How much does a domain name cost?
Everything you need to know about domain names, including how much they cost, what influences their pricing, and where to register them.
February 02 · 11 min read
When you want to create a new website, one of the first things you need to do is decide on the domain name. Without one, no one will be able to find the website, let alone visit it.
It’s easy to see why people are willing to shell out huge amounts to snap up a catchy domain name because of its immense importance. Some of the most popular domains, like Insurance.com and LasVegas.com, have sold for tens of millions of dollars.
Before you start to cringe at the thought of how much it would take to secure a great domain name for your small business website, you should know that multimillion-dollar domain names are the exception, not the rule. In fact, it’s possible to even get a domain name for free!
With that in mind, this article covers everything you need to know about domain names, including how much they cost, what influences their pricing, and where to register them.
Quick overview of what a domain name is all about
If this is your first time learning about domains and URLs (Uniform Resource Locators), the terminology might feel a tad overwhelming. So let’s do a quick rundown of these terms. This way, by the time you get to the actual domain costing, we’ll all be on the same page.
This is the name that you register to identify your website and/or email address. Imagine you’re going to the mall. You pull up Google Maps, put in the building’s name, and the system pulls up the address. You’re able to find that building because you know the name.
It’s the same principle with domain names. When we know the website’s domain name, we type it into our browsers, and the system pulls up the website.
These are the companies through which you can claim and register your chosen domain name. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is in charge of all domain registrations. It provides accreditation to these domain registrars to sell domain names and enter them into the central domain registry.
People tend to confuse URL with domain name. But domain name is the website’s name, and the URL is the complete web address of that particular web page.
See our website, for instance. If you type only “B12” into your browser and hit enter, it would take you to a Google results page instead of the website. That’s because you used only the domain name. Add the “https://www.” before the domain name and the “.io” and you have the complete web address, AKA URL.
Top-Level Domain (TLD)
Also known as a domain extension, the TLD is what follows after your domain name in the URL. TLDs usually relate to the type of website using that domain or its location in the world. For example, .us is the top-level domain for the United States; .edu tells you that an educational institution runs the website.
Your choice of TLD will contribute to the uniqueness of your domain name. There are thousands of different TLDs, so put some thought into which one you choose. The most popular TLDs are:
- .com – Commercial use
- .net – Network sites
- .org – Non-profit organizations
- .biz — Business use
- .edu – Education organizations
- .gov – Strictly for government and their organizations
- .mil – Strictly for military use
What TLD should I choose?
.com domains are by far the most popular. There are over 137 million .com domains in existence. Unless it’s essential and adds something valuable to your domain name, the general recommendation is to stick with a .com TLD. It’s easier to remember and is widely known all over the world. This gives it a longer reach, which you can utilize for your business.
Other TLDs, such as .net, .org, and .biz, have gained serious traction over the years, but they still don’t compare to the popularity of .com domains.
Essentials of a great domain name
- Short and simple — Yes, domain names should be unique, and ideally, describe what the website is all about. But more importantly, it should be short and easy to spell. See a domain name like business.com — in one glance, you already know what the website is about. Think along those lines when choosing a domain name.
- Memorable and brandable — A domain name should be relatable and easy to remember. It should also have branding potential.
- No numbers, hyphens, and underscores — Unless these characters are integral to your business name or line of service, it’s best to avoid them. They are a minus from the professional look and feel of a domain name.
- Consider SEO — Search Engine Optimization has come a long way. An SEO optimized domain name can improve your SEO strategy.
- Descriptive names can be great too — Though they are often longer, descriptive domain names are valuable in that customers quickly understand what you do before they click on your website. An example is carinsurance.com. It perfectly describes that the website is about car insurance. Unsurprisingly, this domain name was sold for over $49 million.
- Noninfringement — Choosing a domain name is an investment. And like any investment, it’s essential to do your due diligence and make sure the domain name you’re going for is not already trademarked.
Purchase your domain name fast
As of the third quarter of 2019, there were over 359 million domain names in use around the world. This means you’ll need to think of a domain name that 359 million other people haven’t thought to register yet. If you find that perfect, memorable domain name, lock it down as soon as you can.
Consider acting fast on your social media handles too. Those are usually in higher demand but are completely free. If you find that descriptive, punchy social media username, snag it right away.
Why do domain names cost money?
If you find yourself pondering this question, you’re not alone. After all, the internet is free to use, so why do I have to pay a domain name registrar monthly or yearly for a domain name that I took the time to come up with?
Here’s the thing — the names themselves are free, outside of any trademark claims. Domain name costs are mainly derived from the authoritative DNS (Domain Name System) service for the TLDs, the WHOIS databases consisting of the registrant and their contact information, and other related fees as charged by ICANN.
The money you pay to register a domain goes towards the smooth running of the root and DNS servers and other network devices responsible for resolving and maintaining domain names. When you enter a domain name in your browser, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on in the background to pull up and display the requested information. Those background processes cost money.
