Skip to main content

How to buy a domain name for your website: a step-by-step guide

You'll need to buy a domain name before you build your website

www in a shopping cart
(Image: © Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen)

A domain name is what people enter into their web browser in order to access a website. They’re a much faster and intuitive alternative than having to remember an entire IP address and have become one of the most crucial branding elements of a site.

Domain names typically consist of their name, separated by a dot from the TLD (Top-level domain), such as .com or .xyz. Your choice of both of these elements will significantly impact how easily visitors can find, remember, and recommend your website to others.

With that in mind, there are currently over 350 million registered domains worldwide. This makes finding and buying the perfect domain name pretty challenging because you desired domain name could have already been purchased by someone else. What’s more, not every domain registrar offers the same prices and conditions.

If you’re planning to purchase a domain for your site, this article is for you. We’ll show you how to buy a domain name from various registrars and web hosting providers, as well as showcase some domain name registration tips to keep in mind. 

How to buy a domain name in five steps

While the process of buying a domain name is relatively simple, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. 

When put together properly, a domain should be catchy, give the target audience an idea of what the website offers, and entice them to visit it. 

Follow these steps to buy a domain name:

  1. Determine the purpose of the website. From there, brainstorm a list of potential domain names that are relevant and ideally include a keyword of your website’s niche.  
  2. Pick a brandable name. From the list, select a domain name that sounds concise, memorable, and easy to spell and pronounce. It should be catchy enough that users can share it easily with others. Avoid long, complicated names and symbols.
  3. Check the domain name’s availability. Use a checker tool to see if it’s on sale and which TLDs or domain extensions are available. The most popular TLD is .com, as most users are familiar with it. 
  4. Choose a domain registrar or web hosting provider to buy the domain from. For the best domain registrar, we recommend Domain.com because it's a versatile provider that provides excellent value for money. If you choose to go down the web hosting provider route, we recommend Bluehost because it offers you a domain for free. Make sure it offers basic features like DNS management and email forwarding. Also, compare the pricing, renewal rates, add-ons, and support to see which one offers the best value for money.
  5. Register the domain name. Complete the payment and domain registration process. A domain name can be available for use between one to ten years, depending on your preferences. Finally, remember to check your email to verify the domain ownership.

After finalizing the domain purchase, start building your website. If you buy a domain name and web hosting plan from separate vendors, make sure to point the domain to your hosting account so that visitors can open your website correctly.

Now that you’re familiar with the general steps, we’ll explain how to buy a domain name from top domain registrar and web hosting service providers, Hostinger, and Bluehost. 

How to register a domain name with Hostinger

Known for its fast and user-friendly web hosting, Hostinger also provides affordable domain registration services. This European company has .com domains starting from $8.99/year, which is one of the lowest prices offered on the market.

Hostinger offers alternative TLDs such as .online, .xyz, .tech, and .store, so there are more options to experiment with if the .com domain names are unavailable.

Domain Checker

(Image credit: Hostinger)

To buy a domain name with Hostinger, navigate to their domain checker page. Then enter your desired name on the field and press Search.

Domain Checker Results

(Image credit: Hostinger)

Below, the page will show whether the domain name is available, along with some alternative suggestions.

Domain Checker Filter

(Image credit: Hostinger)

You can also use the Filter button on the search bar to customize the domain search results. Select which extensions to use and specify the maximum budget you’re willing to spend.

After finding the right domain name, click Add to cart

Hostinger offers to bundle the item with a shared web hosting plan, ranging from $1.39/month to $3.99/month. Purchasing the higher-tier subscriptions will make the first year of domain name registration free of charge.

Continue to Cart

(Image credit: Hostinger)

Click Continue to cart or the shopping cart icon on the top right corner to proceed with payment. Here, it’s also possible to change the domain registration period to up to three years. 

Hostinger provides several add-ons to choose from, including a $5/year domain privacy protection, a $1.99/month priority support, and a $9.99/month SEO toolkit. The privacy service is especially important, as it will hide your personal information from the public WHOIS database

Checkout

(Image credit: Hostinger)

Press the Checkout Now button to finalize the payment and create a Hostinger account. Once that’s done, the system will redirect you to the domain control panel to complete the domain registration process. 

