How To Buy a Great (Cheap) Domain Name

6 Tips to Getting a Great Domain and a Great Deal

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There are lots of places to buy cheap domain names. And while most of the vendors are reputable, there are some key points to keep in mind. Check out the cheapest domain registrars.

Here are six tips to buying great, cheap domain names.

1. Don’t Settle With "Close Enough" Domains

While everyone's preference is a ".com" domain, sometimes it just isn't available. Resist the urge to add bizarre and hard to remember features just to find one that is available.

Here are three things to avoid when choosing your domain name:

  • Hyphens: People will forget where the hyphens go (especially if there are more than one) or forget them altogether. And if you need to speak your site address (voice mail, radio ads, word-of-mouth) then the hyphen just makes it clumsy. It's even worse if your competitor uses the same domain as you, only without hyphens. You’ll send daily traffic to his site when your visitors enter your domain incorrectly. For more on avoiding similar domains see the next point.
  • Almost Identical to Competitors: While it might be tempting to buy seattlecoffeeworks.com if your primary competitor is seattlecoffeegear.com, don’t. When a client searches for "seattle coffee" you have to compete against a larger, already established brand. And when a client is actually looking for you, they might not remember your generic sounding name and end up buying from your competitor. What would a good name be? Well, another Seattle based coffee shop might come to mind: Starbucks (named after Starbuck, the chief mate on the Pequod, a whaling ship in Moby Dick). Their brand means “Seattle coffee” but is more distinctive, memorable and likely easier to find available.
  • Multiple Spellings: Because most people can’t spell, choose a word (or words) that can’t be easily confused. For example, the word "bass" has two pronunciations and as a result will be spelled incorrectly, a number of ways. Bass can refer to various fish species, a low-frequency sound, more than ten different towns around the world or even a surname.

    Read more: What Difference Does a Domain Make To My Blog?.

    2. Buy From an Established Registrar

    While there are hundreds of places to buy a domain, don’t buy from the unknown domain registrar. The odds of them going out of business is probably low - but why put yourself through that? The lack of customer support is probably a more likely threat.

    • 1and1.com (domain names, ecommerce and hosting)
    • BlueHost (domain names and hosting)
    • GoDaddy (domain names, ecommerce and hosting)
    • HostGator (domain names and hosting)

    3. Brain Storm Before Your Begin Searching

    Use a free brainstorming tool like DomainHole (read my review) that generates huge volumes of available domain variants.

    The other invaluable tool is a thesaurus. I've used both a print copy and the online Thesaurus.com. Once you have your few keywords in mind, look them up. Sometimes you’ll get the right word right away. Other times it will take a few hours of playing with variants.

    Remember: this is worth the time. You are going to be investing hundreds of hours building a brand and generating traffic for this domain. Choosing the right domain is very important.

    4. Buy For 5 Years Minimum

    There are a number of reasons to buy long term.

    • Lock in your low price: Getting a low price is great, but what will happen to the price next year?
    • Save time: Don’t worry about renewing every year.
    • SEO Benefits: Google rewards your commitment with higher search ranking.

    5. Don’t Buy Auctioned Names

    While many companies want single word, generic domains (insurance.com or travel.com) you should avoid these. There are two problems with these domains:

    1. They aren't memorable: it is pretty hard to build a brand around a single, meaningless word. The word might define the industry but clients are looking to buy from a company not a generic site.
    2. They are expensive: premium domains sell for hundreds up to millions of dollars (Insure.com sold for $16 million in 2009).

    Customers relate to brands, not dictionary entries. When the internet was new, people would type a word into their browser and add ".com" to the end. We don’t do that anymore. These generic domains have had their day.

    Unfortunately, big companies still don’t get it and happily pay 6 or 7 digits for these low value domains.

    6. Read the Fine Print

    Some registrars offer private registration for free. Others charge as much as $11.99 per year. Make sure you are comparing equal variables. Sometimes the "cheapest" option actually costs more.

    You’ll also want to make sure about the following features:

    • Auto domain renewals: Most registrars are now offering this service, but it's good to check. The last thing you want is to lose your domain because you forgot to renew it.
    • Free domain parking
    • Free domain forwarding
    • Hosting options: While some domain registrars also offer hosting, many business owners opt to host their sites elsewhere. This gives them the freedom to change hosts without moving their domains.
    • Domain redirect
    • Renewal costs: A low price is great, but how much will it cost to renew?

    With these tips, you're ready to purchase a great, cheap domain name.