room to list all of the new gTLDs here, but the following are a few of the most notable ones: .website, .site, .online, .store, .shop, .pro, .blog, .best, .tech, etc. You can browse the full list of generic TLDs with prices at NameCheap.
It’s important to note that many registrars offer these newer TLDs at a discounted price for the first year of registration only, after which the domain will renew at the regular price. Make sure you check the renewal price before you make a purchase (most companies display the renewal fee next to or below the discounted first-year fee).
Final Thoughts and Tips
To sum up some of the main points discussed above, the following are useful tips to remember when snatching your next domain name:
- The shorter the domain name the better. Ideally, you should pick a name with one or two words and no more than 15 characters. An analytical report by data scientist Nick Berry found that the average length of .com domains is 13 characters, so you should aim to keep yours around or below this length. There is a reason that most of the successful websites use short domain names.
- When it comes to registration cost, a higher price does not mean a better service. $10 per year (or so) for a .com is considered rather cheap and there are many excellent registrars out there that offer such low prices. On the other hand, some of the worst registrars charge unjustifiably and excessively high prices with no added advantages. Anything over $20 for a .com registration is too much, unless it comes with extra services that are actually useful.
- Whois privacy (aka private registration) is a must-have feature these days. It ensures that all your personal details (name, phone, address, etc.) remain hidden from the public Whois database. Without it, anyone would be able to look up your domain name in the Whois database and see all your personal information, which could then be used for spamming, fraud, etc. Many registrars offer this feature free of charge while others charge a small annual fee.
- You’d probably want to purchase your domain and web hosting service from different companies and keep them separate. Most of the companies that excel as domain registrars are usually not that good for hosting services, and vice versa.
- Keep your domains at a registrar you trust and are happy with. You will probably change web hosts multiple times, but you don’t have to keep moving your domains around. It’s easier to manage all of your domains when they are at one place. This also reduces of the chance of accidental expiration as you can easily keep track of all of the domains you own.
For extra account security, some registrars have a two-factor authentication/verification feature that requires a one-time secret code sent to your mobile phone in addition to your password each time you want to login to your account. This way, even if someone manages to steal your password, they won’t be able to login to your account unless they also take control of your mobile phone. This is usually an optional feature that you can turn on/off as needed.