Long before purchasing real estate in the metaverse, buying a domain name was one of few ways to own virtual property.
Domain names not only serve as your digital address, they still play a significant role in your branding efforts and online presence. They can also act as a valuable business asset, since desirable domain names can actually be worth a fortune.
With this in mind, purchasing a domain is a big step in developing a strong online strategy and investing in your future. Regardless of your industry or niche, follow these steps to learn how to register a domain name for your website.
Ready to get a website domain name? Get started with Wix today.
What is a domain name?
What is a domain name, exactly? This term describes the address that you type into a browser to arrive at a website. It is essentially a website’s home, so every domain is unique. An example is www.wix.com.
Domain names were created so people could more easily access a website’s Internet Protocol (IP), a string of numbers representing individual websites. Every URL has an IP address, and unless you are a computer, a domain is much simpler to remember than a string of numbers. For example, take the IP address 184.108.40.206: to most, this is just a complicated string of numbers. Its domain name, wix.com, is not only easy to remember, but it also conveys a distinct brand that numbers cannot.
Domain names are a part of the network solutions ecosystem. Network solutions refers to a system of tech, tools and practices that are used to manage and secure computer networks. By computer network we mean a collection of devices, could be computers, printers, severs, which connect together to share information. A domain name is a critical part of any network solution that involves connecting to the internet.
Let's explain that better. When anyone enters a domain name into a web browser, the browser then accesses the Domain Name System (DNS) to find the IP address linked to that domain name. Once they have this information, they can then connect to the web server that hosts the website requested. This process itself is an integral part of a network solution, in which users locate and find websites through domain names.
As part of this process, a name server is responsible for translating domain names into IP addresses. When you type a domain name into your web browser, such as "www.example.com," your computer sends a request to a name server to resolve the domain name into an IP address that can be used to connect to the website.
Name servers are an essential part of the Domain Name System (DNS), which is the system that translates human-readable domain names into machine-readable IP addresses. The DNS system uses a hierarchical structure of name servers to manage and distribute domain name resolution requests.
Why a domain name matters
A good domain name will represent your brand online and act as your company’s home on the web. A good domain name affects your business in several main areas:
It ensures a good first impression. Your website will often be a potential customer’s first exposure to your business. A personalized domain name will help your audience perceive you as credible, reliable, and authoritative in your professional field. This is especially important for eCommerce sites and those offering online shopping, where users and customers demand higher levels of security and trust from a site and business. It will also establish your web presence from the minute your site is live.
It’s a solid foundation for brand building. Your domain name can help enhance your company's name recognition if it stands out, is memorable and in tune with the rest of your branding assets. It helps users add value to your brand or business, by creating associations to your name and website. This can also make it an integral part of your marketing strategy as your domain name will represent your brand across the different types of marketing you choose to deploy, from your digital marketing, to social media efforts to advertising campaigns. Your domain name can most definitely be an integral part of building your reputation online.
It’ll improve your brand’s SEO potential. While Google doesn’t determine website ranking based on a domain name alone, a good one can positively affect your site’s SEO (search engine optimization). Visitors unaware of your brand could click on your website from a search engine results page (SERP) if it matches their intent. For example, someone searching for backpacks will likely click on qualitypacks.com over an unfamiliar brand name.
Tip: If you need some help to find the best domain name for your brand or business, try a domain name generator. These free tools instantly provide domain name ideas for your website that aligns with your branding and SEO strategy.
How to register a domain name in 5 steps
01. Select a domain registrar
Before you can start choosing, you need to first know where to buy a domain name. A domain registrar is a company that reserves and manages domain names. While the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages all domains worldwide, a registrar deals with ICANN on your behalf.
When choosing among the best domain registrars, it's important to consider the infrastructure they have in place, to ensure your domain is secure. This will help protect your domain, website and business from cyber attacks and fraud attempts. Cyber attacks in general are on the increase, and domain names are as vulnerable to these as any other online resource. Attacks specifically targeting domains include domain hijacking, DNS spoofing, DDoS attacks, typosquatting and malware distribution.
One of the ways in which domain providers ensure the security of your domain name is through the use of public keys - domain name system security extensions (DNSSEC) and secure sockets layer/transport layer security (SSL/TLS) certificates.
