Thanks to the Internet, the world becomes a little smaller every day—and your business can tap into all different kinds of markets and audiences. Your professional website acts as your online headquarters, and people will find you by your web address, also known as your domain name. A custom domain name not only makes your website easier to find, but it also can show potential customers that you run a reputable business.
In this guide, we’ll discuss domain name costs, explain the importance of owning a unique domain name and guide you through the purchasing process.
How much does a domain name cost?
Most domains will cost between $10 and $45 per year—though some prices may be higher. Many factors can affect domain prices, so it’s important to understand your potential return on investment for each option. For instance, though a domain could be expensive, it could give you enough recognition, reputability and organic traffic that resulting sales would pay for the cost many times over.
Tip: If you put your potential name into the Wix domain name generator, you’ll get an estimated domain price—and even some alternatives if your desired one is taken.
Here are five factors that influence domain name cost:
Many website builders bundle web hosting and domain registration fees into their pricing plans. For example, Wix offers free web hosting to all users (including those with a free plan) and a voucher for one free year of domain ownership to Premium users.
Domain name structure
A domain is made up of a top-level domain (TLD) and a second-level domain (SLD). The SLD is the first part of a domain and the website identity. The TLD, otherwise known as the domain name extension, is the second part of a domain. For example, the TLD for Wix.com is “.com” and the SLD is “Wix.”
Often, if your original choice for a domain isn’t available, you might be able to buy the same SLD with a different TLD. Additionally, some TLDs are less expensive than others. You can choose from three main groups of TLDs:
gTLD: A generic TLD is a domain name extension with three or more characters. The most common gTLDs are .com, .org and .net. .biz and .info are also available, as are .name and .pro—but the latter have restrictions on who can use them.
ccTLD: Country code TLDs are typically less expensive than gTLDs, but they must meet the policies of the related countries and territories. For example, if a domain name has a .fr domain, the site must follow French law.
sTLD: Sponsored TLDs represent private organizations. Buyers must meet certain requirements to be eligible. Some of the most popular sTLDs are .edu, .gov and .museum.
Every Uniform Resource Locator (URL) follows the same sequence: transfer protocol (HTTP or HTTPs), machine name (www.), SLD, TLD, then the path (which forms the hierarchy of a site). Subdomains—which get sandwiched between machine names and SLDs—aren’t essential, but they can organize particularly complex or tangential sections of your website.
Premium domain names
Some domains are more valuable than others. For example, ‘LasVegas.com’ sold for $90 million in 2005, making it the most expensive domain ever purchased. When you consider that “Las Vegas” has an average search volume of 1.9 million per month, it doesn’t seem quite as outrageous.
Premium domain names are short, catchy and easy to remember. They have a high search volume and a .com extension. These characteristics can give you a leg-up on SEO and attract people to your online business. Still, owning a premium domain name with a high search volume doesn’t guarantee traffic—you still need to optimize your website for search engines. Therefore, it’s important to weigh the costs of a premium domain name against the potential benefits.
All domain owners must share their name and contact information with ICANN—the nonprofit corporation that assigns and maintains domains—but some domain registrars offer privacy protection for an additional cost.
Tip: Wix domains come with privacy protections that prevent spam, but you can activate privacy protection for an added fee if you don’t want any of your information to be listed in the WHOIS directory.
If a domain is unavailable and you’re set on making it yours, you might be able to buy it through the domain aftermarket. Aftermarket domains can be quite expensive ($1,000-$30,000), so it’s important to set a budget beforehand.
First, you’ll have to find the domain name owner’s contact information through ICANN. Then, you’ll send them an email asking if the domain is for sale. If it is, you can start the bidding process. Finally, you’ll send the payment through a secure third-party payment service.
The domain aftermarket has become an industry in itself, with auction sites and domain brokers that save you the hassle of tracking down the current owner of the domain. Unfortunately, many scams exist, so be wary of offers that seem too good to be true.
Why is owning a unique domain name so important?
Your website is often a customer’s first impression of your business. A quality domain name makes your website easy to find, establishes your brand and stabilizes your online presence. Together, these factors contribute to your online visibility, which translates into more business opportunities, and ultimately, more sales. This is why registering your own domain is a crucial step to take when creating a website and optimizing your site's infrastructure.
How to buy a domain name?
You can change just about everything about your business, but changing the domain name down the road can be a serious headache. Because your website will function as the central hub of your online business, changing its domain is like pulling the bottom block of a Jenga tower. For that reason, take care when buying a domain name. Here are instructions for how to buy a domain name:
1. Choose a good domain name
Choose a domain name that is simple, short and informative to appeal to visitors and search engine crawlers.
Simple: Your domain should be simple enough for people to pronounce and spell so people can easily remember it. Therefore, it’s also best to avoid peculiar spellings or arbitrary symbols.
Short: The longer a domain name gets, the harder it is for visitors to remember. Whereas the average domain length is 13 characters long, the average domain amongst the world's 500 most popular websites is seven characters.
On-brand: Your domain should incorporate your business name, or at least a variation of it. This will make your website immediately recognizable and consistent with your other branding elements. Don't have a business name? Create yours now with the help of the Business Name Generator.
SEO-friendly: Your domain name is one of the first things Google assesses when ranking your site. Consider incorporating keywords that describe your business. Incorporating a location into the domain (e.g., jennalaska.com or jenn.us) is helpful for businesses that want to improve their local SEO. Characterizing your business according to your industry (e.g., jennphotography.com or jennsphotos.biz).
All that said, if you already have a domain name that doesn't have those characteristics, it is more SEO-friendly to maintain the same domain over your business’s entire lifetime than to redirect the domain to a shorter, simpler and more informative one.
2. Check if your desired domain is available
Another business may have already taken your desired domain name, so the first step is to do a domain name search. If your first choice isn’t available, pop it into a domain name generator, which can help you find a similar domain name. You might be able to keep your SLD and just change the extension.
3. Find a reputable domain registrar
In order to claim your desired domain, you need to go through an ICANN-accredited domain registrar. The registrar will manage your domain and keep track of renewals. Therefore, research a domain registrar’s reputation and its terms and conditions before signing up. Some registrars have hidden fees—such as for administration and renewal fees—that push the domain name cost higher than it should be. This list of best domain registrars can help you with this, too.
4. Claim the domain name
Finally, it’s time to register a domain name. You’ll have the opportunity to claim it for one, two or three years. Once you’ve finished the registration process, just connect the domain to your site and publish.
Can domain name prices vary over time?
The price of a domain name is determined by a number of factors, including the popularity of the TLD, the availability of the domain name and the registrar that you use.
In general, domain names that are more popular and less available will be more expensive. However, the price of a domain name can also fluctuate over time. For example, if a domain name becomes more popular, then the price of the domain name may increase.
In some cases, you may be able to negotiate the price of a domain name, especially if it isn't popular and there are no other bidders. This usually isn't the case, though. The price of a domain name is typically set by the registrar and the owner of the domain name.
There can also be ongoing costs besides the initial purchase price, including registration fees, cost of renewal and transfer fees if you move your domain name to a different registrar.
What's the relationship between domain names and SEO?
Domain names play an important role in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). When a user searches for a keyword, search engines will look at the domain name of the websites that appear in the search results. If the domain name contains the keyword, then the website is more likely to rank higher in the search results.
For example, if a user searches for the keyword "shoes," then a website with the domain name "www.shoes.com" is more likely to rank higher in the search results than a website with the domain name "www.example.com."
However, domain names are not the only factor that affects SEO. Other factors, such as the content of your website, the number of backlinks you have and the overall quality of your website also play a role.