This is part three of our Web Site Basics for Business Owners series.

In the last article in the series, “Web Site Basics for Business Owners,” we talked about how the different components of a web site work together. This week we are going to go into domain names in more depth.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is how people find your web site on the internet. The domain name system (DNS) is managed by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). Among other responsibilities, ICANN determines which extensions will be available for registration (.com, .net, .org, etc.) and accredits private companies known as registrars to manage the actual domain registrations.

How to Get a Domain Name

There are thousands of sites out there that offer domain registrations. I use They have great prices, awesome customer service (you can actually get someone on the phone without getting lost in a phone system purgatory), and have great tools in their account management.

I don’t use any of their other services; however, all of my domains get registered through them. If you need to find a domain.

One thing to remember is that you are paying to register to use the domain name and the registration has to be kept current.

Choosing Your Domain

Now there is an art to finding a good domain name, and I’ll cover several techniques in a later post in this series. For right now, here are a few basics to remember.

  • Shorter is better.
  • The .com extension is preferable.
  • Avoid hyphens in the domain when possible.

There is an entire industry devoted to buying and selling domain names, yes people actually make a living from it. The Art of Money blog has four in-depth articles on choosing domain names. If you are just picking out your first domain name for your business, just follow those three tips above and you’ll be okay.

The Domain I Want is Registered

Finding a good domain name can be a challenge. Not only are there millions of businesses operating on the web, but there are domain speculators, or “domainers” that register domains to hold. If you search for a domain name and it shows that it is registered, you can take it a couple of steps further if you really want that domain.

First go to the domain to see if there is a site already active on the domain. If there is and it looks like it is an ongoing concern, you’ll probably have to move to your second choice of domain.

If it looks like a hobby site that hasn’t been updated in a few years, proceed to step two. If it is a site that only has advertising on it, it is likely that it is being held by a domain investor.

Next, check the WHOIS registry to see who has the domain. If you go through Godaddy, there is a “click here for info” link that will show you who owns it.

picking a domain name

After finding the owner information, if you are still interested in the domain name you can send them an email to ask if they would be interested in selling.

Private Registrations: Many times people will pay for a private registration for their domain because they don’t want their contact information to be public. In that case, you have to send an email to the proxy email listed, which will then be forwarded to the owner.

Expired Registrations: Every once in awhile you will come across a registry that is in a redemption, or “pending deletion” period. Once a domain expires, there is a certain period of time in which the previous registrant can renew and redeem the domain. Basically, the domain is in limbo until it is out of the redemption stage.

What to Do Next

Once you have secured your domain, the next step is to point it somewhere by setting the nameservers. The DNS, or domain nameservers, tell the internet which server to route your visitors to when they access your domain name.

When you get web hosting for your site, your hosting company will give you a set of nameservers, which will look like and You just go back to the domain management area of your registrar and enter the nameservers for the domain. It will take anywhere from a few hours to two days for the domain to point to the site on your new hosting.

If you aren’t ready to point the domain to your actual site, the registrar will normally have a “parked” page display when the domain name is accessed. Often registrars will offer a one page site included with the registration.

If this is an option, be sure to customize the page with your company information until you can get your actual site up. Include your company name, contact information, and a short description of the services that you offer.