Buying a domain name is a big decision.

On one hand, you want to get the best name possible because you know that it’s an important part of your brand. On the other hand, your budget is limited, so you need to be ready to compromise.

But how much does a domain name cost? And also: how much should you be willing to spend on a domain name?

Why Your Domain Name Matters

You might think that your domain name is not a big deal. After all, it’s just a web address, not a company name, right?

However, the reality is that choosing a domain name is a very important decision because it affects your branding, your traffic, and your credibility.

So you'd like to kick off your freelancing business but have no idea how much your domain will cost, uh? 😵 We ran the numbers and put together this guide to help you make the best call! Click to Tweet

Your Domain Name and Branding

People often think that the word “brand” means a company name.

However, a brand is much more than that, your brand is the overall company image that you present to the world.

It’s important to make sure that everything in your business, from the company name to the domain name to the website design to the content to the tone of voice, works together and conveys the image that you want to convey.

Imagine that you are conducting a job interview and you think that the candidate is great.

She is professional, she has the relevant experience, she seems like a great fit in terms of the company culture…

But when she leaves, you take another look at her resume and you notice that her email address is sk8ergurl2008@yahoo.com.

No offense to the sk8ergurls out there, but let’s keep it real: an email address like that would make you question your original impression of her.

Well, it’s the same with branding. If everything about your company conveys a certain image but your domain name doesn’t fit that image at all, it will put potential customers on guard.

And the last thing you want to do is give them a reason to be suspicious.

Your Domain Name and Traffic

Your domain name plays a role in search rankings.

As the SEO expert Brian Dean explains in his article “Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2019)”, while putting keywords in the domain name doesn’t give you the boost that it used to, it still serves as a relevancy signal.

Also, if the target keyword appears as the first word in the domain name, it will give you an edge over websites that have that same keyword in the middle or at the end of a domain name (or not at all).

Moreover, there’s also the direct traffic aspect to consider, meaning the people who get to your website by typing your address in their browser.

If your domain name is hard to remember you will lose some of these people because they will misspell it and will get taken to… God knows where.

Remember, buying traffic is expensive, so you need to do everything you can to maximize your organic traffic.

Credibility

Not all domain names are created equal.

According to Growth Badger research, .com is the most trusted TLD extension out there.

Also, when people misremember a website address, they are 3.8 times more likely to assume that it ends in .com than anything else.

Here’s how the most popular domain extensions stack up in terms of perceived trustworthiness:

TLDs compared in terms of perceived trustworthiness

TLDs compared in terms of perceived trustworthiness

Of course, it’s important to remember that this was presumably done with a generic 1500 people sample, which means that your target audience might perceive certain domain extensions differently.

For example, .io extension might seem weird to most people, but it’s probably safe to say that techies trust it given how trendy it is in the tech world.

There are also regional extensions to consider. For example, if you are targeting a Lithuanian audience, then using the .lt extension is perfectly fine but people outside of Lithuania probably wouldn’t be receptive to it.

All this means that you need to give your domain name the thought it deserves.

How to Choose a Domain Name

As we have explained in our article How to Choose a Domain Name, there are six main things that you need to consider when you’re buying one.

1. Your Domain Name Should Be Easy to Remember

You want to make sure that your domain name is easy to remember. But what exactly does that mean?

Basically, the more items you ask someone to remember, the harder it is for them to do that.

When it comes to domain names, every word and symbol is a separate item, which is something to keep in mind when you are considering various options.

For example, www.luciddreaming.com is easier to remember than www.world-of-lucid-dreaming.com (note that hyphen use is especially confusing).

Try to keep your domain short, avoid using symbols, and get a well-known extension.

2. Your Domain Name Should Be Easy to Type on Mobile Devices

Do you know what happened on June 29th, 2007?

I’ll give you a few hints: Apple. Steve Jobs. iPhone. Yes, you guessed it: on that day Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone, which changed the world forever.

Now, a little bit more than a decade later, we are all struggling with smartphone addiction, and we got to the point where dumbphones are making a comeback. But what does this have to do with domain names?

Well, in the first quarter of 2019, mobile traffic accounted for 48.71% of global website traffic and it’s safe to say that this number is only going to increase.

This means that it’s best if your domain name is easy to type on a mobile phone.

3. Your Domain Name Should Be Optimized for Search Engines

A keyword in the domain name won’t give you a huge advantage over your competitors in terms of search rankings.

However, it can give you a slight edge, which is nothing to scoff at given how crazy the competition to appear on the first page of Google’s search results is.

That being said, it is not necessary, so if you can’t find a way to incorporate a keyword in your domain name then don’t push it.

4. Your Domain Name Should Be Brandable

Your domain name needs to brandable.

Basically, when people hear your domain name, it needs to sound like a legit business in your industry and have a hip vibe.

So, for example, if you were starting a remote jobs board, you could name it www.remotejobsboard.com… But doesn’t remoteok.io sound much better?

