How to Buy a Domain Name and Much More
- Use a Domain Registrar to Buy Your Domain (and the one exception)
- Step by Step Domain Registration Guide with Pictures!
- What is DNS and How to Configure Your Nameserver
- What’s a TLD? What Domain Extension Should I Get?
- What a CDN does and How to set up Cloudflare
- How Do I Obtain a Domain That's Already Registered
Use a Domain Registrar to Buy Your Domain
I always recommend people stay away from web hosts, ecommerce solutions, and web design/development companies when purchasing their domain name -especially if it’s their first domain name. Here are the two main reasons:
Domain Registrars are in the business of selling domains. They make it as easy as possible for someone to register, configure, and access domain names. They have knowledgeable experts on hand who can help you with anything regarding your domain. Transferring domain names can also be a nightmare. Can you imagine how awkward it can be when you tell your webhost that you’re moving on, but you actually need their help to transfer your domain to their competitor? If you register with a domain registrar, you can simply backup your files, upload your files to your new web host and then change your nameservers and you’re good to go!
Regardless of what web hosting, web design, and web development companies claim, security is just not going to be as much of a priority for them as it would be for domain registrars. They’re in the business of web hosting, web design and web development. Domain registrars are in the business of domains. They’re going to keep your domains safe or they’re going to have a very hard time getting any new customers. It’s also not unheard of for domains to get taken hostage and/or even stolen! Some domains are worth millions of dollars. Take precautions and register your domains at a reputable registrar.
So what’s the one exception?
If you understand the above, and you understand the risks, and you understand that there might be potential complications, then maybe… you can take advantage of special offers for a free domain. I know Bluehost almost always has these free domain offers with hosting, and I think Shopify might have it as well (or at least they used to). If you know what you’re doing, I’m not going to get in the way of saving $10-$14. A penny saved is a penny earned, right? $14 is like 1400 pennies!
Step by Step Domain Registration Guide – With Pictures
Today we’re going to be using Namecheap to register a new domain. Why Namecheap? Because they’re secure, they’re reputable, and their platform is easy to use. More importantly, I use them personally and they’ve always been quick to respond if help is ever needed. (Even more importantly, because I already use their services, I don’t have to create a new account to get these screenshots.)
Step 1. Go to Namecheap.com
Should look something like this:
Step 2. Type in the domain you want to register in the box next to “Search Domain”, as I have circled in blue, and then click the button with the magnifying glass that I’ve pointed to with the green arrow. (This post is not sponsored by Microsoft Paint…yet!)
Step 3. Find out if your domain is available. If it’s not, then you’re going to have to start from the beginning and try a different domain. If it is available, you can click the “add to cart” button. (I’ve underlined the availability of your domain in yellow and placed a green arrow pointing to the button to add to cart.)
Step 4. You should see your domain appear under “Your Cart”. Click “View Cart”
Step 5. Select the number of years you want to register the domain for, and then click “Confirm Order”. You will always get the option to renew your domain before anyone else can have the option to buy it. Namecheap will also send you reminders before your domain expires. A note about the WHOIS guard: WhoIs guard makes your contact information private so that, if someone searches up the information behind your domain, it doesn’t directly show your contact information but gets routed through the registrar instead. Namecheap offers this for free for the first year and its set to not renew by default. I would suggest keeping Whois guard because spammers have made a tactic of collecting user information of newly registered addresses and calling to sell them services they don’t necessarily need. (At the time of writing this, you can use the coupon code HEYSPRING for 10% off com, net, org, biz registrations/transfers)
Step 6. I assume if you’re reading this guide that you don’t already have an account. If you do, feel free to log in. If not, then type in your preferred username, your password, your first name, your last name, and your contact email, and then click “Create Account and Continue”.
Step 7. Fill out all the required fields including your address and phone number and click “Continue”
Step 8. Confirm your Whois contact information. What does that mean? Whois is a database that has the information of Who Is the owner of a certain domain. This is useful for people looking to be able to contact you in case they want to buy your domain. See Step 5 for more information on WhoIs
Step 9. Fill in your payment information. You can add a credit card to file, use Paypal, or use funds you’ve already deposited into your account.
Also: Here you can automatically renew your domain before it expires. Namecheap will send you reminders to renew your domain but, if you’re a very forgetful person who rarely checks their email, then it might be a good idea to check the box for auto-renewal. Especially if you don’t see yourself giving up this domain anytime soon.
Step 10. Check to ensure all your information is correct. Accept the Terms and Agreements and click “Pay Now”
Congratulations! If you’ve followed these steps, you have just registered your very first domain name!
