I can tell you the exact moment I started feeling like a true professional: when I registered the domain “ajafrost.com.”
Although my website had been live for a couple weeks already, having it under my name made it look much more legitimate. Clients, co-workers, and hiring managers seemed more impressed than they had before, too.
But there’s more to owning a domain name than looking official. Read on to learn why everyone needs to buy one pronto, plus how to do it and what to consider as you’re picking yours out.
Wait, What’s a Domain?
For anyone catching up, let’s go back to the basics: What’s a domain name, anyway? Think of it as the name of a website. For example, The Muse’s domain name is themuse.com, while Google’s domain name is google.com.
You’re probably most familiar with domains that end in “.com.” But that’s not the only “domain extension,” as this part is called. There are tons of options, from the straightforward (like “.org,” “.net,” and “.biz,”) to the more creative (like “.ninja”).
Once you’ve bought a domain name, it’s yours for as long as you keep paying for it. That’s important: If someone had come along before me and purchased “ajafrost.com,” I probably would’ve never gotten the chance to own it. When potential clients, employers, and connections Googled my name, another person’s site would come up—and who knows what type of website it would be.
Owning your first and last name is so important I’d recommend buying the corresponding domain name ASAP even if you’re not ready to create a personal website or portfolio yet.
Why Should I Own One?
As I learned first-hand, having a custom domain gives you an instant credibility boost. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a personal site to help you land a job, increase your visibility in your field or industry, find freelance gigs, showcase your work, or promote your brand: The more credibility you have, the better.
Plus, custom domains are usually far easier to remember than generic ones. Imagine you told someone you met at a networking event to check out your site, “janedoeportfolio.squarespace.com.” He’ll probably forget the link by the time he gets in front of his laptop. However, “janedoe.bio” will be a cinch to remember. These names also look much more sleek when you put them on business cards, in the header of your resume, or anywhere else you might be directing people to learn more about you.
A domain that incorporates your name also helps others find you in search results. When someone enters your first and last name into Google, they’re much more likely to see your website if its domain matches their search. When you search “Aja Frost,” for example, my site is the first thing that comes up:
This gives you the chance to really own the conversation around your personal brand, making sure people see what you want them to see first.
Lastly, purchasing a domain name is a great investment because it comes with the option to create a custom email address. Let’s say your domain name was “jonsnow.com.” Your email address could be anything followed by “@jonsnow.com”: “firstname.lastname@example.org,” “email@example.com,” “firstname.lastname@example.org,” and so forth.
What Should My Domain Name Be?
Ideally, you’re going to be holding on to this domain name for a long time, so choosing the right one is important.
When you’re considering a domain name, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it relatively short? Super long domain names are hard to remember and type. Aim for 15 characters or less.
- Does it read well? If people mentally stumble over saying your URL, it’ll lose some of its impact.
- Is it specific to me? You’re trying to enhance your personal brand, so pick a domain name that helps with that.
To see whether a domain name is available, try Squarespace’s domain search engine.
I’d start by looking up your first and last name followed by “.com.” This format is memorable, relevant, and unique—and as I talked about earlier, owning your name gives you more control over your online identity.
If your name isn’t available with the “.com” extension, consider using a different extension. For example, you could use “.bio” or “.expert” if you want to keep it professional, “.design” or “.finance” if you want to tie it to your profession, or “.cool” or “.fyi” if you want to add a little humor and personality. The options are pretty endless.
You can also experiment with different variations on your name. Here are some ideas:
- first name + middle initial + last name (“janehdoe.com”)
- first name + middle name + last name (“johnhenrydoe.com”)
- first initial + middle initial + last name (“wrclaredon.com”)
Alternatively, you can incorporate your profession or interests. Here are some more ideas:
- first name + last name + verb (“janedoepaints.com”)
- first name + last name + title (“johndoethepainter.com”)
- last name + profession/hobby + “portfolio” (“doepaintingportfolio.com”)
How Do I Buy a Domain?
You’ve got a couple options. Domain registrars like GoDaddy and Register.com let you choose a domain name and register it for a fee (usually ranging from $3 to $70 depending on how desirable they think that domain is). That gives you the right to the domain name for a year. If you want it for another 12 months, you pay a renewal fee that’s often a little higher than the registration one. You’ll also have the option to pay extra to get an email associated with your domain, and to add privacy protection that keeps things like your address, phone number, and email from being listed in a public database.
The challenge with this approach? You still need to connect your domain name to a website, which requires choosing a host and then transferring your domain name. It can be a little tricky—especially if you don’t have much of a technical background (or just know that any amount of hassle will keep you from ever doing it).
Many website-building platforms let you avoid the hassle by purchasing your website and domain name at the same time. That’s actually how I got my domain name: When I signed up for Squarespace, a custom domain was part of the package. In fact, Squarespace makes your custom domain free for the first year if you sign up for an annual plan, after which it’s an easy flat fee that includes that privacy protection.
It’s also worth noting that you can have a domain name without a website. It might seem premature to buy it before you’ve got a place to use it, but I’d highly recommend doing so if the URL you want is still available. You don’t want someone else to come along and snap up your perfect domain name while you wait. Squarespace Domains actually lets you create a “parking page,” a simple placeholder page that’s a great way to claim your name before you’re ready to build a full site.
Now that you’ve got a name, why not consider building a website? It doesn’t have to be a huge endeavor; in fact, we’ll show you how to create your personal site in just seven days!
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