A website without a domain is like a painting in a locked room—nobody will see it. Your domain will be an integral part of your website, so you want to be smart when deciding on your domain.
The budget will be a big part of this decision. Domains can cost almost nothing, or they can drag down your profit margins with huge recurring fees.
The key to getting your money’s worth is knowing what value a domain can bring to your website. Then you can make informed decisions and invest in a domain that will help your site take off.
The Difference Between a Web Domain and a Website
It’s important to understand what we mean when we talk about domain names. Buying a domain is just one step toward launching a website.
A domain name is a link that people type into their browser’s search bar to access your website. Think of something like google.com. You can purchase these for your permanent use, or for a temporary span.
You can also mix-and-match domain extensions, which follow the Dot-something template, like .net or .info.
Once you’ve purchased your combination of a domain name and extension, you only have a way for people to access your website—you still need the site itself. This is where hosting comes in.
You can pay a company to host your website, which means they keep it running for you. After that, you can connect your domain to your site so the former leads to the latter.
So a domain name is an essential part of your website’s branding and will help steer your audience to your site. The website itself is the content that your audience accesses via your domain and requires hosting to stay active.
How Expensive is Buying a Domain Name?
Not all domains are the same. You can expect to pay anywhere between hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the right domain.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options for any budget. And there are several approaches to picking a domain name that can help dodge expensive pitfalls.
Domain availability and demand are the biggest factors in a domain’s price, since a popular domain will already be taken. You can sometimes buy taken domain names, just at a higher cost, or you can save money by looking at alternatives.
Picking the Right Domain Name
A domain will be how people most commonly access your site, and will be a mainstay in your site’s marketing and branding. The right name will help your audience find your site without any problems.
You want to match your domain name to your site’s name as best as possible so that one clearly connects to the other.
For example, if your website is named Tiny Hat Studios, good domain names for you include tinyhatstudios.com, thstudios.com, or tinyhat.com.
A related-but-distinct domain name can also work, like a florist site called flowersforyou.com, but you will need to market your website in a way that ensures your audience associates your domain name with your site name.
It’s important to pick a domain name that people won’t misspell when typing it, or mispronounce if chatting about your site with their friends.
Prioritize domains that use simple, common words that are dissimilar to other words. A veterinary supply site named bearessentials.com is clever, but your audience will struggle to remember how to spell the domain.
You might also consider a competitive analysis to get a better impression of the market your website will be entering. This can help you observe which competitors are succeeding with what domains, which can guide your naming decision.
Where to Buy From
Most domains are purchased through digital domain marketplaces. These services help you find an available domain for purchase and allow private sellers to find buyers for domains they own.
Domain marketplaces connect to or are a part of, domain registrars, which track which domains have been purchased and registered.
Here are some of the most popular and trustworthy domain marketplaces:
Some web hosting services allow you to buy a domain through their service if it is available, which will then connect to the host’s preferred domain registrar. After you’ve conducted a search to ensure your chosen domain name is available, you can use a marketplace or web host to purchase it.
Because domain registrars need to record the purchase to ensure two people can’t buy the same domain, the purchasing process is also how domain registration is completed. There are no extra domain registration costs.
Aside from unclaimed domains, there are also premium domain names, which are already owned and are often linked to a site, business, or individual.
Investors often buy and sell premium domains to try and turn a profit. Premium domains up for sale circulate on a secondary market (called the aftermarket) via domain marketplaces.
Why Aftermarket Domains are Worth the Price
First, what is an aftermarket domain? Put simply, it’s a domain that’s already been registered and is up for sale. They tend to go for a high price, such as legalwizard.com which recently sold for over $12,000.
The advantage of buying an aftermarket domain is that it already has existing backlink profiles.
One of the key components of search engine optimization (SEO) is how many sites link to your site. The more that people refer to your site with a link, the more authoritative you look to search engines.
Buying an aftermarket domain means it already has a bunch of backlinks in place, and so will perform better at SEO than a freshly-registered domain. An aftermarket domain with a strong backlink profile will be highly valued.
