The content found here is loosely tied to Alley Kat Web Consulting’s very first blog post named Establishing a Brand. In our branding article, we briefly touched on choosing the proper domain name for branding purposes and making a name for yourself. In this piece, we will cover the basics of how to choose a domain registrar.
Choosing an accredited registrar is an important step in establishing your online presence, including securing your brand, having a website, or even your own branded email. We will cover more about these specific associated products in another post. For this entry, let us discuss choosing the perfect company to secure your domain names.
What is a Domain?
To understand why anyone would look for a “domain registrar,” we will first touch on step one, what exactly is a domain name? The actual definition, according to Wikipedia, is “A domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet.”
In even simpler terms, let’s just call it intellectual property (IP) that is tied to a specific name, such as a brand, company, slogan, or your name, which can directly relate to an online internet IP address and ends with an extension, such as .com.
Now, to fully understand the weight of domain names, we need to understand that each extension has rules, requirements, and restrictions. Each TLD (top-level domain) also has its history and purpose. The average consumer may not need to look into these too far, but for organizations, you may want to secure your brand and expand from gTLD (generic top-level domains) to ccTLDs (country-code top-level domains) to prevent other companies from treading into your intellectual property. Here are some example extensions below.
- .CA – Canada
- .JP – Japan
- .ID – Indonesia
- .NO – Norway
- .BR – Brazil
What is a Domain Registrar?
As I mentioned in the last segment, choosing a domain registrar is important — especially for any long-term investments. But first, let’s answer the question of what is a domain registrar.
To review registrars, let’s start by first explaining that there are two primary types of providers that you can register domains: an accredited registrar and a reseller.
Do your research and be informed. Gaining some insight into the market and the prices will give you an edge in your long-term goals by finding the right company for you. When a company is accredited, it provides a license to the company to register domains on your behalf while you rent from them. Yes, you read that right — rent. No one truly owns a domain, and as a domain renter, the registrant, you are granted the right to use a domain by paying a subscription fee to maintain the name on a yearly or multi-year basis. This of course, also depends on the extension you choose and the stipulations that come with it. With that said, some providers will allow you to pay for hosting services which will include a domain name while you pay a monthly cost; however, the domain names will always be registered yearly, but we will cover hosting in another article, too. In your research, you’ll likely find that providers that advertise hosting services are primarily just that, hosting providers and not a registrar themselves. In these cases, the provider is likely a domain reseller. What happens if you fail to pay your renewal fees? Well, you can probably guess what happens next, “your” domains are now no longer yours, so read on.
How to Choose a Registrar
After you do your branding research and start looking for a domain to register, you will want to first search for the right company for your intention. Company research is almost as vital for you, or your business, as choosing the right name. Since they’re the provider, you’re paying to handle it for you.
Choosing a domain registrar could be similar to choosing which apartment you choose to live in. Much in the same way as apartments, registrars have their shapes and sizes and their costs for amenities with them. Now we won’t go any further into details about domain names and extensions this time, but it is good background information to help with your choice – or choices.
Domain registrars tend to have some higher costs for their domain registrations in comparison to their reseller counterparts, much like you will find for other service providers for cable, phone, or internet. Choosing between the registrar and a reseller isn’t always an easy task unless you know what to look for, and, of course, it depends on what you need.
The good thing about registrars is you aren’t stuck with who you choose, but it can become a headache to move your domain names from one registrar to another. With some extra planning and research, it may even prevent that from happening.
Before we dive into some registrar options, we’ll list a few discussion points to think about and why you would:
Do you have a Domain budget?
Discussing your budgeting needs is realistic. Not every person or company has the funds to register the domains without researching multiple providers immediately. Domains, hosting, and email services aren’t always cheap, and they require commitment and subscriptions to remain active but sometimes come in nice bundled products. Be diligent and look into the company and its pricing. Weigh your pros and cons if your needs are to be met and at what cost to you.
