The first step to creating an author website is to select a domain name. This isn’t a decision you want to take lightly but it is an important one you should consider early on in your author career. (Especially if you have a somewhat common name.) The sooner you can reserve an author website domain name the better.
When to Buy a Domain Name
Building a website is a major project and likely isn’t one you’ll have completed in a few hours. However, waiting to buy your author website’s domain name until you have the time to invest in creating the site in its entirety is a mistake.
Once you know what domain name you’d like to use for your author site, it’s best to go ahead and purchase the domain name. This domain name will remain “parked” while not in use but you won’t be at risk of another person swooping in to buy it before you. If you’re smart, you can even put a little something up on your site to allow the domain to ‘age’ which is an important part of SEO.
Where to Buy a Domain Name
There are a few avenues you can take when buying a domain name. First, you can buy it directly from the company you plan to have your hosting through. Second, you can buy it from one “domain dealer” (domain registrar) and then point that domain toward the host you plan to use. This can be super simple or a mega pain depending on the company you choose to work with.
You can buy a domain from the following places:
That wasn’t a comprehensive list, but it does cover the major players. Now, we’re going to get into a bit of my personal experience where I direct you based on my own past mistakes.
GoDaddy has that sweet, sweet brand name recognition. Enough so that people without both feet firmly planted in the website world tend to recognize the name. However, it isn’t my favorite to promote. I have run a few sites off of GoDaddy and find it to be an alright service. For domain names, you’ll find the prices tend to creep up rapidly with each renewal and they don’t provide a ton of benefits. This may be because they don’t feel they need to compete as much with the other domain registrars.
If you go with GoDaddy you do have the benefit of knowing there are tons of resources out there and guides for dealing with their processes. However, you have to handle your SSL yourself or pay them to manage it. For an author website, I recommend buying a domain from a provider where you plan to host that handles the SSL for you. (Cough Dreamhost cough)
I love Namecheap, don’t get me wrong. I’ve used them for years for different projects. However, I haven’t heard a ton of positive things about their hosting plans. Because of this, I would recommend you avoid Namecheap for your author site.
I have used Bluehost previously in my early website building days. Because I was young and mostly dumb, I can’t confidently say it was the best. However, I can for sure say it wasn’t the worst experience with purchasing a domain name and hosting.
Bluehost is pushed a ton because they have a pretty large affiliate program. (I’ll probably include an affiliate link in here at some point because I’ve gotta keep the lights on somehow.) But I’m going to be honest with you either way. I like Bluehost and I wouldn’t direct someone away from them as I might with GoDaddy.
I could dote on Dreamhost all day. And they aren’t even paying me to say how great they are. (But I sure wish they were.)
So far, Dreamhost has offered the besting domain and hosting experience for me personally. They handle the SSL for hosting, their backend is incredibly user-friendly, and the domain is free with hosting. (At least at the time of writing.)
They handle updates and the SSL without me having to hound them. I simply get a message it’s being handled and voila. Hands-down my favorite domain registrar and hosting provider. This is me holding up a neon sign and telling you this is the best option for your author site.
Why Is It Better to Buy Your Domain From Your Host Company
If you go with, for instance, Name Cheap and then want to use GoDaddy as your host, then you are stuck transferring or directing your domain toward GoDaddy. These tend to come with wait periods and fees. It’s best to do a ton of research and try to purchase your domain name from the same company you’d like to purchase hosting through.
The important thing of note here is, while you don’t need to pay for hosting right away, you should determine the provider you’ll have your hosting through. I’m trying my darndest to save you a headache down the road.
How Much Do Domain Names Cost?
Domain names cost an average of $5 to $15 per year. This is to register a new domain name. If you set your sights on a domain name that is registered and being held by someone other than a domain registrar then you could offer to purchase the domain but it could cost you into the thousands of dollars to purchase.
Many hosting companies will offer a package that includes a free or discounted domain name for the first year. The TLD or domain extension will also play into the cost.
Domain Name Options
Everyone knows .com. While there are plenty of other TLDs (top-level domains) available, .com is the best (in my humble opinion). With .com you have trust. The other benefit is it’s one less piece of your URL that people have to remember.
Say they only remember the main chunk of your domain (called the second-level domain. I’m talking about sallywritesbooks in www.sallywritesbooks(.)com. They’ll assume that end bit is .com. But if it’s something quirky and different like .io or .me, they are less likely to remember.
Your goal should be to make getting to your site as easy and painless as possible. This means your domain name should have as few barriers to memorizing as possible. Stick with a .com if at all possible. Worst case scenario a .net or .co isn’t the end of the world.
Tips for Selecting a Domain Name for Your Author Site
Here are my top tips for selecting a domain name for your author site:
- Go with .com.
- When in doubt use your first and last name (or your pennames first and last name)
- Don’t use your book title as a domain name
- Don’t include hyphens or strange characters
- Keep it under 25 characters if possible
Author Website Domain Name Examples
The go-to should be your name, plain and simple. First and last. No frills, no flourishes. It makes it simple to remember and short. However, you won’t always get this luxury unless your first and last name are a quite unique combination.
Let me give you some example domain name structures to work with. In this case, we’re creating a domain name for fictional author Melody Moon.
Free vs. Paid Domain Names and Hosting
I’ve seen many writers and authors ask if they can use a ‘free’ domain name for awhile. What they’re referring to is creating a blog or site that is a sort of sub-domain on a big site. Think of (authorname).tumblr.com or (authorname).blogspot.com.
If you are incredibly tight on budget, this isn’t the worst idea. You can even make a free site with Google and then buy a domain through them in the future. At the end of the day, establishing your presence online is important. If you have to use a free site for now, that’s quite alright. It won’t help your SEO strategy to stick with free and then transfer to a different domain, but a writers got to do what a writers got to do. Especially in the early days of their career.
Now what are you waiting for? Go get that domain name. Pronto!