On the other hand, not all aftermarket domains have a large backlink profile, though some buyers hoping to take the domain’s brand in a new direction will prefer this.
A domain might be for sale on the aftermarket for any number of reasons: it might be an expired domain, the current owner might be switching up their branding, or a private domain speculator might have bought it and is reselling the domain for profit.
The cost of aftermarket domains is pretty variable, but kickstarting your site’s SEO is often well worth any inflated costs. These domains are widely available through marketplaces such as GoDaddy, Sedo, Odys Global, or Flippa.
How Much are Domain Extensions?
One way to customize your domain is by mixing-and-matching domain extensions. In short, an extension is what comes after the Dot in a domain.
For example, in amazon.com, the .com is the extension. You’ve probably seen dozens of others across various domains.
A handful of extensions are used so commonly that they are cheap to use, but trendy extensions, or particularly niche extensions, can jump in price. With clear objectives for your site’s branding and budget, you can hone in on the perfect domain extension for you.
A Guide to Every Type of Domain Extension
The vast majority of sites use a top-level domain extension. These only have one word after the Dot, as opposed to 2nd- or 3rd- level domains which chain words together with more Dots. Here’s an example to clarify:
- Top-level domains: .net, .xyz
- 2nd-level domains: .com.co, .org.us
- 3rd-level domains: .plc.co.im, .barnet.sch.uk
At a glance, you can see that top-level domains are easier to read and remember. This is why they are favored by commercial and personal sites alike.
Different extensions are a better fit for some websites than others, so consider how you want your site’s branding to come across and pick an extension accordingly.
There are country top-level domains, one for each country in the world, no matter how small. This can be a great way to appeal to local audiences with a bit of flag-waving or can differentiate your site from a similarly-named site in a different country.
Some extensions are simple descriptors to let people know what kind of website you run. These include extensions like .com or .org, being short forms of “commercial” and “organization” respectively.
Other options include extensions such as .yoga or .photography that describe the services and products a website offers or picks like .me or .lgbt that are more casual and playful.
How to Browse Domain Extension Prices
Domain extensions are packaged with your domain name itself. If you want to look at how expensive domain extensions are, turn to a domain marketplace.
This does mean that you need to buy your domain name and extension at the same time, through the same marketplace. Picking the right marketplace to buy from requires you to balance the prices of both the name and the extension.
However, before you get to the buying stage, there are several excellent price aggregators that compare domain extension prices from several marketplaces.
Easyname has an easy-to-read layout that lists all possible top-level domains and their estimated prices. The prices here will likely be different than the prices a marketplace will charge, but they put you in the right ballpark.
There is also TLD List, which lets you filter through over 3000 extensions and shows you which marketplace offers the cheapest deals. As useful as it is, the wall of data can be a bit overwhelming, so it works best if you already have an extension or two in mind.
Aggregators like these can help you narrow down your choices for extensions. Then when you trawl through marketplaces, you can compare prices for only a select few extensions that you’re already interested in.
Prices of the Most Common Domain Extensions
Like most things online, domain extensions experience trends, with some being more popular at any given time. Hopping on these trends can help draw traffic to your site.
That said, there are a few tried-and-true extensions that you’ll see all over the web. Here’s a quick overview of how much any of these common extensions will cost to use.
|$16.99–$20.00 / year
|$6.99–$23.00 / year
|$27.99–$41.00 / year
|$9.99–$14.00 / year
|$26.99–$82.00 / year
|$3.99–$20.00 / year
|$47.99$–80.00 / year
|$26.99–$35.00 / year
|$3.99–$26.00 / year
|$12.99–$19.00 / year
|$13.99–$31.00 / year
|$5.99–$45.00 / year
|$10.00–$16.00 / year
|$9.99–$72.00 / year
|$5.00–$6.99 / year
|$2.99–$17.00 / year
There is obviously quite a price range for domain extensions, which is why browsing several marketplaces is important. Oftentimes, finding the best deal is just a matter of investing time into thorough research.