Are you securing multiple domain names?
If you are registering multiple domain names, such as locking down a brand in many extensions, it’s important to know if the registrar first supports the extensions you want. If you do register them, are there any special pricing options for multiple years, and more importantly, what are the renewal costs? What about redemption fees* if the domains expire?
* While making your annual or multi-annual renewal fees, failing to renew a domain name in advance of its expiry date (depending on the extension) could make your domain go into a lapsed or expired state. Renewing the name while in a “grace period” seen commonly for gTLDs like .com usually comes at no major penalty or a mediocre late fee. However, trying to renew a name outside of the grace period (usually 30 days) could show your name in redemption status. Redemption fees can range in price between $60 and $300!
Does the company you’re looking into have hidden fees?
More into costs, a lot of times, registrars won’t necessarily have hidden fees, but they will have other costs for their services. Be sure to look into the services agreement and their help FAQ pages if they exist and check around first. Some of these are listed below in the service options bullet point and may be thrown in the cart while you’re trying to make a registration!
Are you planning to have web hosting or email services at this time? What about later?
While doing any research into this particular item, you’ll likely read that it is not suggested to have your web hosting or email services at the same place as your domain registration. This is entirely up to you how you want to manage the services. Why, you may ask? Not everyone is knowledgeable about zone records and DNS, but one thing is clear, if your domain expires, it affects all of your associated services — including email and hosting. However, if you play smart, it may be easier for you to consolidate your services at a single provider to make them easier to manage.
Do you need technical support?
There isn’t any hidden meaning behind this. Will you need help managing your services? If the answer is yes, you may want to look at a larger company and with that, of course, likely higher fees. If you want 24-7 help while you’re working to update a zone file to launch your beautiful finished website, then maybe leaning away from smaller companies could be a better option with their limited support. More importantly, are there toll-free support, chat, or ticketing options for issues? These are all things to consider.
What Service Options Do Registrars Offer?
When you are registering domains, there are add-on options available at some providers. This is the best time to ask the sales representative your questions or read the FAQs before choosing a provider. Providers have tons of unnecessary add-on services that serve their purposes. Some of these add-on services can include:
- 2FA or multi-factor authentication to use your phone to verify the account
- ownership protection or multi-lock to securely lock your domain from hijacking
- domain privacy to mask your contact information in the WHOIS database
- domain expiration protection – this service is a subscription of its own, but for a low cost, prevents the domain from going into redemption, all while the domain stays in an inactive state for up to a year.
What It Means To You
To sum up, the bullet points above, if you were to search for ‘how to choose a domain registrar‘ in a search engine, you would see tons of articles, maybe like this one, telling you the cheapest registrars for the year. That isn’t the intent of this post. This post is to educate you on making smart, understood decisions and help you be aware of the options. The domain registration business is about balance.
For example, if you are looking for a cheap domain to secure for only a year, a discount registrar or reseller would be an easy search for you to lock down a domain name for only a year without addon services for a minor inconvenience to your wallet.
If you intend to have a small start-up website for the summer and you don’t have any long-term goals, you could look at a hosting provider who also registers domains because there isn’t any concern about separating your domain and hosting services.
However, if you are looking to secure multiple domains spanning multiple domain extensions for your growing business and have a rising website, you want to instead look at a larger registrar for securing the name and a hosting provider for your website. A larger domain registrar, like Domain.com, GoDaddy, Network Solutions, or even Google, can now secure your domain names and offer you the amenities you need to secure your brand while you can calmly keep your website hosted at another provider.
By being prepared and asking the right questions, you can make your next investment smart.
Make the right decision with your online needs and marketing solutions by turning to Alley Kat Web Consulting. Trust in our experienced team and benefit from our web consulting services that are designed to give you an insight into every aspect of your online marketing programs, such as SEO, lead generation, branding, and more. Contact Alley Kat Web Consulting today for your consultation!