This FAQ covers some of the basics about registering domain names for a website.
Our related article has more information on choosing the right domain names for your business.
Are domains and website hosting the same thing?
No, domain names are registered names for a website. Hosting is a location where the website code resides. Domain names are permanent as long as you keep your registration up. Hosting for a website may change over time as business needs change, but the domain name remains the same.
Should I register my domain names myself?
Always register your domain name yourself. It’s often easier to have the website designer or hosting company do it for you. But if you allow a website designer or hosting company to do it, it’s possible that the domain registration may be owned by the designer or hosting company instead of being owned by you or your company.
You want to be the registered owner of your domain just as you are the registered owner of your business. This makes it easier to renew your domain or transfer the domain to a different hosting provider or website designer.
When should domain names be registered?
Register your preferred domain names as soon as possible to prevent others from registering them. You can register a domain name before you have a website or website hosting, associating the domain name with the website later when you are ready.
Should I register more than one domain name?
In actuality, you only need to register one domain name, but you may want to reserve certain names so that your competition doesn’t get them. Each domain name you register costs money every year to maintain the registration. So, the number of domains you register should fit within your budget. In general, you would register multiple domain names using variations of your primary domain. If you’re an individual or a small business owner, you should also reserve variations of your personal name.
Where do I register domain names?
How can I tell if a domain name is already registered to someone else?
Domain registrars like Go Daddy and Network Solutions have domain search functions right on their homepages. You just type in your desired domain names and extension (.com, .net, .org, etc.) then perform the search to see what’s available.
What do I do if the domain name I want is already registered?
If your preferred domain name is already registered then, the best bet is to try another name.
If you absolutely must have a certain domain name, there are some options to try such as waiting for the domain to expire, making a certified offer to the owner, or buying the domain name from an auction site.
How many years should a domain name be registered for?
Domains are generally registered on an annual basis. But you can usually save on the annual price by registering for multiple years at a time. The general rule of thumb is to register for as many years as you can afford or that makes sense for your situation. For example, if you want to create a website for an event like a wedding or reunion, then you may only need to register the domain for a year. But if you’re registering the domain for your business then maybe a longer term makes sense.
Do domain name renewal expiration dates affect search engine optimization?
The length of a domain’s renewal period can affect search engine optimization. There are two factors here. How long you’ve had the domain registered and how long your renewal period is. The length that a domain has been registered over its entire life is important to search engines.
For example, if you just bought a new domain last week and registered it for 10 years, the search engines would consider this a new domain and thus the ranking in search engine results would be lower, but you may get some boost in rankings from the longer term.
On the other hand, if you’ve owned a domain for 10 years and renewed it last week for another year, the search engines would consider your domain established and your rankings wouldn’t be penalized for a being a new domain, but the one-year renewal term would show your domain expires soon. So, you’re ranking may be penalized because of the shorter renewal period.
So, you may want to consider registering and renewing your primary domain name for as long as possible, say 5 or 10 years.
What is private registration?
Private registration protects your personal or business information from being shown in the WhoIs database. The WhoIs database is an international searchable database showing all domains and who has registered them. You can see the WhoIs database at Network Solutions and other domain registrars.
It is strongly recommended that you pay the extra amount for private domain registration to protect your privacy.
How do I associate my domain with my website?
Domain names are directed to point at websites using name servers. If your domain registrar and hosting company are the same, then your name servers should be set properly from the start. But if your hosting company is different than your registrar, then your website designer or hosting company will identify the name servers to use in order to associate your domain with the website. In this case, you will have to manually update the name servers at your registrar.
What is the correct way to forward a domain name?
If you purchased secondary domains and your website is up and running, you’ll want to forward or point them to your website. You can do this forwarding through your domain registrar.
The correct forwarding method is to use permanent forwarding without masking or any other variation. Permanent forwarding is also referred to as a 301 Redirect.
Masking and other variations of forwarding may negatively affect search engine optimization and create usability issues on your website.
If you want to temporarily redirect your domain, then you can use a temporary forwarding method called a 302 Redirect.