Here are 15 things people should know before registering a domain name.
As the resident “domain expert” among my friends, I get asked a lot of questions about registering domain names. So I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a guide with frequent tips for domain registration. Is someone asking you for help registering domains? You can point them here.
1. You don’t need to pay for Whois privacy
It used to be wise to pay for Whois privacy for your domain name. It kept your name, phone number, and address out of the public Whois directory, thus reducing the number of spam emails and phone calls you received after registering a domain. But most domain name registrars now automatically keep your information out of the public Whois to comply with privacy regulations. So, with the exception of a handful of domain name registrars, paying for Whois privacy is no longer necessary.
2. Prices range widely between registrars
The price you pay for a domain name depends on where you register it. Registrars have to pay the registry (basically, the wholesaler that manages each top level domain) a wholesale price per domain, but the registrar can mark up the price as much as it wants. This means you can pay anywhere from $9 a year to $40 a year for a .com domain. And the price range is even wider for some other domain extensions. So it pays to shop around.
3. The best registrar is different depending on your goals
There’s no easy answer to the question, “Where should I register my domains?” There are hundreds of domain registrars to choose from. In addition to their prices, consider their level of support and security.
When someone is fairly new to domains and needs hand-holding, I typically tell them to use GoDaddy because of its phone and chat support. But GoDaddy is somewhat expensive if you don’t join its discount program (see below). There are other good registrars out there. Sav.com typically has the best prices for popular domains. PorkBun has a good user interface and fair pricing for all domains. Dynadot is a popular choice, too. And that just scratches the surface.
4. You can get discounts if you have a lot of domains
The price registrars publish doesn’t have to be the price you pay. If you manage many domains (usually at least 100), your registrar might offer you discounted pricing. Some registrars charge to join discount programs. For example, GoDaddy has the Domain Discount Club. Other registrars give you discounted pricing just for asking. And you can often find coupon codes on the internet, too.
So if your collection of domains has grown from just a couple to a lot, ask your registrar if they will offer you special pricing.
5. The price you pay the first year might be a teaser rate
When registering a domain, don’t just look at the price you’re quoted for the first year. These are often teaser prices, and the price could go up 10x or more in the second year. Most reputable registrars will show the renewal price next to the registration price. But double-check before committing yourself to a domain for your website.
6. Renewal prices can go up
Oh, and that price you’re quoted for renewals? It’s subject to change. Prices for domain registrations and renewals tend to increase over time. Except for .com, renewal prices aren’t regulated. So you could end up paying a lot more to renew your domain than what you were originally told.
7. Renew your domain for multiple years
You can register domains for up to 10 years at a time. You have to pay for all those years upfront, but if you’re sure you’re going to continue using the domain, it’s a wise idea. Every year your domain is due for renewal, there’s a chance the renewal won’t go through. You might drop the ball, or your automated renewal might fail because your credit card is no longer valid. Oh, and when you register for longer terms in advance, you pay current renewal rates for the extra years. You lock in today’s pricing, which will probably increase if you decide to renew later. So register or renew your important domains well in advance for multiple years.
8. Some domains have higher premium prices
All available domains have the same price when you register a traditional .com, .net or .org domain. Many other top level domains have “Premium pricing,” in which the better domains have higher-than-normal annual costs. Sometimes these prices are higher for the first year and then revert to regular fees for renewals, but most have higher initial costs and higher renewal costs. Ask a registrar for clarification before you register a domain if you have any questions about renewal prices
9. Your domain will be locked from transfer after you buy it
Register your domain at the registrar where you want to keep it for at least 60 days. That’s because some domains are locked from transfer after they are registered. All .com domains are locked for 60 days before you can move them to another registrar. Registrars also put transfer locks on domains for other reasons, such as if they’re newly transferred or if you change some of your contact information, so be careful if you intend to move your domain to another registrar.
10. Even if the domain you want is taken, you might be able to acquire it affordably
Many people move on to another domain if the one they initially want is taken. But you might be able to buy the domain you want for a little bit of money.
Not all domains cost millions of dollars to acquire. In fact, the majority of domains sell for $5,000 or less. That’s a small price to pay for the perfect company domain name.
Sellers will sometimes offer domains on payment plans, too. So instead of paying thousands of dollars upfront, you can pay hundreds each month until you pay it off.
11. The person reaching out might not be your registrar
Be wary of email and SMS solicitations you receive after registering a domain name. The sender might claim to be with your registrar, but it’s actually someone who mined the info about your new registration to try to sell you things like logo services, web design, etc. With new privacy regulations blocking most information from Whois, this isn’t as big of a problem as before, but be cautious before responding to an inquiry.
12. Watch out for these scams
There are two common scams that all domain owners need to know about.
One is the domain appraisal scam, in which someone contacts you offering a lot of money for your domain. Once you agree, they tell you they need an appraisal for their records and require you to purchase it from a particular site. They actually own that site, and once you pay for the appraisal, they’ll ghost you.
The other is the Chinese trademark scam. An entity in Asia will contact you saying that someone is trying to register domains similar to one you registered. They want your permission before allowing that other company to register the domains. They’re trying to trick you into paying to register these domains through them.
13. You don’t need to register the .net and .org
The old advice was to register the matching .net and .org domains when registering a .com. That was before hundreds of “new top level domains” such as .guru, .xyz, .coffee, etc., came on the scene. Now there are too many domain extensions to register the matching domain in all of them, so you should be more selective. If you are going big with a brand, consider registering relevant extensions. But you don’t necessarily need to register the .net and .org.
14. Trendy domain extensions might actually belong to countries
Bitly thought its domain ending in .ly was cool, and so did a lot of other startups. Many didn’t know that .ly is a country code domain “owned” by Libya. This can create problems.
All two-character top level domains are country code domains. You should know which country controls one you’re thinking about before registering a domain. For example, are you comfortable basing your business on a .so domain? Did you know that’s Somalia’s country domain? That’s not exactly the most stable place in the world.
15. You don’t have to register your domain where you host your website
It can be convenient to register a domain where you host your website, but it’s not required. The same goes for website builders like Squarespace and Wix. Although they encourage you to register domains with them, you can easily point domains registered elsewhere to your site. So don’t feel like you need to pay a premium to register a domain with your webhost.
What did a miss? Feel free to comment with suggestions.