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To start a website for your business or for your personal purpose, the first thing that you must do is to register a domain name. A domain name is the name by which a website is identified in public - just like Google.com or Yahoo.com or Amazon.co.uk or just take a look at your browsers address bar now - you will see my own domain name - DollarFry.com. So a domain name helps people to identify between websites and easily share a website among friends and family. If you are on way to start a new website for your business, the first thing you must do is to identify and register a domain name for it. You can start a website for any purpose, it doesn't need to be for business purposes always. You can start a website for personal purpose, for promoting a cause, for a non profit organisation or any subject in this world.
Two Parts of a Domain Name
A domain name has two parts - the actual name and the extension. If you take Google.com as the example, then the portion that comes before dot (Google) is the actual name and the portion that comes after dot (COM) is the domain name extension. You can register a domain name only in combination with an extension like .com, .co.uk, .us, .in and similar other extensions. You have to pay separately for each extension you choose and each of them has varied pricing. As a general rule of thumb, prefer a .COM domain if you are planning the domain name for your website with a global business in mind. For example:- Amazon.com is an American online retailer which ships products to all major countries in this world. They ship their products to European countries, Asia and some African countries as well. For a business of such nature, a .COM domain is highly suggested. This appeals to other types of business like an online magazine (take HuffingtonPost or TechCrunch as an example) read by many people across different countries and continents, or a personal finance software business like Mint.com or 37Signals which sells Project Management software as a web application. But there are millions of cases in which .COM domain may not be the best option. One reason being the non availability of good names with .COM extension. Most of the good domain names with a .com extension are already registered, so you will end up spending lots of time searching for a good and available domain name. If you find it difficult to choose between a perfect extension, I have written a detailed guide on Which extension to choose for your domain name and why! Have a read through this guide to educate yourself with various domain name extensions.
Checking for the availability and Selecting a name
Once you have decided upon the extension to use for your domain, the next step is to check for the availability of the desired name. What I usually do is to write down a set of interesting names on a paper. I sit for half an hour or more jumbling many names and making interesting combinations. Once I reach 5 names to check, I will go to GoDaddy.com (the domain name registrar) to check if any one of them is available for registration. Just go to the home page of GoDaddy and you will see a big text box in which you can type your desired name along with the extension. I have added a screenshot of the process below. In the screenshot you can see that I am searching for the availability of domain name ZenFry with extension .COM. Now hit the search button and you can see the results. If the domain name is available, you will get a result which says - "your domain name is available for registration" and if the domain name you searched for is already registered by someone else, you will get a result page saying - "the domain you have searched is already registered"
Note:- Finding a really good domain name is an art which requires creativity, passion and patience. I have written a good article about the science behind identifying great domain names and how other people have already done it. I suggest you read the article:- How to Select a Good Domain Name for your Business. I am sure it will help you decode the myth behind creating great domain names.
Keep in mind that finding a really good name that you like and being available at the same time can be a time consuming task at times, especially if you are looking for a .COM extension.In some cases you have to search for as many as 100+ names to finalize upon an available domain name.
Note:- Most of these "already registered" and unavailable domain names are usually parked with some hosting/domain registrar companies. This means the domain name may not be in active use. In many cases the owner of that domain name might be willing to sell the name for a premium price. If you are willing to pay some extra amount for your favorite name, you can always try contacting the domain name owner to buy the name from him. Instead of going through the direct route, you can also use the services of companies like GoDaddy in which they will act as an intermediary between you and the domain owner to make the sale happen. The price of a premium domain name can vary without any logic! From 100 US Dollars to many thousands of Dollars. It highly depends upon the type of owner, the beauty and premium value of the name in the market and many such factors. Dealing with a premium domain name and buying the name itself is a different topic.
Registering your domain name
Once you find the right domain name that is available for registration, the next step is to register the domain in your account. You can register a domain name with the help of a domain name registrar company only. In addition, the domain name registrar must be ICANN approved. ICANN is the international committee that regulates domain names and the extensions. They make policies, rules and regulations that must be followed by every companies who are in the business of domain name registration. You can register your domain name with any ICANN approved domain name registrar company. There are thousands of ICANN approved domain name registrar companies all over the world. I use GoDaddy as they support almost all domain name extensions and in addition they provide great discount coupons occasionally. Their customer support is also very good as they usually respond to my queries within 24 hours. They sometimes provide unbelievable discounts that will allow you to register .COM domain name for as low as 2.99 US Dollars (which usually costs around 8.99 USD)
However I use GoDaddy only for my domain registration requirements. I don't use GoDaddy for hosting any of my websites. One reason for this is their complicated and hostile interface. Another reason being the disparity between pricing and server configurations available. I use Hostgator to host all my websites with high traffic and Dreamhost to host entry level websites.
Once you decide upon which registrar company to use for registering your domain, you can begin the process of registration. It is as simple as buying a book from Amazon.com or a pair of shoes from Zappos.com. Begin by creating a user account with the registrar's website. Always remember the username and password of this account as you will need to renew your registration yearly. You may also be required to get into your account to manage your domain name and make changes in it occasionally. Upon finishing the account creation process, find the "register a domain" section in the website. Enter your domain name and follow the steps to register it. You have to register a domain name for a minimum period of 1 year and you can have the maximum period of registration as 10 years. You will be prompted to select the period of registration while gong through the registration steps in the website. As a final step, you can make the payment by checking out your cart. Most registrar companies support payment through Credit cards and Paypal. Big companies like GoDaddy support regional internet banking and debit card transactions in some selected countries. India is an example where GoDaddy accepts payments through regional bank accounts (Online banking, Debitcard payments etc), as majority of Indians don't own a credit card.
Note:- Companies like GoDaddy offer great discounts for registering a domain name with them. Usually a .COM extension domain will cost you around 8.99 US Dollars, where as with great discount coupons you have chances of getting the same .COM name for 5.99 US Dollars. In some cases, I have registered domain names for as low as 1.99 US Dollar with GodDaddy. To get these discount coupons, you may make a Google search - "GoDaddy Discount Coupons"!
Renewing your Domain Name
You will get a confirmation e-mail from the domain registration company upon finishing the registration process (including payment). Once you get this e-mail, your registration is completed and from then on you are the proud owner of your domain name for the coming 1 year or upto the period you have registered it. You have to renew the domain name once the period reaches 1 year or the registration length. Ideally, you are supposed to renew your domain name 30 days before the last date, the date in which your registration expires. However you will get a grace period of 15 days to renew the domain name even if you cross the last date of renewal. Most of the registrar companies like GoDaddy will send you notifications via e-mail to renew your domain name. Usually GoDaddy will send upto 3 email notifications in those 30 days before expiry date. They will continue e-mailing 2 or 3 times for the next 15 days after expiry date. They usually will send a final warning message on the 14th day from expiry in which they will warn you that - "you have got 1 more day to renew your domain". I don't know if all other companies will offer the same number of notification emails just like GoDaddy! But you can expect 2 or 3 notifications for sure.
What will happen if you did not renew the domain in grace period of 15 days ?
Well, you still has got one more chance! But with an extra fees of 80 US Dollars. Even after the grace period, you can claim your domain back within the next 5 days. To do this you have to pay a penalty fees of 80 US Dollars in addition to the domain renewal charges. The amount 80 US Dollars is fixed by ICANN and it is same with all other domain name registrar companies.
I hope you enjoyed this detailed article about domain registration and renewal process. Please remember to use GoDaddy couponcodes to avail great discounts while registering your domains. Coupons can save you a good deal of money. If you have any doubts that needs answered, please raise your questions in the comments section. I will definitely answer it for you.