DNSSEC uses a public key to authenticate and verify the integrity of DNS records, including domain name registrations. When a domain is registered with DNSSEC, the domain owner generates a public-private key pair, signs the DNS zone file with the private key, and publishes the public key in a DNS record called the DNSKEY record. This allows clients to verify that the DNS records they receive are authentic and have not been tampered with.
SSL/TLS certificates also use public key cryptography to enable secure communication between web servers and clients. When a user visits a website, their web browser uses the website's SSL/TLS certificate to establish a secure connection with the server. The SSL/TLS certificate contains the server's public key, which is used to encrypt data sent to the server. This helps to protect user data, such as login credentials and credit card information, from eavesdropping and interception.
In both cases, the public key is used to verify the authenticity and integrity of the information being transmitted or accessed, and is a critical component of the security infrastructure that underpins the domain.
Other potential domain name protections include the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) which protects the Domain Name System (DNS) from specific cyber attacks, such as DNS cache poisoning. When registering a domain name as a website and business owner, there's nothing you'll need to do to trigger these security protocols, however knowing they exist should provide some level of peace of mind when choosing a domain name to register.
Tip: Wix.com is a registrar and also a web-hosting service (web hosting is a type of internet hosting service), meaning you can not only purchase a unique domain, but also create your site on the same platform. With the purchase of a premium plan, you get a voucher for a free domain name for a year. Wix also applies SSL and TLS protocols to all of its sites.
02. Choose the best domain name
You must consider many factors when choosing a domain name for your site. First, select a name that reflects your brand’s tone and messaging. Stick to a name that is short and catchy, so that people can easily remember it, such as nbc.com.
To improve your SEO efforts, you can incorporate an associated keyword into your brand’s domain name, too.
For example, an illustrator named Talia Cohen may opt for taliacohenillustration.com, or an animal rescue organization called Whiskers might go for whiskersrescue.com. Once you’re ready, create a shortlist of potential names.
Tip: Try using a website name generator to brainstorm ideas to include in your domain name.
03. Check the availability of your domain name
Existing companies may already own your preferred domain names. Try out an unlimited number of options for free on a domain name search platform. If your desired name is unavailable, the tool will come up with additional ideas. Play around with alternatives until you find the perfect one.
Once you've chosen your name and completed the process of registering it, your details including your name, email and phone number, will be submitted to the WHOIS database. This is a global resource which is publicly accessible and can be queried through the WHOIS protocol (this just means sending a request to the WHOIS server to deliver all of the stored information for a specific domain name) or through an online tool which can send the query. This information can be useful when pursuing intellectual property rights, and cybersecurity threats arising from domain name abuse or hacking.
In order to run a WHOIS search, simply type 'whois domain name' into your browser.
You can block access to your information being public accesses via the WHOIS privacy protocol. This involves paying an extra fee to replace your contact information as the domain owner with a third party service. This service will then handle any messages or requests made to you via WHOIS. However this is generally not recommended for public service websites or businesses required to provide contact information.
04. Select your domain extension
Also known as top-level domains (TLD), domain extensions quickly identify certain website elements such as purpose, owner or geographic location. There are five official types of TLDs, with generic top-level domains (gTLD) accounting for the majority of the 366 million registered domains worldwide. The most popular gTLD choices are .org, .com and .net, making them the easiest to recall. Other specific and significant domain extensions include .edu and .gov. Country domain extensions, also often known as country code top level domains, are also often a popular choice, such as co.uk (United Kingdom), or de (Germany). You can check out ICANN’s complete list of domain extensions here, or check out these guides:
Generally the name you place before your extension, is referred to as the second level domain. So for example, in www.wix.com the second-level domain is "wix." Our domain name "wix.com" is registered with the ".com" top-level domain extension, which is managed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and is one of the most commonly used top-level domain extensions for commercial websites.
If your domain name is already taken, try it out with a different extension—you may find an available option. However, keep in mind that an extension like .org is better used for nonprofit organizations, while .com usually represents for-profit companies.
05. Purchase your domain
Once you’ve selected a domain name for your site, claim it before someone else does.
Here’s how to register a domain name with Wix:
Head over to the domain registrar.
Type in your preferred domain name and click Search.
If your name is available, click Get It to proceed. If not, browse the additional ideas or type another option into the search bar.
Once you’ve found a domain name that suits your site’s needs, click Get It.