The required contact details include your name, email address, physical address, and phone number. If the domain is for commercial purposes, insert the business name. Review the information and click Finish registration. 

Finish Registration

(Image credit: Hostinger)

Once finished, Hostinger will send a message to your email address asking to verify the domain ownership through a link. The system will temporarily suspend the domain if it’s not validated within 15 days, so it’s best to complete this step immediately. 

And that’s the domain registration process with Hostinger. After this, feel free to build a website using one of their web hosting plans. You can even make use of their Zyro site builder integration if you’re looking for a more beginner-friendly option. 

How to register a domain name with Bluehost

Bluehost is a web hosting company based in the United States. Like Hostinger, it also offers a domain registration service. It even includes a free domain name for one year in its most affordable subscription, which costs $3.95/month.

Besides the generic TLDs, this hosting company has a wide array of alternative extensions for various niches – such as .ink, .photo, and .guru. While they’re not as popular as .com, they can be an excellent touch to make your website stand out. 

Domains

(Image credit: Bluehost)

To get a domain name from Bluehost, open the Domains page on the site. Then insert a keyword paired with your desired domain name extension on the search bar.

Domain Name Availability

(Image credit: Bluehost)

The page will reveal if the domain name is available. If not, choose one of the other options below. 

A .com extension costs $12.99/year, which is the average price. On the other hand, the privacy and protection service is $11.88/year.

Domain Checkout

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Click Proceed to start the checkout process. Bluehost will offer to bundle the domain name with a 30-day free trial for a shared web hosting service and a free SSL certificate. An email service plan with Microsoft 365 is also available, ranging between $2.99/month and $3.99/month.

Domain Final Checkout

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Press one of the Proceed buttons to complete the order. Fill in the billing information and choose a method to pay for the domain name registration fee. 

Once done, Bluehost will send a verification email to your inbox to validate the domain ownership. Click on the link, and the domain name should now be usable. 

Note that all Bluehost customers are subject to automatic renewals. However, it’s possible to change this setting within 16 days of the expiration date. 

That said, we recommend enabling this feature anyway. If you forget to renew the terms, your website will be unavailable, and the domain can return for sale on the open market within a few weeks. 

How to register a domain name with HostGator

Next, we’ll explain how to get a domain name on HostGator. Part of the same group as Bluehost, it offers a user-friendly drag-and-drop website builder and feature-rich web hosting services.  

Domains

(Image credit: HostGator)

The first step to buying a domain name on HostGator is to open the Domains page on their website. Insert a domain name and on the search field and press the Enter key.

Domain Available

(Image credit: HostGator)

If the domain is unavailable, pick a recommended alternative with a different domain extension or name variation.

The cost for a .com domain at HostGator is similar to Bluehost, starting from $12.95/year. Bundling the item with a privacy and protection feature is also possible, costing $14.95/year. Pick between one, two, or a three-year registration period, then click Continue To Checkout.

Now, create a HostGator account and fill in your billing information. HostGator has two payment options – credit card and PayPal. 

Checkout Preview

(Image credit: HostGator)

Before finalizing the purchase, HostGator will preview the order. Here, you can set custom nameservers to point the domain name to a third-party hosting account if desired. Click Place Your Order once everything looks right.

Finally, HostGator will send a domain ownership validation request to your registered email address. Remember to click on the link within 15 days to prevent the domain from temporary suspension.

Besides the steps above, HostGator also offers a domain name registration service via their support team. However, this alternative method is only applicable to certain TLDs.

How to register a domain name with Domain.com

Domain.com is a well-known domain registrar on the market, although it’s worth mentioning that they also offer low-cost shared web hosting, a website builder, and design services. 

The list of TLDs on Domain.com is extensive, from generic extensions to newer niche-related ones like .yoga and .actor. The price for a .com domain name is also quite affordable, costing $9.99/year

Domain Availability

(Image credit: Domain.com)

The steps to buying a domain from this registrar are straightforward. Simply insert a keyword with a domain extension on the homepage and the system will reveal its availability.

