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How do I register a website domain name?

Your website domain name should reflect your business or organization. However, the domain name selection and registration process can be fraught with problems and pitfalls. ECS can help you through this process. In fact, most customers ask ECS to handle all of the complexities of their domain name registration and domain name transfers.

How to register a domain name

A domain name is essentially your website's name (but without the www). You can register (lease) an available domain name for a period of from one to ten years, with options for renewal. It costs approximately $10 US per year to register a domain. Ideally, your webdesigner or webmaster will help you register your domains and watch out for pitfalls along the way.

Your domain name(s) should reflect your company name or organizational purpose. For example, if your business is tree trimming, a domain name of trees.com would be good, but a name of treeTrimming.com would be better. However, it is likely that those common domains are already registered, perhaps by domain name resellers who try to make a profit off of registering and reselling domain names. So after searching for available domains, you might find that bobsTreeTrimming.com and bobsTrees.com are available. Both are reasonably good, but the shorter name is easier for people to remember and probably better.

You might be inclined to register bobs-trees.com, but the dash is hard for people to remember and even harder to explain to people. One to three words placed together is usually better than using dashes.

There are a number of top level domains, including com, org, us, net, info, biz, and various country names. If you are a commercial business, you will want to register the com variation of your domain name and most likely the newer biz variant. If you are a non-profit organization, or even an individual, you will want to register the org version and quite possibly the com and us variant (for US-based organizations).

It makes sense to register several variants of top-level domains (like com and org), for the following reasons:

  • People often don't remember whether yours is an org or com domain. If you register both, each domain can be configured to take people to your website.
  • The competition (whether a competing business, organization, or political opposition) could register the popular com, org, net, us or info variants, if available, and set up a disinformational website.
  • Domain resellers or "scalpers" can register the available variants and then offer to sell them to you for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
  • Domain scalpers - or your unfriendly competition - could set up a porn site on the available variants and charge you a huge amount to purchase the domains from them

Although people most often find websites via search engines, they may also try guessing at your domain name and entering it in their browser's address bar. Therefore, it makes sense to register common misspellings, singular and plural variations, and other variations of your domain name - if you can afford it. You may in fact want to register variants that your competitors might use, like treeTrimming.com, but don't take this to excess.

Also, a popular shorthand is to use "2" for the words "to" and "two" and "4" for "for" and "four", as in bob4yourtrees.com. Do not do this, as it will only confuse people, especially those who are less computer literate!

Which domain name registrars to use

It makes a lot of sense to both register your domains and host your website in the country you are doing business in. This ensures that you will adhere to applicable rules in that country and that you will also use the correct top level domain registrar for that country.

Likewise, there usually is no good reason to register a domain name overseas. This particularly applies to U.S.-based com and org domains. Prices and service are competitive within the U.S., and it may be more difficult to transfer your domain to another register if it is registered overseas.

There are a large number of domain registrars, and you need to be very selective when choosing a domain registrar. Here are a few pitfalls:

  • It is crucial that your domain name be registered in your name, under your ownership. This does not mean that it has to be registered in your own domain registrar account, but rather that you are identified in the domain contact information as the domain owner. Some webmasters and domain name registrars will - either deliberately or out of ignorance - register your domain name under their own name, which makes it more difficult for your to transfer your domain to another registrar in the future.
  • It is very important that your domain name be registered with your correct contact information. Every domain name has four types of contact information: administrative (the domain owner), registrant, technical, and billing. Current rules require contact information to be correct in order to retain your domain name. Since this is public information (and is available to spammers), some choose to use P.O. Box addresses. It is also very important for the person registering the domain to have permission from various parties before entering making their contact information publicly available.
  • It is crucial that the domain name be locked when it is registered, so that unauthorized parties will not be able to transfer it away from your domain registry account.
  • If you register a domain name as part of a bundled package from an ISP (which might include domain registration, website hosting, email and even DSL phone), you may find that you are actually paying a relatively high price for the registration and hosting components.
  • Some registrars are small companies that subcontract their registration and support to large registrars, such as GoDaddy - who offer these support services to many such resellers. It may ultimately be more difficult to deal with the small company directly, particularly if you encounter problems.
  • Quite a few domain registrars charge surprisingly high prices. The market rate for domain registration is approximately $10 US per year, which varies somewhat depending on the top level domain.
  • Some domain registrars then make it extremely difficult to transfer your domain to a different registrar with more competitive prices or better service. (From the personal experience of ECS, Network Solutions falls into this category; your experience may differ.)
  • Some domain registrars will engage in domain name front running. This is where, if you search for a domain name using the registrar's own whois domain name lookup facility, the registrar will automatically register the domain name in their own name and hold it for four days. Thus, you will have to purchase the domain name from that specific registrar, at their prices which will likely be higher than competitive rates. This article explains how Network Solutions has engaged in this practice.
     
    When searching for available domain names, it is best to use the whois domain name lookup facility of a trusted registrar, or to use the independent betterWhois.com facility.
  • Another problem occurs if you lose your usercode and password for access to an existing domain name at a domain name registry. (This happens quite regularly, as might be expected). The procedure to prove that you are the true owner is complex and can take weeks. It usually involves at a minimum faxing in a copy of your drivers' license on company letterhead.
  • When you change the contact information on a domain name, the convention is for the domain registrar to lock it and prevent transfer for 60 days. This is for your protection. However, if you are updating outdated contact information and trying to transfer the domain name at the same time, or update DNS information to host the website somewhere else, you can encounter difficulties. These steps must be performed in a certain sequence.

ECS will research available domain names and will work with you to select the best domain names for your organization. Our experience is invaluable - check with us before you register a domain name on your own. ECS has been retained to regain control of lost and stolen domain names. As a service, ECS registers most of our clients' domains - correctly, under the client's ownership. Contact Elbel Consulting Services for more information about registering your domain name.

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