You’ve just bought a domain, whether directly from a buyer or through a service like Google Domains. Now that you own a domain, you want to put it to good use.
You could always flip the domain, selling it for a profit. But most digital advertisements include banner ads on the top or bottom of other webpages, ads that run alongside services like YouTube or Spotify domains get put to work with a website.
A domain is just the first step towards building a digital brand and matching that with a top-notch website. We’re here to guide you through the steps to creating and promoting such a site so that you get the biggest bang for your buck!
What Does Owning a Domain Mean?
A newly registered domain name will simply sit around until you do something with it. In the meantime, nobody else will be able to use it.
If you don’t do anything with a domain you own, it may slowly increase in value, though you could also lose value if you bought a trendy domain and let that trend pass you by. A surefire way to increase your domain’s value is to connect it to a successful website.
Of course, if you’re not in the domain-game for profit, there’s no rush to start your website. But an unused domain isn’t much use except as a minor investment, so it’s in your best interest to pair it up with a site.
Registration vs Ownership
Permanently owning a domain isn’t possible. When you buy a domain, your purchase is recorded in a domain provider called a registrar that tracks domain owners.
While a domain is registered to you, nobody else can claim it and you have full legal control over how the domain is used. However, you always buy a domain for a set period of time, after which you lose the registration rights to that domain.
So be sure to keep an eye on when your domain expires so you can renew the registration. This will be an ongoing cost as long as you own your domain.
How to Use a Domain
Think of a domain like a digital signpost. When a visitor types your domain into their search bar, it directs them to the website you have linked to the domain.
Domains can also be a powerful marketing tool, serving as a succinct, memorable name to use in advertisements. Many businesses rely on digital traffic and sales these days, and an online presence starts with a domain name.
Of course, a domain is at its best when paired with a well-made website. You can’t simply turn a domain into a website, but once you find a web hosting service to make your website available to the public, you can connect up your domain.
1. Choosing Web Hosting
To get an active website to show up when users type in your domain, you need web hosting. These services keep your site active and available to users worldwide. There are many types of web hosting plans, and you should pick whichever one is best for your site.
Here are the factors you should consider in a hosting plan:
- 💵 Price — the plan’s monthly cost. This greatly depends on your hosting type (see the following sections for more info), but expect to pay between $4.00–$120.00 monthly.
- 💾 Storage — how much content you can put on your website. If your site is primarily text, 1 GB of storage is plenty, but image-heavy sites like a personal blog or an online portfolio need around 3 GB of storage.
- 👨💻 Bandwidth — how many visitors your website can handle, how quickly it loads, and how long downloads take. Unlimited bandwidth is the best, but not essential for smaller sites.
- ⏱ Processing Speed — how quickly your website loads. Most users won’t wait more than 3 seconds for a site to load, but only the cheapest hosting plans will be this slow by default.
- ☝️ Uptime — whether the web host crashes frequently. You’ll need to do third-party research using sites like PCMag to find this information, since the host will always assure you its uptime is flawless.
- 🌐 Website Builder — a toolkit to create your website yourself. This only applies if you don’t want to hand the reins to a web designer, but having a user-friendly site builder can help you get an attractive website quickly.
- 🤝 Customer Service — what support does the host offer. Always useful when something goes wrong, and 24/7 service is optimal.
One standout factor is if your web hosting includes an SSL certificate. This helps encrypt users’ data for extra security, essential if you’re an online store that will be making transactions or a money making blog asking for subscribers’ information.
Types of Web Hosting
Any web hosting will get you access to a host’s server to keep your website online. However, there are many types of servers and different ways to access their processing resources.
These different types of hosting each have upsides and downsides, but mostly differ in price and uptime, with more expensive hosting options offering more reliability.
$4.00 – $16.00 / month
As the name implies, shared hosting means you share a web server with other websites. This means really low prices for hosting, though you do get what you pay for. Sharing the server’s resources means your site can’t handle huge amounts of traffic, and the server is more likely to crash at random.
For almost all hosting services that offer a free package, you’ll get shared hosting, and for personal and hobby sites, that should do just fine. An example of a shared host is GoDaddy.
$12.00 – $120.00 / month
A virtual private server (VPS) means there are server resources dedicated to just your website alone, but you access those resources over the cloud. This is an excellent budget hosting option with more reliability, since you won’t be fighting other websites for server resources.