Feel free to extend the registration period to up to five years. On Domain.com, the privacy and protection feature is $8.99/year. If the order looks right, click Continue

Domain Add-Ons

(Image credit: Domain.com)

On the next page, Domain.com presents several extras to choose from, including a professional email plan, a website builder, shared web hosting, premium SSL certificates from Comodo, and malware protection.

Billing and Payment

(Image credit: Domain.com)

Select any of the Domain.com add-ons you want or skip to the next step – filling in the billing and payment details.  

Similar to previous vendors, Domain.com will send an email asking to validate the domain name ownership through a link. 

How to register a domain name with Wix

Wix is one of the most widely-used website builders, having powered over 200 million users worldwide. While it allows creating a website for free, you will need a premium plan to connect a custom domain name.

The price for a .com domain name is $12.95/year. Note that Wix’s list of extensions is not as vast as other registrars, as it doesn’t support such TLDs as .io, .tech, or .live. However, more generic options are available. 

Domains

(Image credit: Wix)

Navigate to Wix’s domains page to begin the domain name search. Then, enter a term using a domain extension and press Search. If someone else has taken the name, it will suggest other options with different TLDs. 

Plan or just Domain Name

(Image credit: Wix)

After finding a domain name you like, click Get It Now. The next step is to choose between getting a premium website builder plan or simply buying a domain name. The first option will make the domain registration fee free of charge. 

For illustration purposes, we will go with the latter route by clicking Get It Now. At this stage, you will have to sign up for a Wix account. 

Domain Name Registration Period

(Image credit: Wix)

Now, pick whether to register the domain name for one, two, or three years. Wix offers a discount for longer registration periods.

Domain Contact Info

(Image credit: Wix)

Then fill in the contact information, including your name, phone number, email, address, and postal code. 

If you’re going to manage the domain and handle any tech-related issues it encounters, check the Tech Contact Info and Admin Contact Info boxes below. Otherwise, fill in the fields with the relevant contact details.   

Domain Privacy

(Image credit: Wix)

Next, choose whether to make your contact information private or public on the WHOIS database. The cost for a privacy feature on Wix is $9.99/year

Lastly, enter your credit card information and invoice details to finalize the purchase. Check your registered email address inbox, as Wix will send a message to confirm the domain’s contact details.

How to register a domain name with GoDaddy

With over 20 million customers, GoDaddy is both a domain registrar and web hosting powerhouse. It has a wide array of domain extensions ranging from .com and .org to newer selections like .fun or .law. The company plans to add even more TLDs to its collection in the future. 

Domain Availability

(Image credit: GoDaddy)

To buy a domain on GoDaddy, start with a domain name search on their homepage. The system will reveal whether the name is available for purchase using your desired extension.

Domain Broker Service Detailed

(Image credit: GoDaddy)

If the .com version is taken, GoDaddy offers a domain broker service, where a representative will negotiate with the owner to purchase the name for you. You will pay $119.99 and a 20% commission to hire the agent in addition to the domain registration fee.

Click Add to Cart on a domain name and continue to checkout. On the next page, GoDaddy will offer several add-ons to bundle the order with.

Domain Privacy and Security

(Image credit: GoDaddy)

GoDaddy has two privacy and protection options – Full ($9.99/year) and Ultimate ($14.99/year). The first protects the domain from hijacking, malicious transfer, and loss of ownership due to billing failures.

On the other hand, the second offers malware detection and search engine blacklist monitoring features to uphold your domain security and reputation.

 Additionally, GoDaddy offers a custom business email plan with the domain. The pricing ranges between $1.99/month and $8.99/month

Domain Checkout

(Image credit: GoDaddy)

Choose any of the extras and press the Continue to Cart button. Then, a review of the purchase will appear, which also includes a free trial to GoDaddy’s website builder for one month. It’s also possible to change the registration period to up to five years.

