There are hundreds of places on the Web to buy a domain name, and it's usually as simple as pick and click. Most Web hosts offer a domain registration service; there are also popular domain registration sites such as Network Solutions and GoDaddy. The cost of domain names has dropped dramatically over the past few years, with many companies charging as little as $5 a year -- and sometimes, domain names come free with the purchase of other services, such as hosting.
Costs for domain names vary with each registrar, and it can be confusing to find the best deal. Most registration fees range, however, from $6.99 to over $30 per domain name per year. The difference in price is determined by the popularity of the name and the suffix attached. Budget domain services typically offer just the domain name, but many now offer additional features, including free domain parking, email forwarding, and related services.
Unless you've reserved it for multiple years, you'll be charged a fee each year to renew your domain name registration. But saving a few dollars isn't the only reason to renew for multiple years. Securing your domain name for the foreseeable future will save you the headache and expense of having your domain expire and needing to reregister it. You can most likely set up an auto-renewal feature to make this simple.
If you lose your domain name for some reason (maybe the credit card on file is no longer valid), you'll have a 30-day redemption period after the domain expires. You can reregister your domain during this time, but you'll be at the mercy of the registrar as to how much it will cost. Most companies charge around $100 to reregister a domain name once it's entered the redemption period.
After the redemption period, there's a five-day wait for the domain to become available again. The domain is essentially "locked" during this period, and it can't be restored, modified, or transferred. If you're not willing to pay redemption fees, you can wait until the five days are up and try to reregister the domain, but be careful. At this point, your precious domain is back on the market, and anyone can register it.
Some registrars now offer private domain registration, which masks your contact information. Different registrars employ different strategies to keep your information private, but the results are the same: When someone performs a Whois search for your domain, your phone number, email address, and physical address won't appear.
Although registrars have gone to great lengths to protect this information, some spammers have been able to exploit it and use Whois searches to harvest email addresses. If you have been receiving excess spam, this could be the cause. Private registration usually costs about $10, in addition to regular registration fees.
When you consider all a domain name can do for your business, it really is a very small investment. As long as you keep your registration current, you should never have to worry about paying exorbitant fees for your domain name.