Remoteok.io

Remoteok.io

Of course, you need to take industry standards into account, boring names work for businesses that need to appear formal.

Say, if you run a funeral home, then it’s important to be serious, no one wants to hold a wake in a “hip” funeral home.

However, you probably don’t need to be formal, so get creative!

5. Your Domain Name Shouldn’t Break Any Legal Terms

There was a time when the Internet was the Wild West.

Those days are long gone. Now it’s full of corporations with deep pockets that will sue you into bankruptcy if you even look at them the wrong way. That’s why it’s important to be careful.

Imagine this. You come up with a great name. You register it. You launch your website. And then, just as your business starts gaining momentum, you are hit with a cease and desist letter.

“What the… ??” is your first thought.

But then, as you decipher the legalese, you realize that apparently your domain name is trademarked, which means that you are in a world of trouble.

You can avoid this by doing due diligence.

For example, you can check US trademarks on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s website.

Alternatively, you can check for the trademarks for whatever country you want to operate in through the local equivalent of the USPTO.

And, of course, Google can help you as well, because if nothing comes up on it, then you probably don’t need to worry.

Now, unfortunately, if you came up with a cool name, the chances are that you are not the first person to do so, which means that you might end up having to go back to the drawing board.

However, keep in mind that finding yourself back at square one is much better than getting hit with a lawsuit, so don’t cut corners here.

6. Pick the Right TLD for Your Domain Name

Your TLD affects your credibility, so it’s important to choose wisely.

Check out this graph on the topic:

TLDs ranked based on trust, memorability, and times used

TLDs ranked based on trust, memorability, and times used

These are the extensions that you should consider if you are serving a global audience.

Of course, .com domain names are much more expensive than the rest, so you might have to compromise there if you don’t have the budget for it.

Don’t Get Stuck in Analysis Paralysis

Choosing your domain name is a serious decision. You should treat it with respect and give it the thought it deserves.

That being said, it’s also important to not get stuck in analysis paralysis. A good domain name that you can register today is better than a perfect domain name that takes three months to come up with.

What to Do if You Can’t Get the Domain Name You Want?

It’s not always possible to get the domain name you want. What should you do then?

  • It might be unavailable. You can contact the owner and make them an offer. Alternatively, you can modify your domain name by adding a word to it. For example, if you are using your product name, consider adding the word “get” to it, as Drip did with www.getdrip.com.
  • It might be outside your budget. You can significantly reduce the cost of your domain name by choosing a less popular domain extension. Just don’t go overboard with this. A whacky extension that no one has ever seen before might hurt your brand.
  • It might be trademarked, like “WordPress”. When that’s the case it’s best to just drop the idea and go back to the drawing board. Don’t play with fire if you don’t want to get burned.

Yes, it’s really annoying when you can’t get a domain name that you want, but your only option is to get creative. And who knows, maybe you’ll come up with something even better?

How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?

So, how much does a domain name cost? That’s a pretty tricky question to answer since the domain name price range is insane.

On GoDaddy, for example, you can get an .xyz domain name for $0.99. While www.lasvegas.com was sold for $90 million back in 2005.

Lasvegas.com domain

Lasvegas.com domain

Now, this is the full range of domain name prices, $0.99 and $90 million represents the opposite ends of the spectrum.

But what determines how much a domain name costs?

Availability

Obviously, if the domain name is available, it will be cheaper than it would be if it were already owned by someone. Wanting something that only one person can sell you puts you in a very weak position when it comes to negotiating the price.

This is especially true if that person can look you up and determine that you have money. In fact, there are people who intentionally buy domain names that someone might want in the future.

It’s best to come up with a domain name that is available if you want to save money.

Keywords

Keywords vary wildly in terms of the search volume which impacts the cost of the domains that use a particular keyword.

Moreover, they also vary in terms of profitability, which also affects how much a domain name with a particular keyword costs.

For example, the keyword “Las Vegas” has massive search volume, since there’s always a lot of people who want to visit Las Vegas. Additionally, this keyword is incredibly easy to monetize since tourists need a place to stay, a car to rent, shows to see, etc.

That explains www.lasvegas.com‘s $90 million price tag.

However, since keywords in the domain name don’t matter as much as they used to, it’s probably best to use a unique name without lucrative keywords.

Domain Extension

Your choice of a domain extension can have a massive impact on the domain name price.

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Basically, if you want that .com, you better be willing to pay top dollar for it.

For example, when Kyle Byers did his domain extension study, he used a made up domain name “mattressranking.tld.”

At that time, you could get that domain name with a reputable domain extension for $12-$15, with the exception of the .com extension which cost an additional $4,250.

Mattressranking.com domain experiment

Mattressranking.com domain experiment

You need to evaluate whether you really need .com (or not). How important credibility is to you?

Don’t Forget the Extra Costs

It’s easy to focus so much on purchasing a domain name that you forget about the additional costs associated with it.

