Start at the Beginning
The process of registering domains isn’t complicated in most cases, though it can be easier on your nerves if you do some preliminary research on what it involves. The domain industry is a largely unstructured space with lax regulations so registrars and big players may sometimes take advantage of loopholes. Better safe than sorry, as the saying goes.
First, let’s assume that you have already picked your top choices for domain names. If not, you can check out some tips at <How to Choose your Ideal Domain Name?>. Then, you begin by checking if your preferred names are free to register. You can do that at any of the numerous domain search websites. Once you find out that it is available, it’s best to act instantly before someone else grabs it.
Go Global or Go Local: Generic or National Domain Extensions
Top level domains can be either generic (gTLDs) like .com, .net, topic specific like .club, .city, .law, or country code (ccTLDs) like .ca, .fr, .au, etc. Depending on which extension you’d like to register, you’ve got two options. gTLDs are registered with ICANN accredited domain registrars (or their authorized resellers) while ccTLDs are registered with national registries. Domain registrar giants like GoDaddy or Namecheap offer domains in the most popular gTLDs such as .com, .net, .info, .co.uk, .de, etc and in many new gTLDs. Registration is normally pretty easy and cheap (domain prices vary, but average about $10 per year and then you have to renew).
National policies vary, however, so it’s best to check with the respective national registry for details. For example, the Australian domain registry requires evidence such as Australian Business or Company Number (ABN or ACN) or Trademark Number for the registration of .com.au or .net.au, ie of organizations registered to do business in Australia.
There is the option for the hosting provider to register your domain as well, but it’s best to make sure that you are recorded as the domain owner in the Whois database and not them.
The Domain Devil can really be in the Details
Hardly anyone reads the endless terms of service of anything, but in the case of registering domains, there are a few points to pay attention to:
The domain may cost next to nothing but be sure to read the fine print for extra fees. Some gTLD registrars charge transferring fees twice the domain’s initial price when you decide to move your domains to another registrar.
Others play with the registration period. You may opt for a five-year registration at a discount, but the registrar may actually renew it year on year. If you change registrars (and the sooner, the more profitable for them), then they pocket the rest.
Still others may charge you a high administration fee, every time you wish to edit your Whois details. If you own many domains, this becomes a serious consideration.
• Domain Locks
As a protection measure against unauthorized domain transfers, registrars use the ‘registrar lock’. When it’s set, only you can transfer your domains. Another protection measure is the 8-digit authorization code that is held by the current domain registrar and which you will need in order to get the domains transferred.
• Domain Privacy
Domain registrars and some national registries offer the option of Whois privacy, ie your registration details remain private. Instead of your name and contact details, the Whois record will contain the service provider’s. For GoDaddy, that’s DomainsByProxy.com, and for Namecheap – WhoisGuard. Whois privacy may protect you from spamming, identity theft, etc.
To learn more about private registration before you make up your mind, please go to <What are the Benefits of Using Whois Privacy for your Domains?>.
• Domain Parking
If your website is not ready yet, once you buy your domain, the registrar/registry will park your domain, ie searching the domain name will lead to a substitute webpage. Normally, the registrar loads it with ads which earn revenue for them. Ideally, your domain will be parked only briefly and then you can put up your website and attract traffic to your business.
Your domain is successfully registered and you are ready to launch online!