Howto : Choose and buy a domain name

What is a domain name?

If we put aside the tech talk, a domain name is simply the address of your website.

Accessing a site is normally done via a specific IP address.
A domain name is used to link this IP address to a name, so that when you ask a search engine to access a particular website, the engine “translates” the domain name into a workable IP address, through a registry, and redirects you to that site.

A domain name is at least composed of two levels: The top-level is the extension of your site (.com, for example).
The second-level is the name of your domain, such as profitsheroes.
Finally, you will very often find a subdomain attached to your address, such as www.

In summary : www is the subdomain, profitsheroes is the second-level domain, and .com is the top-level domain.

How to choose a good domain name?

Pay particular attention to the choice of your domain name, it is an absolutely crucial branding element. Your domain name is your brand, it is your identity.

Some tips:

  • Choose a name as short as possible, which will make it easier to memorize.
  • When your name contains more than one word, you can choose to use dashes, but absolutely limit their use. One dash, at most.
  • No long names, such as how-to-get-rich-the-ultimate-training.com. Way too spammy!
  • Choose a name related to your activity.
  • Avoid names that are almost identical to those of a competitor (from the same niche, that is).
  • Try to find a domain name with at least one keyword related to your niche in order to facilitate your referencing. Not necessary but it is a great addition !

Useful resources:

https://leandomainsearch.com/
https://namechk.com/

Use these two tools to validate an idea and have immediate visibility on the availability of your name to social networks and others (remember to reserve your name as soon as possible before someone else does it for you! The retention of domain names is a real business…. Be careful therefore if you intend to work on your branding over the long term)

.com is to be preferred if possible, but you will quickly notice that the vast majority of short names are taken… So help yourself with leandomainsearch to find inspiration and not to be caught short!

Do not put your eggs in the same basket. Thus, it is customary to buy your domain name separately from the host. Many hosting providers allow you to buy a domain name directly on their platform. Yes, it makes your domain name management easier, but it is advisable to buy your domain names separately in the pessimistic hypothesis where you would have a problem with one or the other of the services. Admit that it would be a shame to offer both your domain and your hosting as a hostage to the same entity !)

How to buy a domain ?

Okay, now that you have a clear idea of the name you want for your domain and have checked its availability, the next step is of course to know how to buy this domain name.
The answer is simple: You need to go through a registrar.
What is a registrar? It’s a company that will take care of reserving the domain in your name, for a fee that varies according to the nature of the desired domain.
This company must be accredited by a registry in order to be authorized to sell domain names.
There are several registries, each with its own specific guidelines to which the registrar must comply with.
The minimum requirement is to be accredited by the generic top-level domain registry (.com, .net, .org, …).
Since it is relatively easy to be a registrar, it is very important to check if the company has been accredited by ICANN, which is in charge of regulating the sector, in order to avoid any scam manoeuvres, which are unfortunately a reality nowadays.

What are the best registrars ?

There is a very wide choice of registrars. Here are some of the most reputed. Choose the offer that suits you best (for the same domain name, prices may vary…).
Nothing much to report at the purchase level. An account will have to be created (with your personal information, of course), then once the purchase is made you will have access to a control panel allowing you to manage your domains.
The control panels vary according to the hosts but don’t panic, the terms and technique remain the same!
The offers are all more or less the same and the choice of one registrar or another is not very important to me.
Personally, I have an account with several registrars and I buy my domain names according to whoever offers the best price, at the time. In case of a problem, you can transfer your domain name from one registrar to another.

Notes : Let me remind you that this list is based ONLY on the performances of the services as registrars. I am not interested in their performances as web hosts (or others) because this is a separate activity that requires a different study and different criterias.
I strongly recommend that you do not go on a purchase based on the qualities of a registrar as a web host. Focus on his qualities as a registrar, and choose a web host according to his qualities as a web host. You’re rarely the best at two things, and my list is designed to help you determine which are the BEST at what they’re doing (in this case, being an efficient registrar).

