Before you commit to a web hosting account (such as those offered by Ndividuate Yourself) you may want to make sure an acceptable domain name is available.

If you don’t already have a domain name, and want one that ends with the normal .com extension (or suffix), chances are you won’t be able to get your first choice. Someone has probably beat you to the shorter, more generic, more common potential domain names.

That means you’ll need to be creative to come up with acceptable alternatives if you want the .com extension. However, if for you the name is more important than the extension, you might want to consider one of several alternative extensions such as .net / .co / .cc /.ca / .me / .info / .us / .biz / .bz / .tel / . ws, or one of many country extensions. (Note that .edu domains are reserved for educational institutions and .org for organizations.)

Domain names are owned for a fixed term of at least one year and usually cost about $15 per year, although you can find some offered place that offer discounted name registration. There are many domain registrars, or companies that handle domain name registration. The registrar is also where you will manage your domain names. The most critical function you will perform through your registrar is to point your domain name to your web hosting account. Selecting a registrar should not necessarily be based on saving a few bucks.

But first things first, you need to see what names are available that will work for you. Here’s how to do that.

  1. Go to a domain name registrar. I recommend www.hover.com.
  2. Hover domain name registrationEnter your first choice of name in the box with the magnifying glass. Note the .com extension is already selected for you. If your first choice is a different extension, you can change it by selecting the dropdown arrow by the extension.
  3. For example, let’s see if myfavoritedomain.com is available:
  4. Hover domain search resultsThat’s great, it’s available. But note the alternatives that are offered in the event it was taken. Some of the alternative considerations might be:
    • a different extension that costs no more than the .com: .net, .info.me, .ca, and others
    • a different extension that costs more than the .com: .co, .cc, and others
    • the name with hyphens
    • similar spelling  (to the search engine, anyway) names
  5. Be careful if your preferred domain is offered to you for sale at a price significantly more than $30. (See the example above with myfavoritecoffee.com.) There is an active market for domain name speculators (or domain name scalpers or hostage-takers, depending on your perspective) who have purchased thousands of domain names with the hope that someone will pay top-dollar to obtain a specific name.
  6. Here’s a good resource to explain some techniques and considerations for selecting domain names.
  7. Once you determine the best domain name that’s available for your purposes, you might want to consider purchasing the same domain with other extensions so that someone else can’t register them and cause confusion with your site. And if you’re buying a domain for a business or service organization, you might also consider buying names that could be easy misspellings of your name. For example, in the example above, myfavoritedomain might be misspelled without the ‘e’, or even without the ‘it.’ It just depends on how you expect traffic to come to your site.