Ok, so you've decided that building a website is the best thing you can do to make your small business known and give it more credibility?

Great, because you're right. If done correctly, a website is the best property you can have and it will help you step up sales and gather new customers.

But before building it, there's a catch, naming it, or - choosing your website domain name.

Website what?

This might interest you if you're still on the fence with making a website: 9 Reasons Why You Need a Website if You're a Small-Business Owner

gif confused child, illustrated confusion about website domain

What is a website domain and why do you need it?

Open your browser and type in www.softerrific.com.

The result will be our website and the phrase you just typed in a Google is our domain. Google.com is also a domain.

Simply put, a domain is an address of your website.

  • It’s just like a street name and number of the new house you are going to build.
  • Or listing your name in a phone address book.
  • Or having licence plates on a car etc.

It enables your visitors to find you, access your website and distinguish you from others.

What's a domain from a technical point of view

All of our websites are hosted on a server. Servers are basically big machines/computers that store data.

Data Servers
Photo by imgix / Unsplash

In computer language, internet communicates through IP addresses which are numerical values. For example, the IP address (and a website domain for our website you Googled above) is 172.67.138.223.

Now, if we used numbers, that would be pretty hard to remember.

woman confused, calculating, illustrating that it's not easy to understand what a domain is


Using words instead of IP addresses makes it easier for us to browse on the Internet.

How to choose a website domain - step by step

As promised, we want this article to be a complete guide on how to choose and make a website domain by yourself. All you need to know will be described in these five steps.

Step 1 - Exploring options and available domain names

Verisign’s report on domains notes that the domain industry in 2019 (Q3) experienced a 5.1% annual growth. That’s almost 360 million registered domains now in the world. Chances are, most of your ideas probably won't be available, at least not in the shape you'd like.

website domain registrations, Q1 increase 366.8 milion
Source: Verisign

Your domain name is a branding opportunity. The right domain name can increase brand recognition.

Also, you want some accidental visitors to land on your site just by typing the product or service they need in a browser.

Best names could be ones describing the thing your small business do or offer. Keywords in the name can affect SEO (so people encounter your website by accident, when in need).

On the other hand, creative names are sometimes contagious.

Maximum characters your domain name can have is 67. Some say shorter names are the better. We say, play with words and figure out what’s the best option for you. Think about the impression you are leaving.

Using a company/product/service name as a domain name

It’s reasonable now that business owners tend to choose a company name or product/service name as their domain. They want people to remember their business by website domain, too.

Using your own name is often the best choice if building a personal brand is your goal.

Step 2 - Pick the best domain registrar (for you)

meme, a guy sweating, choosing between com and biz domain extension

Once you and your chosen website domain name have ‘clicked’, it’s time to figure out where you can buy it. There are many domain registrars on the Internet and they usually differ from each other by tiny details.

Let’s recommend you some of them.

GoDaddy is probably the most famous one. Research says almost 20% of all website domain on the world were registered through GoDaddy. Maybe the key reason of their popularity is constant sale prices they offer for first-time registrations.

godaddy homepage, man showing a mobile phone, web domain search
GoDaddy's Homepage

Namecheap has a variety in price from $1 to $2.000, depending on which domain extension you want. They also offer privacy protection for your domain, keeping your data safe - for free (first year of registration).

homepage namecheap web domain search
namecheap.com

Domain.com is not too cheap nor too expensive. You can get a decent domain name with popular domain extension for $10 a year. However, if you want domain privacy and protection package, you have to pay it extra.

domain.com homepage website domain search, tagline do more online
domain.com

People report having good experience with Google domains, too. They offer dozens of domain extensions in a range of $12 to $50 maximum. They are trying to achieve superb customer service via their help center and google domains newsletter, so it’s a reasonable choice.

