If you don’t already have one, you’ll need a domain name (e.g. themevalet.com or mybusiness.co.uk) for your WordPress website.
Your domain name is of course what people will type into their web browsers to find your website once it’s live and can also be used, if you choose, for your company email (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
It’s worth pointing out though that owning a domain name does not automatically give you website hosting or an email account however.
Although, in some cases these services might all come bundled together, your domain name is a separate thing to website hosting or email.
For example, you can buy your domain name from one provider (e.g. Hover), host your website with another provider (e.g. WP Engine) and setup your company email with a third (e.g. Google Apps). In fact, in many cases this might be your ‘best’ option, but I’ll come onto that later.
What domain name should I buy?
Your domain name will of course usually be related to your business name or company name and choosing that is a whole exercise in itself.
So before you buy a domain name it’s worth spending some time thinking about your business or project name as a whole, fortunately you don’t have to stress about it.
Just read WP Curve’s excellent guide, ‘How to choose a business name in 1 day’ and you’ll soon be unstuck.
Of course the availability of a good domain name will probably also influence the choice of business name you go for as well because you’re unlikely to want a business name that doesn’t relate to your domain name.
This means that wherever possible you should try to find a good .com for your business.
If the .com you want is not available (but not actively being used) you might want to buy an alternative like .co or .net instead and, later on, see if you can acquire the .com from the current owner (though of course there are no guarantees of being able to buy it and what price they may want for it).
Also if you know you’re likely to operate mainly or solely in a particular country (or countries) you should buy the ‘country’ version of that domain name too (e.g. .co.uk for the UK, .it for Italy etc) as well as the .com if available (you can always redirect one domain name to the other to start with).
- ‘How to choose a business name in 1 day’ (WP Curve)
- ‘How to name your company’ (Julien Smith)
- ‘Change your name’ (Paul Graham)
Checking if a domain name is available
The simplest way might seem to be just typing whatever domain name you’re interested in into your web browser and in 90% of cases this will probably show you if the domain name is available or not.
However in some cases a domain name might appear to be available (because no website loads for it) however it is simply registered buy not being used.
The best thing to do then is go to the domain name provider of your choice,
- Domainr – Quickly see if a domain name is available and get alternative suggestions if not.
- Hover domain search
Buying a domain name
Some hosting companies will give you or sell you a domain name as part of signing up for their hosting package (see the hosting section of this guide).
If you want to do that, that’s OK, but if you’re looking to do things in an ‘optimal’ way I generally recommend buying your domain name from a separate, dedicated provider (I use Hover.com, but other people I respect also say nice things about Namecheap.com).
Why have separate providers for separate services?
Several reasons, but the main reason is, that if you use different providers for your domain name, website hosting and email address you have no single point of failure.
However, if you’re just testing a new business idea and you want to keep things as simple as possible for now by all means go with a combined domain name, hosting and email package like SiteGround (it’s always possible to reorganise things later on).
- Hover – Domain name provider that I use
- Namecheap – Alternative domain name provider recommended by people I trust
- SiteGround – Website hosting and email (though I recommend reading my hosting guide first before buying)
How to buy a domain name if it’s already taken
It can be difficult (but not impossible) to buy a domain name that’s already been registered, particularly if there is no active website (or a website that’s active but not been updated for a long time) currently using it.
If it’s not obvious how to get in touch with the owner you can usually find their details by going to who.is, typing the domain name in the search box and then looking for the Registrant Email (or similar field).
If the email address appears to be something random like email@example.com (or similar) emailing the address in question should still reach the owner (though you will likely have to type it all out, as they usually make it difficult to copy paste the address to make it harder for spammers).
The long, gibberish email address is just an attempt by the hosting company to try to protect the domain owner’s privacy and stop them receiving lots of spam email.