In the first article of this mini-series, I covered the basics of researching and choosing a domain name.
In this post, you’ll learn how to buy and manage a domain name.
It sounds easy, and it is, but there are options and processes to get your head around so you don’t make any mistakes that later cost you time or money.
You typically have two options when it comes to registering a domain name for your blog:
- Buy a domain name as a single entity and attach it to a hosting package
- Buy a domain name as part of a hosting package
This is what you see when creating an account with Bluehost.
When I first started building websites I bought the domain along with the hosting package. Simply because I didn’t know what I was doing and it was easy to set up.
Nowadays, I keep most of my domain names with a registrar and my hosting with a hosting company. I connect the two through an admin panel with the registrar. It’s as simple as changing the name servers (as shown in the image below).
(The process for doing this changes from registrar to registrar, but you should find instructions within the help areas of your host’s site. Failing that, contact the support team.)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with buying a domain as part of a hosting package, and I recommend you do it if you plan on running only one or a small number of blogs.
So why do I keep my domains and hosting separate?
It’s just the way things have worked out. I use Fasthosts to register domains (my account dates back to around 2002), and frankly, in my experience, their hosting service was/is rubbish. So I looked for and found better alternatives.
I kept my Fasthosts account open to handle buying domains because it’s easy to manage and I know how their system works.
Over the years, I’ve bought domains and hosting through lots of companies: iPower, Lunarpages, GoDaddy, HostGator, KnownHost, Bluehost, Namecheap, Vidahost, TolraNet and TSOhost.
How much does a domain name cost?
Prices vary greatly from company to company. And most hosting companies offer a free domain when you buy hosting at the same time. This is a nice incentive and definitely worth considering (as long as you choose the right host).
Typically, you get the domain free for the first year only. After that the price reverts to the standard rate.
At the time of writing, here are the prices of a .com domain with some of the more popular registrars:
- GoDaddy – $9.99
- Namecheap – $3.98/year
- Hostgator – $12.95/year
- Fasthosts – £6.99 (exc VAT & special offer)
- 123Reg – £10.99
- Names – £9.99 (exc VAT)
- 1 and 1 – £0.99 (exc VAT & special offer)
As you can see, the prices vary quite a lot, and there are frequent special offers to look out for.
What you should be aware of is renewal fees and other hidden costs, such as moving the domain to another registrar. Some companies charge for this, some don’t.
I spotted GoDaddy running an AdWords campaign offering domains .com domains for $0.99. To get this price, you would have to click on the link in the AdWords ad.
(Remember, I’m in the UK, hence the £ sign.)
I changed the currency on the GoDaddy site and the price switched to $0.99. I assume this offer is available to people around the world, but it may not be.
Domain registrars and hosting companies are desperate for your business. Especially if you’re a newbie. This is why they offer such compelling deals. Once you’re onboard with them, unless you have a terrible experience, you very likely become a customer for life because switching is just too confusing or just downright scary.
This shows how shopping around can get you a good deal. Try searching for the name of the hosting company and add ‘discount code’ or ‘voucher code’ to your search term.
However, you may be more interested in setting up your blog than saving a few pennies, in which case, let’s move on…
How long is the registration period?
It depends on the domain extension. The shortest time you can register a domain is as follows:
- .co.uk – 2 years (so, when you see a price of £2.49 per year, be aware that the price you pay is always twice the yearly amount, and you may have 20% VAT on top)
- .com – 1 year
- .net – 1 year
If you like, you can register a domain name for up to 10 years and beyond.
What happens when your domain name needs renewing?
Most registrars offer an automatic renewal option (which can happen 30 days BEFORE the renewal date). This is great if you’re serious about your blog and don’t want to let the registration lapse.
If you’re testing the water or experimenting with different blogs, you might like to switch off the automatic renewal option (I learned this the hard way!) and instead choose to renew manually.
When you create an account with a registrar or a hosting company, be sure to manage it through your main email. The company will contact you from time to time, so be sure to pick up those emails as they may contain important information (such as renewal dates, downtime or probelms with your payment method).
Your personal information
When registering a domain name, you might notice an option to hide your name and address from the public WHOIS record.
There is usually an extra charge for this, but it’s worth paying if you don’t want your name and address to appear on a publicly accessible database, which is sometimes mined by scammers to retrieve personal information.
If you’re in the UK and use a domain for business, you should make your business information available on the public database. This includes your business name, business address or registered office and telephone number. Rules may differ around the world, so please check the law for your country.
This post outlines some of the popular scams pulled by businesses in the domain name selling niche. It’s actually quite scary and could put you off moving forward. In my experience, as long as you use a reputable company and avoid the cheapest options, you should be safe.
Registering a domain
Each registrar has its own process so I can’t give you a step-by-step guide for each one. But generally it goes something like this:
- Use a research tool to see if the domain is available
- If it is, click on a button that says something like ‘register’ or ‘buy now’
- Select additional options such as domain privacy, hosting and variant domains you also want to buy (.com, .net etc)
- Enter your personal details (remember to choose the privacy option if you want it)
- Enter your payment details
- Complete the process
Which company should you use?
These days I only use Fasthosts. In the past I’ve bought domains from iPower, LunarPages, GoDaddy, Bluehost and Vidahost.
GoDaddy provided the worst experience – they upsell at every opportunity. You could end up buying stuff you don’t need and paying way more than you expect (I don’t use GoDaddy anymore), and many years ago, I had a few problems shifting domains from iPower to Fasthosts, but the rest of the providers mentioned here all provided me with a good service.
Here’s a list of companies worth looking at:
There are loads of others too, and I’ll mention some of them in the next post in this series about web hosting.
I hope you’ve found this post useful? I know some of what I’ve said is quite daunting and a little scary, but honestly, buying and managing a domain isn’t much of a problem.
I’ve bought loads over the years, and the biggest issue has always been related the system automatically renewing a domain when I didn’t want it to. For this reason, I now set most of my domains to manually renew so I can make a decision at the renewal time. This is the main reason why I stay with Fasthosts – I know exactly how their system works and for the amount of domains I currently own (16), it’s not worth moving.
Please feel free to leave a comment about your good and bad experiences with any of these companies or if you have any suggestions relating to registering and managing a domain name.