Step 3 - Check domain availability

Now, it's time to check if it's available. What you could do is to go visit a free service called name.com. Type in your domain and press search.

checking domain availability on name.com
name.com/domain/search

But almost all of web hosting provides have their own search bars. So basically, you can also skip this step if you know where you'd like to buy a web hosting package.

Example of buying a domain

Let’s imagine you you want your website domain name to be “creative artichoke”. You've decided that GoDaddy will be your destination for buying a domain.

Open GoDaddy website and just type your desired name in the search box. Like on the picture.

godaddy website homepage domain search

Our desired name is totally available and also with the excellent price.

godaddy website search results for domain names

But what if it wasn’t available? We would probably try “thecreativeartichoke” or even change it in “digitalartichoke”.

Play with possibilities and keep in mind the domain name will be the central focus of your entire website.

We want to draw your attention to one more thing. When checking domain name availability, you’ll notice suggestion that ends with .com or .biz, or with a country abbreviation like .uk, .rs, even .eu. They all differ in price, too.  

How to pick only one? Check the next step.

Step 4 - Picking the right domain extension

Most of the websites we know end with .com. That is the most common, most expensive and often, least likely available extension. It’s a worldwide universal (used by 47% of all websites) and owning it gives you advantage from competitors with other extensions.

There are also alternatives like

  • .net,
  • .biz,
  • .io,
  • .blog,
  • .dev,
  • .design,
  • .co,
  • .gov,
  • .uk, etc…,

GoDaddy offered us these extensions for “creativeartichoke”. And our first choice would probably go with .com since it’s free.

search results godaddy domain names price

Net is most frequently used by online service providers, .org describes the non-profit nature of the organisation, .io is more relevant to tech businesses.

Regarding the country-specific domains, you could benefit from having it if you are doing your business locally. For example, all small business in Serbia that work locally can use .rs or .srb extension.

Think about the type of business you are in and consider the price that works well for you.

Step 5 - Buying a website domain

When you are set and ready to buy your domain, just add the domain and extension you picked in a cart.  

Some providers will offer you additional safety and protection pack, some will have it included in a price.

The rest steps are administrative ones - fill the billing information, pay with a card and get your own domain.

Can I get a website domain for free?

As always, there are some free options.

Freenom is one of them. But do not expect your future website will have .com or .net extension. When you’re getting your domain for free, it will usually have a less popular extension (even unknown).

The other possibility is to get a domain and website hosting from the same provider and build the whole website with them, so they give you a domain for free. Wix does that, for example.

You might be interested: How to choose the right website hosting provider and save money along the way

Things to watch out for when choosing a domain name

Tip #1 – Remember, don’t just fall for a cheap domain because of the price. You are buying your domain name and extension as a yearly subscription and usually that’s just the initial cost. After the first year, they are not much cheaper than a .com extension.

Tip #2 – Also, don’t let your website domain expire. Keep it like your dearest property. Renewal of your name can cost you much more than making a new one.

Tip #3 – Everyone wants their website to be the first result on Google. There is an old trick how to have an advantage over your competitors.

You see, a great number of people don’t just buy one domain.

Yes, they pick the most important one for their business, but they also buy a few others (insurance companies do that often). Thanks to that, no competitor can buy the same name with a different extension then, which means no unnecessary competition.

movie 300 meme, this is my website domain

Tip #4 – Not only buying additional extensions (also called .LTD) is a good idea but buying the common misspellings of your domain too.

People will surely miss your website name now and then. It happens.

Our “creativeartichoke” could be misspelled like “creativearticoke”, without the h. By buying that misspelled domain name, we could redirect our visitors back to our main domain name.

To wrap it up – choosing a domain name wisely is important

Although seems complicated, getting the website domain gets much easier after defining your name clearly in your mind.

Always intent for the best possible solution for your website and its growth.

A website domain is still your first step in a stairway to the website. We hope we helped you with it. Feel free to shoot us a message if you need help.

In the meantime, check out our blog post on 10 website mistakes that chase your readers away.