One of the first things you need to do when you set up in business is to register a domain name for your website. Let’s have a look at how to do that. From domain name types to registration periods and much more. How does it all work? Here’s a simple guide.
You can buy as many domain names as you like but you’ll probably just want to stick to one for marketing purposes. Have a think of what you want to tell people your website address is and what do you want to show on your business card?
As per usual this article contains affiliate links and it helps me to make more free videos and articles to help you. If you’d like to use 123-Reg for your domain names it would be massively appreciated if you could use the links in this article. You can read more about affiliate links here.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the ‘friendly’ address for your website. So for example the domain name of this website is smallbusinesstoolbox.uk. A domain name can be up to 253 characters long and can be made up of letters, numbers or the ‘-‘ hyphen. You can own as many domain names as you like and you generally pay for them on a yearly basis.
An important consideration is how you tell someone what your domain name is. For example I could have used hyphens in my domain to make it look nicer, so small-business-toolbox.uk BUT that also means whenever anyone asks for my website address I’d have to say “Oh it’s small hyphen business hyphen toolbox.uk” instead off “It’s smallbusinesstoolbox.uk”. As such I generally avoid using hyphens in domain names unless there’s is literally no other option. Think about how you’d tell someone what your e-mail address is? Keep it as brief and easy to remember as possible.
How to buy a domain name?
I like to keep my domain names separate from my web hosting but this is entirely up to you. For me it just avoids an ‘all eggs in one basket’ scenario and means if there’s a problem with my web host I can just point the domain names to a new provider. I like to use 123-Reg for my domain names and SiteGround for my web hosting. I’ve used them both for many years and they’ve both been great.
- Here’s a link to 123-Reg to buy your domain names
- Here’s a link to SiteGround to buy your web hosting
Have a watch of the video below and I’ll then describe the whole process in a bit more detail:
What domain name should I use for my business?
That’s a big question and something you need to put some very careful thought in to. When I’m setting up a business from scratch I generally try to make sure the domain name I want is available before committing to that business name.
I’ve written a whole article about choosing a business name here. The key thing to remember is that domain names are sold of a first-come-first-served basis. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. They do occasionally get left to expire but usually when someone finds a good domain name they hang on to it. So if you find your perfect domain you might want to buy it before someone else does!
I normally search for domains using 123-Reg’s own domain search tools. They’re very good and will suggest alternative domains if the one you selected isn’t available.
Should I buy a .co.uk, .uk or .com name or something else?
That’s a very good question! These things are known as TLDs or Top Level Domains. There are thousands to choose from but in the UK we generally settle for one (or all) of these:
But as I say, don’t limit yourself to those if you’re struggling to find your perfect name. You could equally go for .xyz or .news or any one of 1,500+ other options.
All I would say is in the UK people are very comfortable with the three options above (.co.uk, .uk & .com). For example, for this website I bought smallbusinesstoolbox.uk and smallbusinesstoolbox.co.uk. I use the .uk as my primary name and the .co.uk just forwards to my .uk. You’ll notice if you click on the .co.uk address above it takes you straight to the .uk address.
How long should I register a domain name for?
Another tricky question! Normally you can register a domain for anything from 1 to 10 years. When you’re first starting out you might not want to commit to a long domain registration in case things don’t work out.
Having said that domain names are cheap and there are unconfirmed reports that longer registrations may boost your search engine performance. I’d suggest going for at least 2 years to start with.
What other domain services should I buy?
When you purchase a domain you’ll be offered a load of optional extras such as e-mail hosting and domain name privacy. Don’t worry about e-mail hosting – we’ll sort that later. You may want to buy domain name privacy, to keep your personal details hidden on the public register but in some cases that is no longer entirely necessary. You can see from below what your basket might look like for a 2 year registration of a .co.uk domain.
If you’re offered ‘domain name protection’ it’s up to you whether you buy this. It adds an extra layer of protection for your domains. Not 100% necessary but depends how paranoid you’re feeling.
Obviously buy all the variants of the domain you want – in the UK I would generally suggest the .co.uk, .uk and .com variants if possible. Although finding free .com domain names can be a challenge these days. You’re probably not going to use all of them but you want to make sure nobody else grabs them.
What about personal information on your domain name?
You need to consider that up until the advent of GDPR your personal details would be shown on the public record of domain name registrations. That means anyone in the world could very easily find out where you live by doing a simple whois search. Thankfully this isn’t always the case now and far less personal information is made available to the public.
Having said that, when it comes to the contact details you have registered against your domain name, I would still suggest using a valid alternate address if possible, rather than your home address. Examples would include your office address, your accountant, solicitor or a PO box (if possible). That way if the rules ever change in the future your private details won’t be shared with the world. You can update the address details registered against your domain name from the 123-Reg control panel. Remember this is different to your billing details.
So that’s it for now! You should receive e-mail confirmation of your domain name purchase and you can verify it’s registered by doing a whois search. It might take a couple of days for the whois database to be updated, but you can check here:
In the next article we’ll take a little break from the web site building and I’ll show you what was involved in making the YouTube channel for this website. If you want to dive straight in to setting up your web hosting then skip to this article instead. If you spot any errors in this article please get in touch. Don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube and please join my mailing list.
Last Updated on 7 July 2023 by Andy Mac