How DNS Works and Configuring Nameservers
DNS Essentials – It’s How the Internet Finds Servers
If I said to you “Meet me at 43.6426° N, 79.3871° W”, where would you look? If you had access to Google Maps (or even most GPS devices should do!), you could enter the coordinates and presto – you’d find me at 301 Front Street West. I’d be there, waiting for you by the CN Tower! Every place - building, park, public monument, zoo, community center or residence – has an address that you and I are familiar with (like “301 Front Street West”), and a digital location (like “43.6426° N, 79.3871° W”). What map location technology does, is to use the numbers (called geolocation data or Lat/Long for Latitude and Longitude coordinates) to match them to a physical address. That’s how an Uber driver, UPS driver or a food delivery attendant finds you – he/she will enter your address into a GPS tool, and the software will translate it into your “digital location finder” and direct him/her to the address.
Websites on the internet are the same: They have the equivalent of a street address, called a URL (like “Amazon.com”), and a digital address (the I.P address e.g.: “126.96.36.199”). When you type the URL into your browser, a translation of sorts occurs, which maps your URL to its digital equivalent, taking you right to the site you are searching for. In fact, instead of typing the URL, if you are numerically inclined, you could just type “188.8.131.52” to get to the Amazon website (go ahead and try it!).
DNS – The Internet’s Phonebook!
Everything on the internet revolves around numbers. So, while “Amazon.com” doesn’t mean much to your browser, the numerical translation (“184.108.40.206”) does. And the address translation system that matches URL to the numbers, called Internet Protocol (IP) address, is known as the Domain Name System (DNS). Popular I.P addresses include:
|What you enter (URL or Site Name)||What DNS translates into (IP Address)|
DNS acts like a giant internet phonebook, translating URLs into I.P addresses. That saves us from looking up or remembering these multi-part numbers. DNS is organized like a hierarchical tree, containing TLDs (top-level domains) such as “.org” or “.com”, under which secondary-level domains (such as “amazon”) have tertiary-level domains (such as “www”). When combined together, the DNS maps the entire URL to a specific I.P address, thereby allowing you to locate a specific resource (website, PDF document, YouTube Video etc.) on the internet. But DNS does more than just act as a giant phonebook. It also helps us in other ways:
- Since it is centrally managed, it provides organization and order to the online world. There will always be just ONE I.P address associated with ONE URL
- If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is doing a good job, they will monitor DNS to identify “spammy” or “phishing” sites, and prevent those I.Ps from communicating with your I.P address
- DNS “masking” can help prevent unauthorized individuals or entities from “unmasking” your I.P or identity
And there’s a whole lot more that DNS does, that isn’t very transparent, but none the less happens behind the scenes. For instance, in the corporate world, DNS management plays a key role in what’s known as service continuity. By distributing DNS functionality across multiple servers, companies (like Amazon or Facebook) ensure that their service continues, uninterrupted, even if multiple servers within the organization “go down”.
Configuring Nameservers – Pointing Your Domain Name Toward Your Server
If, at this point, you don’t have a server to point your domain name towards, we recommend either Bluehost or Siteground. Mostly because it’s hard to beat $3.95 a month and quality tech support. We won’t get into webhosts and setting up servers because that deserves its own post (or five)! To make a VERY long story short, these webhosts will have everything you need until you’re ready to set up your own servers. In fact, it still blows my mind how they offer all the perks like SSL, caching and CDN for less than $4 a month. Step 1. Finding your nameservers Where your nameserver information is located will depend on your webhosts, but here are instructions for the two we mentioned earlier:
Click “My Accounts” after logging in. It will be located on the top left side under “Account Information”. It will likely be in the form of something like ns1.siteground123.com and ns2.siteground123.com Generally they will give you two! You will be using both, so keep this information on hand.
Click “Domains” in the top menu bar and then navigate towards “name servers” towards the bottom right, next to “menu”. As of writing this, I’m pretty certain all Bluehost nameservers are simply ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com, but please check it out for yourself in case they decide to change this!
Step 2. Configuring your DNS to point to your webhost’s Nameservers Log back into Namecheap.com It should bring you to your dashboard. Click “Manage” on the domain you would like to configure.
- Select “Custom DNS”
- Fill in the two nameservers you found in the first step (In this example we used ns1.bluehost.com and ns2.bluehost.com)
- Click the green checkmark. P.S. Please do not fill in the nameservers we filled in as an example if you’re not with Bluehost.