Small business websites are well-suited to VPS hosting, striking a balance between price and performance. An example of a VPS host is HostGator.
$10.00 – $150.00 / month
This is the best option if any downtime would be disastrous for your site. A network of servers (the cloud) all work to run your website and others, but can efficiently share resources so you always get what you need. And if one server goes down, the others pick up the slack for extra reliability.
Information or service sites that want to be available 24/7 will appreciate cloud hosting for its uptime redundancy. An example of a cloud host is WPX.
$80.00 – $190.00 / month
One server is dedicated entirely to your website. That means near-limitless server resources, faster loading speeds, and low-risk of crashes. This is the way to go for big websites that handle lots of traffic. However, all that power comes with a hefty price tag.
Websites of large corporations or internal websites for employee-use should consider dedicated hosting to maximize performance. An example of a dedicated host is AccuWeb.
2. Building Your Website
Your website will try to achieve a specific goal, like driving sales of a product or informing readers about a topic. It’s important to build your website with this goal in mind to achieve it more efficiently.
Running a competitive analysis on similar sites or researching trends in web design can help you stand out from the crowd while also appealing to a wide audience. This data will help you make several important decisions when building your site.
You can have your web hosting, domain, and site content all sorted out separately, but this is the step where they all come together.
Planning and Design
Before starting to build your site, take a minute to think about what content you want your audience to focus on and how to organize it.
Much of your site’s layout and style will be derived from its content. Photos will be laid out differently than text, and different subsections of content will need to be split either through subpages or distinct visuals.
Consider what impression you want to give your audience. Is this a professional site meant to show your expertise? Do you just want to show off your personal projects? Are you hoping to encourage readers to stick around and view plenty of revenue-making ads?
Casual, playful sites can get away with more off-kilter designs, and will be held to lower overall standards. Business sites are typically more austere and polished.
The site’s design doesn’t need to be set in stone, but having a broad idea will help guide you as you move from a blank page to a full-fledged website.
If you’re using a web host that lets you build your own site from scratch, they will have a series of excellent templates that you can use to assemble a good-looking website quickly. Hosts like this include Squarespace, or WordPress.com.
Using the host’s website builder, you can select from templates optimized for sites like digital storefronts, portfolios, photo albums, and more.
For smaller websites that would rather handle the site creation themselves, these templates are a wonderful way to put a site together without needing web design experience. They are highly customizable and have intuitive, user-friendly interfaces.
These site builders are mostly free, or have their price rolled into the hosting package you purchase.
Using a Web Designer
For websites looking for a bespoke design, or those hoping to integrate lots of custom features, hiring a web designer is the best way to build your site.
These professionals bring a mix of coding and design sense to the table. They work from the specifications you give them to create a website from the ground up exactly as you want it, while chipping in with their own expert advice.
Web designers often freelance independently, or some work for design agencies that you can contract with.
Nowadays, many web designers work in WordPress to design sites (over 43% of the top 100 million websites use it). WordPress is a very adaptable and accessible framework, so if you want to hop on the bandwagon, find a web designer with WordPress experience and ensure your web hosting package allows a WordPress site.
Connecting Your Domain
To actually connect your domain, website, and web hosting, you’ll need to update your domain’s Domain Name System (DNS) info.
When you purchase your web hosting plan, you’ll receive an email with two addresses: NS1 and NS2. Be sure to save this email, because these addresses are how you connect your domain. They are also accessible in your hosting account.
Go to your domain registrar and follow the menus to reach your domain’s DNS info. There will be an option to change the domain’s nameservers. Once you click this, you’ll be given the opportunity to enter those NS1 and NS2 addresses from your web host. Entering them tells the domain registrar that your domain should lead to your website, managed by the web host.
Once you’ve entered the NS1 and NS2 addresses, your domain is connected to your website! It will take a couple of days for all the information to update, but after that your domain will direct visitors to your website.
3. How to Drive Traffic to Your Site
Now that you have an active website and your domain can take visitors there, you need to start drawing in your audience.
Your domain is a great tool to promote your website, because including your domain in advertisements or promotional material will give interested readers a direct pipeline to your site.
The first step to a successful website will be refining your brand, to convey the proper voice to your audience. Once you have that planned out, you can begin seeking new visitors.
Content and SEO
When people search for your product or service in a search engine, or if they are asking a specific question your site can answer, whether your website is at the top of the search results depends on its Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
SEO is measured in a few ways. Most of it relies on you linking to external authoritative sites, and other sites linking to yours to raise your authoritativeness.
