How to Register Your Own Website Domain
By Shala Munroe
Updated September 15, 2017
Items you will need
Credit card or PayPal account
Web hosting company
Even if you're not quite ready to launch a snazzy new website, registering your own website domain name is the first step to creating your own corner of cyberspace. A domain name that reflects your point of view, your business or your product gives you credibility from the public by making you appear more professional. Using keywords in your domain name that reflect your business or product can help drive traffic to your site through search engines and make your site easy for customers to remember. Choosing the right name is the first, and often the hardest, step in registering your domain name.
Choose several name options for your website. If you're most interested in a ".com" top-level domain name (TLD), your first choice may be already taken by someone else. Have several names in mind before beginning the registration process, and consider other extensions, such as ".net" or ".org."
Choose a registrar to help you register your domain name, such as GoDaddy, Register.com or NameCheap. There are hundreds of registrars authorized by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to sell domain names. Make sure the registrar you choose is a accredited by ICANN by searching for it on ICANN's authorized registrar list. Annual prices and services offered, such as Web hosting, vary by registrar, so research each carefully before deciding upon a registrar.
Enter your domain name choices. Your favorite may not be available, so keep trying until you find an acceptable domain name. Some registrars help by suggesting names that are similar to your first choice, such as "example.net" or "examples.com" instead of "example.com."
Enter the necessary contact information. This information is required by ICANN. You must enter information for four types of contacts, although you can enter the same person, most likely yourself, for each of the contact types. The organization contact is considered the domain name's owner, and the administrative contact is the person who handles all administrative needs. The technical contact is responsible for all technical aspects of the domain name, while the billing contact pays the registry fees and handles other payment issues as necessary.
Choose options for your domain name after selecting an available name. Pick the length of your registration, which is often between one and 10 years. One year is the minimum commitment, but it's often a better deal to buy a longer term -- you may get a discount for purchasing several years up front. Some registrars offer automatic renewals, meaning your credit card or PayPal account is automatically charged at the end of your registration term until you cancel it. This option can help ensure continuity in your website by removing the chance you could forget to renew it.
Many registrars provide matching domain names, which are names that are the same as the one you chose but with different extensions, such as ".org" or ".info." These are often offered at a discounted rate, so you have the option to purchase them along with your original domain name. You must renew them just like you renew your main domain name.
Decide whether you want to choose private domain registration. There is typically a fee associated with private registration. This option is designed to help reduce the amount of email spam, junk snail mail and telemarketing calls you receive. If you register your domain publicly, your personal information appears on the WHOIS website, which is an online searchable database of every domain name in use. It provides the name, address, phone number and email address of each domain name's owner. Choosing private registration shows the information of a proxy company instead of your information. The proxy company either belongs to your registrar company or partners with it.
Enter your Web host's primary and secondary nameservers when prompted. This directs your domain name to your website. You can likely find this information by logging in to your Web hosting account and looking under the host's frequently asked questions -- search for "domain name transfer" or "DNS." If you have trouble finding the nameservers, call or email your Web host, who should be able to provide you with the information.
If you don't have a Web hosting company yet, your registrar might offer domain parking services. Parking is when your domain name is routed to a dummy Web page for a short time. If you want to take advantage of this service, contact the registrar to ask what is shown on its dummy Web pages -- some fill the page with advertisements you don't endorse or earn money from. Others place a filler image, such as "Under Construction," on the page.
Pay for your domain name using a credit card or your PayPal account, if accepted by your registrar.
The ICAAN releases domain name extensions and sometimes restricts them to certain market segments. Just because you've seen an extension you like on the Internet doesn't mean it's available to you. Some, such as ".com," ".info," ".net" and ".org" can be claimed by anyone. Others are restricted. For example, ".biz" should be used by businesses only while ".edu" is intended for schools and educational facilities.
If you decide you are unhappy with your registrar company after you've registered your domain name, you can easily transfer your registration to a different registrar company. Most require a 60-day waiting period after your initial registration to transfer the domain name registration, and there's often a transfer fee involved.
Cybersquatting, or registering domain names to which the registering parties have no affiliation with the intent to sell them, can hurt your wallet and the reputation of your business. Cybersquatters register domain names that often reflect famous people, trademarks or popular businesses, then sell the names at exorbitant prices to the rightful person or business. You have no control over what goes onto a site with your business name as the domain name unless you have registered that name. People searching for your business online may instead find a pornography site, for example. You can combat cybersquatting by registering your domain name before you go live with your business if possible. If your business name isn't out in public yet, it's unlikely a cybersquatter would have purchased it. Also, always renew your domain name registration a few days before it expires; if you let it expire, a cybersquatter can register it out from under you, then try to sell it back to you.
- InterNic: FAQs on the Domain Names, Registrars and Registration
- Yahoo: Private Domain Registration
- GoDaddy: Private Domain Registration
- Register Your Domain Name: Basic Information
- Easy DNS: Registering a New Domain Name
- Black Web 2.0: How to Combat Cybersquatting
- The Site Wizard: How to Register Your Own Domain Name
- Web Host Ranking: How to Register a Domain Name
Based outside Atlanta, Ga., Shala Munroe has been writing and copy editing since 1995. Beginning her career at newspapers such as the "Marietta Daily Journal" and the "Atlanta Business Chronicle," she most recently worked in communications and management for several nonprofit organizations before purchasing a flower shop in 2006. She earned a BA in communications from Jacksonville State University.