That’s it! Domain name propagation can take up to 48 hours to take effect, so do not stress out if you type in your URL in the browser and it doesn’t immediately work. I have contacted tech support without knowing this a very long time ago and can attest that the embarrassment does indeed follow you forever.
What Domain Extension Should I get? What’s a TLD? Does the Domain Extension Matter?
Just as your home address helps locate you, information (and other “stuff”) residing on the internet is located (or accessed) using addresses called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). And just as your home address has various parts to it, like a Street Number, Street directional, Street Name, Suite Number, Floor number, Postal Code etc., so too is a URL made up of various parts. In the URL “HTTP://www.CompanyName.com/resourcepath”:
- Http is the protocol – this identifies the protocol used to communicate with the webserver, and it defines how content is formatted and transferred. Some protocols might be “https” to identify secure transmissions; “ftp” to denote file transfers; “pop” to determine email post office protocols
- “CompanyName” would identify the specific webpage (or website)
- And finally, “.com”, which is the Top Level Domain (TLD)
- Lastly, you identify the resource path and its type you are accessing. Resource.html would be a webpage; resource.pdf could be a PDF document, or resource.exe might be an executable file
While “www” may seem an important component of a URL, these days it is mostly ignored when entering URLs. Contrary to what was required a few years ago, browsers do not need the “www” prefix to be entered. For instance, entering www.survis.com or “survis.com” will direct your browser to the same URL – which is https://survis.com!
Hierarchy of TLDs
The organization that manages and monitors TLDs, Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has the following hierarchy for TLDs:
- Country Code (cc)
- Generic (g)
- Sponsored (s)
- Infrastructure (.arpa)
Since the 1980s, the most popular TLDs that you may be familiar with include:
|TLD Initials||Designated Use|
These were the original generic TLDs (g TLDs). There are also 250+ country-specific TLDs (cc TLDs), like .ca (Canada), .jp (Japan) etc.
Some of the TLDs (like .gov and .net) are called “Sponsored TLDs” – meaning that designated organizations control who can register a name under them. Others, like “.com” are “Unsponsored”, enabling a much broader global community of members to monitor and regulate them. Since 2001 (…2002..2003), there have been many additions to the list of TLDs, including: .biz (for business users) .info (for informational resources/sites) .aero (for air transportation) .art and .museums (for art galleries and museums) .bank (for banks and financial institutions) .dating (for dating sites) …and a whole lot more! They’ve recently opened the flood gates with an update that will pretty much let anyone buy and use any word as a TLD.
So, which one of these is right for your site? Well, it all depends really! For instance, if your name is Alyce, and if you run an art studio that you want to name “Alyce Art Studio”, chances are that your website name (alycesartstudio.com) is already taken (in fact – it is!). That’s the challenge that many businesses and organizations now face when registering a new website.
So, what can you do? Well, you could get creative and create a URL with one of the newer TLDs, like “alycesartstudio.art” (instead of “alycesartstudio.com”). This allows you to keep the first-choice name for your site (“alycesartstudio”), while also maintain a presence within a domain related to your niche (art).
Does is matter which TLD I pick?
Yes, it absolutely matters! In a world where every business should be thinking ahead about SEO and web marketing, it makes quite a big difference. Google uses the country TLDs as a signal to target your audience. If you don’t plan on having an international audience and want to specifically target the country that your business is operating in, there’s no harm in picking a country code domain like .ca or .co.uk for example. On the other hand, if you’re aiming to be an international business, I would highly suggest against picking a country code TLD, as that will hinder your search results in other parts of the world. Although Google has said it doesn’t discriminate against newer and less used TLDs, that doesn’t seem to be entirely true. When was the last time you saw a website with a .biz or .art URL on the first page of the search results? A lot of these end up going for real cheap, which makes them perfect targets for spammers to pick up. They will run through these URLs until they get blacklisted and then simply pick up a new one for 99 cents! The conclusion is that if you can pick up a great .com domain name, that’s probably going to be your best bet!
What is a CDN and How to Set Up Cloudflare
CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. Here’s a quick overview of how they work: Imagine your server is located on the west coast of the United States. A user trying to access your website from England is going to experience way slower load times, as the data would have to travel across the United States and then across the Atlantic Ocean to reach them. For most people, having personal servers all across the world isn’t practical or very affordable, but at the same time site speed is an important factor for search engine rankings. So, what’s the practical solution? A content delivery network! A content delivery network (CDN) will cache your site (make a copy of sorts) and put it in their servers all across the globe (called PoP or Point of Presence) so that, when users try to access your website, they will be accessing the data from the closest PoP which will significantly reduce their load time. But site speed is not the only benefit of using a CDN! Here are some other benefits that you might not have known:
- Lower Bandwidth Costs – When you use a CDN, the users are directed to whichever server is the closest. This means that most users would not be loading data from your server and thus your bandwidth costs will decrease significantly. People are reporting a 90% reduction in bandwidth usage!
