Here’s a checklist to help you get the most value from the domain registration process with the fewest headaches.
1. Get as many domains as you need. One domain for one website sounds obvious but if you’re planning a business website you might benefit from having some extra domains. For example, suppose your business is Joe’s Widgets. The domain joeswidget.com, if available, would be an obvious choice for your website. However, suppose you want some of your advertising to focus on just one of your services. You could also register widgetrepair.com and widgetconsulting.com, then use URL forwarding/redirection to point those domains to joeswidgets.com or one of its pages. Most registrars offer URL forwarding for free or for a small amount. URL forwarding can be done for free within your hosting account if the account supports multiple domains. (Web hosting options will be discussed in a later post.) Extra domains are only about $10/year so they can make a pretty good marketing investment.
2. Find good domain names that are available. After you’ve chosen some names, go to the website of the registrar you plan to use. There will be a mini-form that lets you check the availability of a domain name you type in. Most registrar websites also have a form to check the availability of multiple domains, although you might have to look around for it. If all the domains you want are available, you’re lucky. Although buying a domain already registered by someone else is possible, let’s assume you’d prefer to limit your domain hunt to names that are currently available. Pop open your favorite text editor and start typing in domain name candidates, one per line. Use the registrar website’s multiple-domain checking form to see which of them are available. You might also try NameBoy. It generates domain name candidates from 1 or 2 keywords you give it and tells you if they’re available.
3. Find available price discounts. During the registration process, many registrars will give you the opportunity to enter a discount code at the payment step. Go to Google and type in “discount”, “code”, and the name of the registrar you plan to use. Leave the web pages with applicable discount codes open as tabs so you can use them during registration.
4. Register the domains. On the registrar website enter the list of domains you want to register and follow the instructions. Look for the opportunity to enter a discount code before you submit payment for the registration fees. You may have to retry if a code has expired or is otherwise invalid.
5. Make sure your contact information is correct. During the registration process you set up your user account with the registrar. You’ve probably received one or more emails confirming the registration and account setup. Log in to your account and navigate to the part of the interface that allows you to edit your contact information. It will be in four sections, often containing identical contact information. The first section, for registrant, is the only section where it’s critical that the contact information is correct and up to date. That section identifies the domain’s owner (you), specifying who should be contacted for issues related to ownership of the domain(s). The contact information in all sections will probably be pre-populated with your billing name and address. If you wish, you can change the contact information. Just make sure it’s valid information that points to you. The registrar interface should have a checkbox that tells all sections to use the contact information specified in the registrant section. That’s common and simplest if you’re a one-person operation. The contact information should be default apply to all the domains in your account.
6. Set your domains to auto-renew. Log in to your account and find and set the option to have your domains auto-renew. This saves you the trouble of having to make a manual payment every year. It also gives you extra protection in case you somehow miss all the email warnings that your domains are in danger of expiring. You don’t want to build a killer website and have it go down the drain when the domain it sits on expires and gets registered by someone else.
7. Verify your information in the Whois database. Unless you specified Whois privacy during the registration process, your contact information should make its way into the master Whois database within 24 hours. Go to whois.domaintools.com and plug in your domain name(s) to see how you and your domains appear in the Whois database.