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How to Choose Your Domain Name

Domain Name Extensions

So you're finally ready to start down the road of creating your own website. It's time to think up a unique domain name, which is what your visitors will type after [http://www].

If possible, try to stick with the popular naming conventions of .com, .net or .org. You will find that a .info is far cheaper but if you're trying to create an online presence and build a site that people will come back to, brand recognition is important. A .info domain name typically doesn't stand out to the average website visitor. People remember .com.

Also, understand that your domain name does not have to be purchased through your web host (where your actual website files are hosted - we'll get to that next). In fact, I highly recommend that you NEVER purchase both from the same company. Why? If you ever have problems with your website, it's far easier to download all your files and upload them to a new web host and login to a different site where you purchased your domain and point to the new place.

It's just a good rule of thumb to never let any one company be in complete control of your website(s).

Where Should I Buy?

I feel very confident in the advice that I offer in purchasing both domain names and web hosting. I have purchased over 500 domain names since 1999 and I have used a few dozen companies over that time.

For registering your domain name, I always recommend NAMECHEAP and for web hosting, I always recommend HostGator.

What should I name my new website?

So now that we've decided what name extensions are good, you'll want to consider a site name that's easy to remember, easy to type and.. (the hardest part) still available! Think simplicity and something that's easy to say. People remember a name when it's "catchy".

Is your website targeted to your local region or are you trying to capture traffic from all over? If it's local, consider not using dashes or numbers in the domain name.

It's always better to spell a number than to use one, unless the number is also part of your business name. Your local website will be given out all over and spread around by word of mouth. If you include dashes and numbers in the name, you'll find yourself repeatedly spelling it over and over, trying to verbally instruct where to add the dash (as an example), and people will still tend to forget hours later after a conversation.

For local websites, I recommend sticking with an easy to spell, one or two word domain name (three names at the most). If you're targeting a larger area for your website, dashes and numbers are fine to use but as a general rule, do a domain name search without the extras first. It's easier to market your website name in this way but in the end, Google will typically bring most of your traffic and they don't penalize for dashes or numbers. They look at your content and your traffic.

How do I know if the name I want is available?

You can perform a domain name search right here on web-design101 to see if the domain name you want is available.

Beware of performing Google searches to do your domain name search. The top results are the biggest players in the game and many of these leaders have tricky wording that they'll lure you in with.

GoDaddy.com is a very popular registrar, as is networksolutions.com and register.com. If you don't use my advice of using NAMECHEAP and/or HostGator, beware of pricing plans. A very popular trick is to charge less the first year and the fine print will read that the charge is much more the following year(s).

Average pricing for a .com domain right now is about $10 a year. If the contract says it's $8 the first year and $15 every year after, leave that site as fast as you can! I've even seen consecutive years being billed as high as $30! That's ridiculous and a perfect example of a domain registrar that is trying to scam you. There's simply no reason to pay more than $10/$11 a year (at most) for a .com domain name.

Don't get fooled by companies offering additional instructional downloads and such either. After registering your domain name, you only need to point it to your web host, which takes about 30 seconds. After that, you should never have to deal with your domain name again, aside from paying your annual fee.

If you use Google's "Chrome" browser, I recommend the 'Domain Availability Checker' add-on by seoheap.com. It sits at the top of my browser and looking for a domain name is as simple as clicking the icon and typing it in. Firefox has similar add-ons as well.

There are a lot of great domain names still available. Think on it for a few days and grab the one that is going to work the best for you for years to come.


about Amy Kastner is a Web-Designer, Online Marketing and Search Engine Optimization Specialist. You can usually find her on twitter, where she occasionally writes about interesting stuff.
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