- Load Balancing – The number 1 reason servers go down (not including human error) is a big spike in traffic. If you’re a fan of the website Reddit, then you’ve certainly heard of the Reddit Hug of Death. A popular link makes it to the front page and all of a sudden, instead of having dozens of users on your website simultaneously, you now have tens of thousands of users trying to access it at the same time. This will almost certainly cause your server to crash. A CDN can negate this by rerouting users to different PoPs. Now, instead of your one server getting 50,000 requests, there are maybe 100 servers getting 500 requests; a much more manageable number.
- DDoS Protection – When malicious people came to the realization that a large number of users trying to access a website at the same time can bring a website down, they started to replicate this scenario. They would control a large number of computers (generally through a virus or some sort of backdoor) and force them to connect to a single website all at the same time. This is called Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS).
CDNs now have many advanced strategies to stop DDoS attacks easily. The basic idea is the same as load balancing. 50,000 bots are rerouted to hundreds of servers that can easily handle the volume. At the same time, they recognize and ban the bots doing the attack, while your normal users can still connect to the site with no downtime.
Downtime is something every webmaster should avoid at all costs. When a new user tries to connect to your site and your server is down, chances are they will never try again. Keep your servers up with a CDN!
- Block Spammers and Scrapers – Most CDNs have the technology to analyze the traffic and block the bad bots trying to leave spam on your site or trying to steal your content. Have you ever seen a comment section of a blog filled with spam links selling fake designer sunglasses? It causes users to lose trust in your website and can damage both, your conversion rate and sales.
Setting Up Cloudflare – Step by Step
You might have heard of Cloudflare before. Cloudflare is easily the most recognizable CDN. The best part about Cloudflare is that they offer their CDN for free! That’s right, you can have all the benefits listed above at no cost!
Step 1. Go to cloudflare.com and enter a username and a password like the example below.
Step 2. You will be redirected to a sign-up page where you can click “Create Account” Step 3. Add your website URL into the input box
Step 4. They will give a confirmation that says “We're querying your DNS records” and that it might take a minute. Click “Next” Step 5. Click “Free” under select a plan and then click “Confirm Plan”
Step 6. Cloudflare will show you all the records that it has found. For the mass majority of you, this information will be correct. Click Continue
Step 7. Cloudflare will now give you 2 nameservers that you will use to replace your current nameservers. You should remember how to change your nameservers but, if you need a quick refresher, click here or scroll up.
That’s it! Cloudflare will let you know when everything is working. They say it might take up to 72 hours, but during this time you will not experience any downtime with your website. Cloudflare has many options that are beyond the scope of this beginner’s guide, but feel free to visit their help center or contact them if you need any further assistance. Their guides are very easy to follow. Enjoy having a faster and more secure website!
How do I buy a domain name that’s taken?
Buying a domain name that’s owned by someone else is much like trying to buy a house that’s owned by someone else. Here are the 4 possible solutions:
- Wait until their registration expires – There are many people in the world that buy domains that they don’t use, myself included. Sometimes they have a good idea and they change their mind; sometimes they buy domains in batches of hundreds at a time and a specific one doesn’t get used. The owners of these domains have an option to renew their domain, but when they don’t use that option, the domain gets released back to the public for sale again. You can use whois.com to check for expiration dates and set an alarm to see if they let their domain expire to quickly snatch them up.
- You can make them an offer – You can once again search up the domain at whois.com and use the contact information there to get in touch with the owner of the domain. You can make a private offer for them to transfer the ownership to you.
- You can buy them if they’re for sale – There are people in the business of domain brokerage. They buy domains they think are valuable and sell them to people interested. If this is the case, there’s generally a price attached. Don’t be surprised if a good domain is being listed for 4-5 figures though!
- You can’t – If the owner isn’t willing to sell, you simply won’t be able to obtain it. Some people are just not going to let go of their domain. Google is never going to let anyone buy Google.com. Some people hold domains for sentimental purposes. Some people paid for 100 years of renewals and put down fake contact information so no one can ever get in touch with them. If this is the case, it’s best to try to find a new domain name.