The Cost of Running a Site
Even if you purchase a cheap domain, there will be other costs you need to account for. Web hosting and domain renewals add up over the course of a website’s lifetime but are both necessary.
You don’t want to skimp here. These costs are what get your website in front of your audience, and crises like a web host going down or your domain expiring can create massive drops in your site traffic.
Invest in reliability, and your site will enjoy a stable life on the web. After all, what’s the point of picking and purchasing the perfect domain if nobody ever uses it?
Finding Web Hosting for a Good Price
There are a few different types of web hosting. All of them put your website on the internet and make it accessible to your audience via your domain, but they can vary in robustness and hosting costs.
Shared hosting means your website shares a server with several others. This is good for low-traffic websites and is cheap ($2.00–$14.00/month), but if all the shared sites suddenly hit a wave of traffic, the server could crash.
Dedicated hosting means your site gets a server all to itself. While much more reliable than shared hosting and better if your site will see lots of traffic, it is certainly the more expensive option ($80.00–$500.00/month).
There is also cloud hosting, where several servers carry the weight of your website and others. This provides redundancy to prevent any downtime but is pricey ($5.00–$240.00).
Other factors for price will include how much server storage is allocated to your website if the hosting comes with a free domain, and what kind of support services the web host provides (though watch for hidden costs for features you don’t want).
There are many services such as Codeinwp or PCMag that compare hosting companies in a convenient format. Consider how much traffic your website is expected to get, and how disastrous downtime would be for you, then pick a plan accordingly.
Renewal Fees for Domains and Sites
Once your website is live, you’ll have to plan for two kinds of renewal fees: renewing your domain, and renewing your web hosting.
Domain renewal is handled through the initial marketplace where you bought your domain, so they can update your domain’s entry in their registrar.
Renewing your domain will almost certainly cost more than the initial registration unless you are lucky enough to find a sale. Expect to pay between a 15%–60% markup on the original price for renewal. This often comes out to around $5.00–$10.00 more than the advertised price for registration.
Hosting renewals happen through your web host. You will also have the option to change plans if you want to move between different types of hosting to account for changes in your website’s traffic.
Renewing your web hosting will run you around a 20%–200% markup on your sign-up costs, usually about $2.50–$20.00.
Can You Permanently Buy a Domain Name?
As convenient as permanently owning a domain name would be, it’s not possible.
You are only able to buy and own the registration rights for a domain, and those expire after the registration period has passed. Buying a domain for a set term through a registrar is the best you can get.
This is partly due to copyright—you can’t legally own certain words, only the rights to use them in a specific context, like as a domain.
The good news is that it is entirely possible to continue extending your registration in perpetuity. Renewing your domain will just become a recurring expense.
Many marketplaces offer package deals for longer registration periods, so you could easily register your site for the next 10 years or sometimes more, getting you one step closer to effectively permanently buying your domain.
Tips About Domain Expiration
Your domain will be due to expire when the initial registration period has elapsed. An expired domain goes back on the market for hungry buyers to snap up, and you won’t be able to use it for your website.
Letting your domain expire and be bought up is a massive waste of invested money unless you’re shutting down your website for good.
Your domain will have an existing backlink profile that gives it SEO authority and draws traffic. Additionally, you will have likely spent money on promoting your website, and your audience will recognize your site’s name.
All this is lost if your domain expires, so it’s highly recommended you stay on top of when your domain is due to expire, and renew it well before the expiry date.
Should you let your domain expire, you still might be able to buy it back before someone else snags it, but it will be highly valued because of the reputation you’ve built with it, and you can expect to pay far more to buy it back than the renewal fees would cost.
Domain names have countless factors that will affect their cost. Establishing objectives for your domain and investigating all options is the best way to find a good price. If you found these tips helpful, share this article, and be sure to leave a comment with your own domain naming tips!