There was a time when domain registrations were not so competitive, and domain registrars charged upwards of $80 to register a domain. Today, however, the competition is fierce, and registering your chosen domain has never been cheaper. Some companies even offer free domain registrations.
What factors influence domain name pricing?
How much should you expect to pay for your chosen domain name? The answer comes down to the following factors:
An SEO-friendly domain name typically commands a higher price. If the domain name you want to register contains a popular keyword under a particular niche, expect a higher cost.
These keywords tend to vary in terms of profitability. For example, “Vacation rentals” is a particularly valuable keyword with a massive search volume in the tourism space. Additionally, it is easy to monetize. That explains why vacationrentals.com commands a $35 million price tag.
A domain name that is particularly popular and high in demand will cost more. Remember, you’re not the only one wanting to register a catchy, easy-to-remember, and keyword-optimized domain name.
If you are trying to cut down your domain name costs, go for a name that perfectly encapsulates your website without being in high demand.
The domain extension you choose is a determining factor in how much you’ll eventually pay for the domain name. Websites with .com domain extensions often can cost more due to their global recognizability.
Length of terms
How long do you intend to own that domain name? The term length of your domain name will impact its pricing — the longer you want to own it, the higher the upfront cost will be. However, you may be able to save on the overall cost by committing to a few years upfront instead of paying annually.
Domain name costs tend to vary depending on the domain name registrar. Another consideration is purchasing the domain name alone or as part of a web hosting package. These hosting plans typically include relevant services and tools, such as website builders, security features, email hosting services, etc.
Sometimes the perfect domain name for your website is already taken. Over the years, more and more people have realized the value of a domain name and have made a living buying them up with the intention of selling them at a much higher price in the future.
If you want to buy a domain name that’s not readily available, you can do so through domain brokers. These brokers will contact the domain owner on your behalf and try to reach terms. If the domain owner agrees to the trade, you’ll pay the required amount, as well as the domain broker’s fees.
If your preferred domain name is currently unavailable and you’ve got lots of time to spare, you could wait for it to expire. However, you’ll need to pay the domain registrar a backorder fee to get in line. For example, GoDaddy charges $24.98 for its domain backorder service.
Keep in mind that the waiting period can be incredibly long as the current domain owner may decide to renew their ownership year after year.
Premium domain names
These are short, brandable, and popular domain names that have been pre-registered to be sold at a higher price for profit. These are also known as aftermarket domains. Premium domain name prices can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of millions of dollars.
After purchase, you can choose to transfer your domain name to another domain registrar or hosting company. In most cases, these transfers are usually not free, though the actual cost will depend on the domain registrar from where you’re making the transfer.
Are there any hidden fees in domain name registrations?
Aside from the domain registration cost, there are few additional costs that you should be aware of when calculating the cost of your domain name. These include:
- Yearly renewals — Buying a domain name is not a one-time affair. You’ll need to pay a renewal fee every year if you want to keep using that domain name. To make their offers more attractive, some domain registrars offer significant discounts on domain names for the first year. Afterward, the renewal fee will be based on the actual cost of the domain name.
- WHOIS and privacy protection— ICANN requires every domain registrar to collect the domain owner’s contact information. These details are then listed in the WHOIS database, which can be publicly accessed. Domain privacy protection is one of the various add-ons that can help prevent just anyone from accessing your contact details.
- Business email domains — If you want a professional online presence, then you need to consider getting a business email address based on your domain name. This is an optional purchase, of course. Some web hosting services even include free business email domains.
So how much will my domain name registration cost on average?
On average, a standalone domain name will range from $0.99 to $20 in the first year. To minimize the overall costs in the long-run, you could make an upfront payment for several years. Most domain registrars will offer a good deal for long-term domain purchases, and you usually won’t have to worry about any other additional costs.
Where to register your domain name
Some of the most important things to consider when looking for a domain registrar are ease of use, customer support, and relevant add-ons. Some domain registrars also double as web-hosting providers. If this is your first time getting a new domain, it’s generally a good idea to get it from a hosting provider so you get everything you need to set up your website from a single source.
With that in mind, our top picks for domain registrars are
Each of these companies offers robust support for WordPress and e-commerce sites. Plus, they offer a full suite of helpful tools to build and manage your website. Their domain pricing is also among the most competitive so you can be sure of getting a good deal.
Got a website ready for your domain name?
If you’re already considering the costs for your domain name, then it’s time to start thinking of the website that it will represent. Here at B12, we offer a quick, effective way to set up your website.
We are revolutionizing the web design process by leveraging AI (artificial intelligence) technology to build stunning, responsive websites across various industries. While AI handles the repeatable tasks, our team of web design experts works on your site’s personalization and custom coding. The result is a high-quality website that’s ready to convert your visitors into paying, loyal customers.