Payment Options

(Image credit: GoDaddy)

The next step is to create a GoDaddy account and fill in the billing information. There are three payment methods available – credit card, PayPal, and check. 

After completing the payment process, the domain name is yours. As with previous domain registrars and web hosts, GoDaddy will send an email with a link to validate the domain ownership. 

How to register a domain name with Namecheap

As the name suggests, this Namecheap offers great value for money. Its .com domains start from $8.88/year, which is a low price compared to the rest of the market. 

Bulk Domain Search

(Image credit: Namecheap)

To buy a domain name on Namecheap, head over to the homepage and insert a name on the search field. Alternatively, head to the Bulk Domain Name Search tool and enter up to 5,000 keywords and find multiple domains at once.

Domain Order Add-Ons

(Image credit: Namecheap)

The site will redirect you to the search results page. Feel free to sort the available domains by cost, extension, or alphabetical order. Click Add to Cart on the name you want to register and the Checkout button on the bottom-right corner to continue with the payment process. 

Domain Order Preview

(Image credit: Namecheap)

The page will preview the order and suggest several add-ons to add to the cart, including PremiumDNS for a performance and security boost. This domain registrar also provides a free privacy and protection feature. 

Account Creation

(Image credit: Namecheap)

Confirm the order to move on to the next step – creating a Namecheap account. Insert your contact information, including your name, phone number, email, and physical address. Enter a company name and tick the I’m registering on behalf of a company box if applicable.

WHOIS Contact Info

(Image credit: Namecheap)

Press Continue to go to the Setup page. Here, specify the contact information for the domain’s registrant, administrator, technical support, and billings. If you’re responsible for all these things, select User default account contact. Otherwise, choose to Add new contact where appropriate. 

Renewal Settings

(Image credit: Namecheap)

Click Continue to complete the payment process. Choose between using a credit card, PayPal, or Namecheap Account Funds. Also, feel free to enable automatic renewal for the domain registration.

Finally, review the order and finalize the payment. Once finished, check for a verification email in your inbox and click on the link to validate the domain ownership.

Tips when registering a domain name

Obtaining the right domain name from the start is important, especially if you’re creating a business or personal brand website. Changing domains is not only expensive but also potentially damages search engine rankings and conversion rates.

With this in mind, here are some things to consider when buying a domain name: 

  • If the domain name is unavailable, use a name generator. Namelix is an excellent example of this. Insert the business name or website name, then choose a naming length and style. The tool will come up with some ideas based on your criteria.
  • Avoid hyphens and numbers. They can make the domain name difficult to share via word-of-mouth. 
  • Include rhyme, rhythm, or alliteration. These poetic devices can make the domain name easier to remember.
  • Check the trademark database. Steer clear from domain names that sound too similar to existing brands to avoid getting into legal trouble. 
  • Check for corresponding social media handles. To make your brand’s online presence easier to discover, it’s best to use the same name for all of your social profiles. 
  • If possible, buy the misspelled variations of the domain name. That way, you won’t miss out on any potential traffic. For instance, Google owns gogle.com so that people who mistype their URL can use the search engine immediately. 
  • Think long-term. Make sure the domain name can support your brand now and in the future. Avoid trending terms to leave room for growth. 
  • Choose a reliable domain registrar. Check their terms of service and reputation before making the purchase. If you’re new to domain name registration, it helps to pick a company with a responsive support team. 

Conclusion

We’ve shown you how to buy a domain name with different registrars and web hosting providers – from Hostinger, HostGator, to Domain.com. No matter which vendor you choose, make sure it offers the best service for your money. 

Domain names are a long-term investment, so take your time to brainstorm the perfect one for your website. Most importantly, the name should be concise, catchy, and relevant to your business so that it remains top-of-mind for your target audience. 

With the tips and tutorials explained above, you should be on your way to getting a great domain name. Best of luck.

Desire Athow

Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Then followed a weekly tech column in a local business magazine in Mauritius, a late night tech radio programme called Clicplus and a freelancing gig at the now-defunct, Theinquirer, with the legendary Mike Magee as mentor. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.