A domain name helps to identify your Web site address on the Internet, which otherwise would be a hard to remember jumble of numbers. The name can be creative or clever or even the same as your business name. But before you can begin using a specific domain name to identify the Web site you have created to post online, it is important to conduct a domain name search.
First decide on the name you want as your Web site domain name. Try to keep the name as short as possible, no more than 63 characters and avoid using hyphens or underscores which can make it more confusing for people trying to find your Web site. Keep the name as memorable and creative as possible, either using your business's real name (e.g.The Original Pet Gift Basket) or a name that describes your business (e.g. Gifts4Fido). Try not to use initials that might not mean anything to potential customers if they don't know the full name of your business.
There are numerous Web hosting companies such as godaddy.com, whois.com and namedropper.com that can search to see if your proposed name is already in use or available for registration. Log onto one of these to start a free search to determine whether or not your proposed name has already been registered by another user. Be sure to search for the exact name you want as a domain name. TheOriginalPetGiftBasket.com would be totally different than OriginalPetGiftBasket.com. Your proposed name might be available to register, it might already be registered but not currently appearing as a Web site because the owner is constructing one, it might be registered by another owner who is willing to sell you the name, or is registered by an owner for use at some future time. A domain search will reveal if similar names are also available and if you can use .com, .net or .org designations with your domain name.
If the name you are proposing is not currently registered, you can begin the process of registering the name for your exclusive use by using an accredited domain name registrar. Legitimate companies that handle this are listed on the InterNIC Registrar Listing. There is a sliding scale of fees for registering a domain name, ranging from just a few dollars to more than $35, so don't agree to the first registration fee offered until you shop around.
It's usually not a good idea to register an expired domain name because there may be bad will or spam activity associated with that Web site and you will have to live with the past history created by that domain name. If someone else does own the name, however, you still may be able to obtain use of it. Track down the owner at whois.com and approach them about selling the domain name to you.