#1 The King : Namecheap

Namecheap

Claiming a pool of over 10M domain names, Namecheap is the 3rd biggest registrar out there, after almost two decades on the market. It’s also the second fastest growing registrar in terms of total domains (+108% in the past 12 months) according to RegistrarOwl.com, a ressource for domain registrar statistics.

Namecheap is also strongly involved into internet rights and privacy, having donated more than $390,000 to the Electronic Frontier Foundation since 2011 (more about their philosophy here : https://www.namecheap.com/about/causes.aspx).

Probably the most reliable registrar out there.

  • Operating since : 2000
  • User-friendly control panel : Yes
  • Reputation : 4,5/5
    • Notes : Namecheap is regularly cited as one of the best registrars. Its solid reputation is based on its reliability, its usually positive feedback from users, the low number of disputes raised, or its positions in favour of net neutrality.
  • ICANN-accredited : Yes
  • Renewal fees (.com) : $12,98
  • Domain auto-renewal : Yes
  • Free WHOIS Privacy : Yes
  • Domain forwarding : Yes
  • 24/7 support : Yes

Website : https://www.namecheap.com/

Pricing page : https://www.namecheap.com/domains/domain-name-search.aspx (scroll down)

#2 The Challenger : Namesilo

As of February 2019, Namesilo manages over 2M domain names (with 75% of them being .com), which may sounds not so much in terms of rough numbers. However, it compensates with a very aggressive pricing policy. Indeed, Namesilo has the cheapest .com price index to date, according to RegistrarOwl.com. It’s also the cheapest in terms of renewal price, and 7th out of 244 for transfer price.

In January 10, 2019, Namesilo acquired Namepal, another registrar of renown. It’s expected to get even bigger over time, given its uninterrupted growth so far (3rd fastest growing registrar in terms of total domains, with +86% in the previous 12 months).

It’s, overall, the registrar to look for if you’re searching for the best deals possible.

  • Operating since : 2009
  • User-friendly control panel : Yes
  • Reputation : 4,5/5
    • Notes : Nothing to report with regard to Namesilo. Its reputation is good, few disputes, few bad reviews, Namesilo is a transparent registrar with an excellent pricing policy. Reliable.
  • ICANN-accredited : Yes
  • Renewal fees (.com) : $8,99
  • Domain auto-renewal : Yes Free WHOIS Privacy : Yes
  • Domain forwarding : Yes
  • 24/7 support : No (Mon-Fri 9:30am-4:00pm Arizona time for phone calls)

Website : https://www.namesilo.com

Pricing page : https://www.namesilo.com/pricing.php

$1 Coupon offer : PHPROMO

#3 The Exotic One : Netim

Netim

Okay, so I wanted to make a top 3, and although I love the first 2 personally, Netim is the latest registrar I’ve bought from. And since it gave me complete satisfaction so far… Why not promote them?

It will give you something to think about in case you’re not into big companies, and want a customer support as dedicated as possible!

  • Operating since : 2004
  • User-friendly control panel : Yes
  • Reputation : 4,9/5
    • Notes : Netim is relatively unknown to the US market. However, it has grown an extremely solid reputation in Europe. Being a growing registrar outside Europe, it deserves an honourable mention insofar as it has the highest satisfaction ratio among users (within the limits of the registrars listed here). As such it could be granted a 5/5, but… I never give the maximum score 😉 With such an outstanding support of its customer base, I’d suggest to follow its evolution closely, as it could become a major player in the future…
  • ICANN-accredited : Yes
  • Renewal fees (.com) : $14
  • Domain auto-renewal : Yes
  • Free WHOIS Privacy : Yes
  • Domain forwarding : Yes
  • 24/7 support : No (online only)

Website : https://www.netim.com

Pricing page : https://www.netim.com/domain-name/prices.html

Notes : Due to their terrible reputation, I chose to remove GoDaddy and 1&1 from the list, despite both being mastodons in this area.
Feel free to try them (at your own risks !).
For what it’s worth, I haven’t had any major problems with them yet. Nonetheless, I don’t want to promote an offer I’m not sure will meet your expectations…