Once you’ve built your fancy new website, you’ll need to decide what your web address will be by deciding on and buying a domain name. Even before you’ve chosen the best web hosting service, you’ll need to buy a domain that works for your website.
Domain names should be easy to type, memorable, and fit for purpose. By that, I mean they should describe what the website is about e.g. angiebakes.com would suggest a baking/food/recipe website.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name, in its purest form, is an IP address, but of course, remembering a string of numbers wouldn’t be an efficient way of visiting websites or sending emails. A domain name, therefore, is a name that represents an IP address (behind the scenes), offering a memorable way to visit websites.
Anyone in the world can buy a domain name. In order to do so, you’ll need to purchase a domain via a domain registrar like GoDaddy, 123Reg, and NameCheap (though there are plenty more).
Most domain name registrars work in the same way:
- Visit their website
- Enter your desired domain name
- If your domain name is available, a price will be displayed
- If it’s not available, the registrar will display alternatives or you can search again
Sometimes you’ll find that a domain name is registered to someone else, the good news is that you can buy it. In some cases, domains that are already registered can be purchased on auction or bidding sites, but they often sell for ridiculous amounts of money because they are considered premium domains.
Step 1: Domain Search
First, you’ll need to visit the domain registrar that you wish to purchase from. For this step-by-step guide to how to buy a domain name, we’ve used 123Reg as an example.
Simply enter in your chosen domain name and click the green search icon. If your domain name is available, it will show as able to purchase on the next page.
123Reg currently offers new customers a huge discount. You can purchase a .co.uk domain name for just 99p for the first year. They also suggest other domain names you can purchase at the same time so you can create a bundle, e.g. .com, .org, and .net.
Step 2: Domain Availability
If your domain name isn’t available, the domain registrar will inform you of this and present other suggestions that may suit your requirements. Alternatively, you can return to the search and start again.
When you’ve found your perfect domain name, you’ll need to add the item to your basket.
Step 3: Purchasing your Domain
In most cases, domain registrars will direct you to their offers before allowing you to proceed to your basket, but you can just scroll down and skip past this if you don’t want extras like email hosting or website builder access.
Here you can see the total has gone from 99p to £1.19 as the domain names displayed don’t include VAT @ 20%. Thankfully, when you’re talking such lower numbers like this, the VAT doesn’t push the price up that much.
If you want to add on domain privacy, this will cost just £5.99 for the first year. Domain privacy and protection masks your identity if someone tries to find out who has registered a domain name.
Once you’re ready to continue, you’ll just need to enter some personal information and payment details, and away you go!
A TLD is a top-level domain such as .com, .org, .co.uk, etc. The most popular TLD is .com which was initially meant to identify commercial sites, but has since been used for most things.
Domain names can cost anywhere from 1p per year, depending on the deals domain registrars have, and the domain name itself. Unfortunately, there are lots of people that will pounce on domain names the moment they are available, not to use for themselves, but to sell on (remember when I mentioned the domain name auction sites).
Domain Names via Web Hosting
Many hosting services typically offer a free domain name when you sign up for one of their hosting services. Free domain names are usually only valid for 1 or 2 years, but this information will be available when you sign up.
Free domain names with web hosting services is a great way to hit two birds with one stone. Unless you’re using a website builder like Wix or Weebly, you’ll likely need web hosting as part of a self-hosted solution like WordPress.
Web hosting doesn’t have to be expensive either, hosts like Hostinger start from just 99p which is an absolute steal.
Many people would probably consider that once they’ve bought a domain name, it’s theirs to keep. Well, not in all cases, so it’s important you read the domain registrar’s terms and conditions before purchasing your domain.
Registrars will often state that they reserve the right to revoke your domain name for certain reasons, e.g. if you use it for illegal purposes, use it for spamming, etc.
Domain registrars can delete your domain name if you don’t use it correctly, so be warned, if you use your domain in an untoward manner, it could be taken off you.
What to do Once You’ve Purchased a Domain
Once you’ve purchased your domain name, be prepared that you may not be able to use it for a few hours, or even up to a few days. Domain names have to propagate – they have to be filed into the official domain registry with your website’s DNS settings.
You won’t need to do anything on your side apart from wait.
Domain Name Transfer
You can transfer your domain name from one service to another. E.g. you could change your domain hosting from SiteGround to 123Reg, and vice versa. This most likely occurs when you want to have all of your services in one place, or you find a better deal when it gets close to your domain renewal.
Be aware that you should never pay more to transfer your domain name than it costs to purchase a new one. You’ll also want to check whether the service requires any intervention from you and what this is. If you have a web developer, it’s worth asking for their advice as they will have the know-how.
Domain Name FAQs
How can I get a free website domain?
Most web hosting services offer a free domain name upon signing up for their services so you don’t have to buy a domain separately. Web hosting can start from as little as 99p with a host like Hostinger, and if you’re in need of web hosting anyway, it’s a bargain to couple them together. Alternatively, there are places you can get domain names for free, but these are often less popular TLDs and not .com or .co.uk.
Are Google domains free?
Google domains are free, but their service is extremely simple to use and ideal for beginners. You can manage your Google domains from one place, transfer a domain to/from Google, and search for your ideal domain name.
Do I need a domain for WordPress?
If you’re using the self-hosted version of WordPress (WordPress.org) then you’ll need to saught out your affordable web hosting for WordPress and buy a domain name. Most WordPress hosts will throw in a domain name for free, so be sure to check out the options as you may be able to get a bargain.