Next, decide whether you’d like to register for one, two or three years. The longer your registration period, the more money you save each year. Once you’ve chosen, click Continue and continue to checkout.
Connect the domain name to your site and share it with your desired audience, be it friends and family or an internet niche.
Domain name and email hosting
Registering a domain name and email hosting are two separate services, but they are often offered together by domain name registrars and web hosting providers. Email hosting involves setting up email accounts and an email address that are associated with your domain name, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. It may also offer other features and services such as webmail access, spam filtering, virus protection and email forwarding. Many domain name registrars and web hosting providers offer bundled services that include domain name registration and email hosting, which can simplify the process.
With a website builder like Wix you can easily connect your domain and business email for a professional business website and streamlined brand building experience.
How to buy a domain name
Free domain name registration
Here are a couple of ways to get a domain name for free:
Register a free subdomain. A subdomain is a prefix on a domain name that connects independently functioning sites. Certain hosting platforms and site builders offer users a fully-functioning website for free with a customized subdomain. For example, when you learn how to make a website with Wix, you can publish it for free under the following URL structure: username.wixsite.com/siteaddress.
Take advantage of free web hosting. Several hosting sites offer free customized domain registration with purchase, giving you a professional online presence without the cost.
How much does a domain cost?
While you can get a domain for free, you may want to purchase one instead. A free domain will contain a designated prefix of the registrar, which is best if you’re establishing an online presence or only temporarily need a website.
If you want your website to professionally stand out and grow with your brand, however, then invest in a domain name.
With Wix, the cost of a domain name depends on several factors, including:
The plan you purchase
Local VAT laws
However, all Wix premium plans come with a domain for one year, which otherwise cost between $14 and $39 a month. After a year, you can renew your domain for pricing plans anywhere between $13.95 and $15.95 a year. You can read more about domain name costs in detail, to understand what’s right for you and your business.
In general, some other factors to consider that can impact the cost of a domain include auto-renew costs, privacy and protection costs and transferring domains. For example, you can also purchase a domain that already exists from another person or business. This is why having a desirable domain name can be good for your bottom line—if you ever want to sell it, you can make significant money. For example, in 2010, CarInsurance.com was sold for $49.7 million as one of the ten most expensive domain names in the world.
Types of domains
Top-level domains (TLDs) are the highest level of the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy, and they are the last part of a domain name. TLDs are divided into two categories: generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs).
Generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
gTLDs are non-geographic TLDs that are intended for general use. There are currently over 1,500 gTLDs, including some of the most common TLDs, such as .com, .net and .org.
Here are some of the most common gTLDs:
.com: Commercial organizations
.net: Network organizations
.org: Non-profit organizations
.edu: Educational institutions
.gov: Government agencies
.mil: Military organizations
.info: Informational websites
.name: Personal websites
Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
ccTLDs are geographic TLDs that are intended for use by countries or territories. There are currently over 300 ccTLDs, including .uk for the United Kingdom, .ca for Canada and .au for Australia.
Here are some of the most common ccTLDs:
.uk: United Kingdom
.us: United States
In addition to gTLDs and ccTLDs, there are also a few other types of TLDs, such as internationalized top-level domains (IDN TLDs) and test TLDs.
IDN TLDs are TLDs that can be registered in non-Latin scripts, such as Arabic, Chinese or Cyrillic. IDN TLDs were created to make the internet more accessible to people who do not speak Latin script languages.
Test TLDs are used for testing new TLDs before they are released to the public. Test TLDs are not intended for general use.
How to register a domain name FAQ
Can I register a domain name for free?
Some domain services provide free domain name registration. However you'll then have limited control over ownership of the name, and you may have to accept advertising and other conditions in exchange for a free name.
How much does domain name registration cost?
It varies between providers. Wix premium plans come with a domain for one year, which otherwise cost between $14 and $39 a month. After a year, you can renew your domain for pricing plans anywhere between $13.95 and $15.95 a year.
How to register my domain name?
Choose a domain registrar, the purchase and pricing plan you want, then choose your name.
Can I register and own a domain name for forever?
Generally, no. Registering a domain name does't constitute ownership of that name, it generally means you're renting it for an agreed period and it will need renewing every set number of years, according to the contract between you and your domain registrar or website builder.