If you build a business around a domain name, that name will become your most valuable asset. It will be both your brand and doorway to your service.

Lose it and your business could be damaged beyond repair.

It is simple to register a domain, but choose your registrar carefully. There are a lot of bandits out there.

Price is no reflection of the quality of service you will receive.

If you don’t want to read this checklist, but need to get on with registering a domain, the registrar I use is Enom (www.enom.com). They are US based, but will register all country domains (.co.uk, .fr, .it, etc.). They are not perfect, but they do most things well and they are big enough to be stable.

The essential things that you should check when choosing a domain registrar are:

  • Cost of registering the domain – prices can vary from a few dollars /pounds per year to hundreds. Enom charge .com $8.95/yr, .co.uk $6.95/yr. The very expensive services are rarely worth the money, but at the same time the very cheap services should be avoided
  • Annual renewal price - some domain companies offer cheap or even free first year registration and then hit you hard in subsequent years or if you try to move your domain
  • Simple and easy to use account management interface so you can easily view, manage and edit your domain names and personal details
  • Ability to easily move all your domains into one account for simple management – it can be a real pain having different accounts for lots of different names
  • Free domain pointing - Your website will probably be hosted by a different company to your domain registrar. You will need to point your domain at your website so that when people type your domain name into their browser they will end up on your website
  • Free email forwarding – If you own the domain www.Run-a-Bar.com, you should be able to forward all emails sent to that domain, such as [email protected] to your email account
  • Free transfer to another registrar – You should not have to pay to transfer your name to another domain name registrar
  • Add privacy to your domain name – For free or a small fee ($1 or $2 a year) you should be able to hide who owns your domain. There are two reasons to do this. It stops spammer finding your email address and sending you junk email and more importantly it stops criminals trying to steal your domain name or identity
  • Domain name monitoring and auto renew – Loosing your domain name can destroy your business. You should have several layers of protection to stop this happening. Domain name monitoring will alert you if the domain expires. Auto renew will automatically renew your subscription

The domain registration market is a jungle.

There are hundreds of companies offering different services for very different prices.

Most are honest, stable businesses. But many are poorly run, under resourced and deliberately confuse customers so they can rip them off.

I should know, I have lost thousands of dollars over the past ten years using incompetent and dishonest domain name registrars.

Whoever you use make sure that they are “ICANN accredited” in the US and Nominet approved in the UK. This means that you should have somewhere to turn in the event of a dispute.

In Summary

Ask around for personal recommendations and do searches on forums to get recommendations about the best domain name companies.