Also, including popular keywords in your site’s content can help the search algorithm latch onto your site. There are free services like Google Ads and many more paid services that can sift through relevant keywords to find which ones will maximize your site’s SEO.
Recently, algorithms like Google’s are favoring websites with high-quality content above all else. You can get your website in front of readers simply by writing about what you know, and writing well.
This is the most basic way to raise awareness of your website so your core audience will hear about it and consider visiting.
Digital advertisements include banner images on the top or bottom of other webpages, ads that run alongside services like YouTube or Spotify, and native ads that seamlessly blend in with the content around it (think product placements or sponsorships).
Google Ads is well-worth the price because it puts your website at the top of Google search results for topics related to your content. This targets people interested in your speciality, while also making your site’s performance less reliant on SEO.
There are also ways to advertise offline, though these tend to have lower reach nowadays. These include print ads in newspapers or magazines, billboards, outreach events, or television and radio ads.
Pretty much everything has its own social media presence, and websites are no exception. Putting out content on social media platforms is great to draw in more people.
Once you’ve grabbed a couple accounts, analyze what’s currently trending on each social media platform and create content that can ride those trends.
Social media requires an investment, because you’ll need experts to analyze your audience, creators to craft content, and someone who can schedule posts to meet the platform’s algorithm. It can seem like a lot of work, but especially for digital brands, social media is excellent at attracting an audience that already cares about what you do, so they take less convincing to visit your website.
Logically, one of the best ways to find an audience for your digital content is digitally. And a classic cold outreach or email marketing campaign achieves just that.
There are two types of email campaigns. The first finds new people who are interested in your site and encourages them to visit. Typically, cold emails are used here, where you don’t have a previous relationship with your target. Email addresses of people in your website’s field can be gathered from sites like LinkedIn, which also have direct messaging services that are also ripe for cold calls.
Cold email campaigns should focus on one thing that your website offers people, and should push that. This helps keep cold emails short and sweet.
The other type of campaign is meant to retain current visitors and to reconnect with lapsed visitors. Your site should include a sign-up option where visitors can opt to receive updates or a newsletter about your website.
Once you have this mailing list of interested visitors, use email campaigns to show off your site’s latest successes and to tempt people with promises of future developments.
Alternative: Flipping a Domain
Building an entire website takes a huge investment of time and money. If you just want to profit off your domain, you can always flip it, selling it at a markup for easy money.
Flipped domains that do well are ones that are in constant demand. Single-word domains in English are very popular for this reason, and they can be used by a number of different buyers for different applications, widening your potential pool of buyers.
If you’re flipping a domain, you won’t actually want to pair it with a site. Having a domain’s brand be dominated by a specific site means the perception of that domain is locked in to a specific field or industry, shrinking the domain’s appeal.
Selling a Domain for Profit
Should you choose to sell your domain, there are two main methods. First, you can let the domain’s value increase, and then you can sell to just about anyone who’s interested and make a profit. This mostly relies on a domain’s memorability and universality, to generate broader interest.
You can also sell your domain to ride trends. The high demand will allow you to sell for an incredible price, but you’ll want to watch the market so you close the sale before the trend drops off.
Secondly, you can find a buyer who is desperate for your domain in particular and put the squeeze on them to maximize profit.
The trick is to find buyers who own businesses or brands that use the same wording as your domain. For instance, if you own smithjewelry.com, you’ll have better luck upselling the owner of Smith Jewelry as opposed to Jewelry by Smith.
Finding such a specific sale can be understandably difficult. You might need to sit on your domain for a long time before you find the perfect buyer.
Should You Expand Your Domain Portfolio?
If you simply want more domains, by all means, buy them up. But a domain portfolio really shines when you master the art of domain management.
Preventing domains from getting bought out from under you when they expire and maintaining websites tied to your domains can get messy. Furthermore, if a competitor starts using similarly-named domains, your brand can get undermined.
One of the easiest tricks in domain management is buying all the domains that match yours but use different domain extensions (.com, .net, .org, etc.). Then you just need to keep all those domains registered and you’ll have a unified digital brand.
A domain is a crucial part of building your brand online, and starting a website is the best way to build your domain’s value. Drop a link to your new site in the comments! And share this article with any fellow colleagues looking to put their domains to good use.