Obviously, a domain name is not a one-off purchase, it needs to be renewed every year, which will generally cost you the same amount of money that you paid to get it (expensive domain names are an exception to this because they cost much more to purchase than to maintain).

However, then there are also various add-ons that you can buy, the most popular of which is privacy protection that ensures that your personal or business details don’t come up when people look up your domain name.

Generally, these extra costs don’t add up too much but it’s still something that you should keep in mind.

How Much Should You Pay for a Domain Name?

Okay, so how much should you pay for a domain name?

Well, it all depends on your budget, if you are a billionaire and want to buy www.lasvegas.com, go for it.

However, you probably aren’t a billionaire, which means that you need to think carefully about how much you are willing to invest in a domain name.

There is a common mistake that first-time entrepreneurs make. They use their limited startup capital to create an appearance of a serious business. They get an expensive domain name, custom web design, business cards, etc. But all that isn’t doing business, it’s playing business.

Sure, you need to look professional, but you shouldn’t let that distract you from what actually puts money in your pocket, which is selling your products or services.

Basically, when you are just starting out, you should only be spending money on things that directly contribute to your bottom line. Everything else can wait.

Thefacebook.com 2004

Thefacebook.com, in 2004 (Image source: web.archive.org)

For example, when Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, it was called The Facebook and hosted on www.thefacebook.com.

Facebook purchased its current domain name in 2005 for $200,000.

At that point, Mark Zuckerberg had validated his idea, the social network was growing rapidly, and Facebook had already received their first investment from the PayPal founder Peter Thiel.

Zuckerberg wanted to call his social network Facebook from the start, but the domain name wasn’t available, so he simply added the word “the” to it and got to work.

When you are just starting out, you need to be scrappy, you want to use that startup capital to give yourself as much runway as possible.

That means getting a cheap domain name, even if it’s not the one that you really want, and focusing on generating revenue.

Once you get your business off the ground, you can invest in a better domain name by getting a better name, a better extension, or both.

Be patient. If you have a viable business idea then you will eventually have enough money to comfortably afford a better domain name. But don’t put the cart before the horse.

Where You Can Buy a Domain Name

Companies that sell domain names are called domain registrars.

There are quite a few domain registrars out there. How can you decide which one should you go with?

What Should You Look For In A Domain Registrar?

We discussed this in-depth in our “How to Select the Best Domain Registrar (Our Recommendations)” article.

Here are the most important things that you should look for:

  • Low pricing. You don’t want to spend more money than you have to. Fortunately, the competition in this industry is fierce, so all major companies offer affordable pricing.
  • Free WHOIS protection. People can look up the details of any domain name and find out who owns it. This might present privacy issues. It’s best to use WHOIS protection which prevents snoopers from seeing this information.
  • Auto-renewals. If you don’t renew a domain name it eventually goes back on the market. This might cause serious problems if some enterprising individual snatches your domain name and then offers to sell it back to you for a substantial amount of money. That’s why it’s best to go with a domain registrar that automatically renews your domain name.

Also, if a domain registrar is not transparent about their pricing, you should see that as a red flag and stay away.

Another thing to watch out for is a bad user interface. You shouldn’t need a computer science Ph.D. to figure out how to do basic tasks such as parking or transferring domains.

Finally, if a domain registrar doesn’t offer 24/7 customer support, it might be too risky to use their services. What if something goes wrong and you need immediate assistance? You can lose a lot of money in potential revenue if the problem isn’t solved right away.

GoDaddy vs Namecheap

Even if you follow the criteria provided above, choosing the right company might be challenging.

You can simplify this task by narrowing the list down to the two most popular options: GoDaddy and Namecheap.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the most popular domain registrar in the industry, with over 18 million customers.

However, being the biggest doesn’t always mean it’s the best. If you look at reviews online regarding GoDaddy you’ll most likely find a lot of negative. They offer a variety of services, such as WordPress hosting, and therefore this will also impact their reputation if one product isn’t as good as another.

GoDaddy.com

GoDaddy.com

Namecheap

Namecheap is another popular domain name provider and one of GoDaddy’s biggest competitors. According to their press release, they manage over 10 million domains.

Namecheap.com

Namecheap.com

Which One Should You Go With?

It’s best to look up your desired domain name on both websites to see which company can offer you a better deal.

Namecheap offers .com domains at a lower price than GoDaddy (both for the first year and on renewal). Yet it’s important to remember that money is not the only thing that matters, so you might want to take a closer look at GoDaddy’s and Namecheap’s track record in terms of their views and their behavior to see which company’s values resonate with you more.

Summary

Your domain name matters. But do you know what’s even more important? Your cashflow.

Sure, don’t be stingy with your domain name, you probably need something more serious than a $0.99 one.

However, don’t blow tons of money on it either because it won’t make or break your business.

Get an affordable domain name, launch your website, and start hustling.

You can always upgrade once you are generating revenue.

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