Acquiring a Domain Name
Let’s say that you’ve been steadily posting updates to your webcomic, and it’s beginning to gain some traction. Congratulations: that’s awesome! However, there’s something that’s a little off about the link to your website. Maybe it’s too long or unwieldy. Maybe it takes longer to type out than it does to actually read your comic.
You would change it if you could, but you have no control over it. You’re stuck in a subfolder so deep into a website, James Cameron couldn’t fund a submarine expedition there. The good news is, you can change it, if you’re willing to put down a little money every year. What you will need is your own domain name.
If you’re reading this, you most likely know what a URL is already. It’s the web address you type into your browser to tell it where to find the site you’re looking for. A domain name is the most essential part of a URL, because it most commonly signifies the homepage of a website. If the URL of this website is http://www.makewebcomics.com, the domain name is makewebcomics.com.
The .com part is called the domain extension, or TLD. The extension represents the general category a website falls under. The most common extension, .com, represents commercial sites. Countries tend to have their own unique extensions, like .ca for Canada or .ph for the Philippines. Other extensions include .net for networks, .edu for educational institutions, .xxx for porn sites, .horse for horses, and .wang for wangs.
Having your own domain name carries a multitude of significant benefits.
- Convenience: It’s faster to type mycomic.com into a browser instead of that 250-character URL you were assigned when you first signed up for Geocities 12 years ago. This may seem unimportant until you think about people who have to type it in after seeing it on your business card, or from the watermark mercifully unremoved from your recently-viral comic that someone posted on reddit but forgot to link to the source. In this day and age where you can lose a user’s attention in less than eight seconds, that miniscule amount of time you save is invaluable.
- It’s professional-looking: Having a domain name gives your site authority. It makes your site the official one. It improves your online image. You can set up official e-mail addresses that come from @yourdomain. It’ll look great on your business card. If your URL ends with a TLD, people are more likely to take you seriously than they will if it ends with an .html file three directories deep on Geocities.
- They’re cheap: The most common domain extensions start at USD$10 a year, while the more exotic and specialized ones can go up to the 30’s or 60’s. Even if you choose to buy a .porn domain, it costs like a $130 a year. That’s less than $11 a month. A lot of companies even give you a domain for free if you purchase web hosting at the same time.
- You can point it anywhere you want: If you have a site up and running already, you don’t need to change it at all. Set up your domain to redirect to your Tumblr. Your Tapastic page. Your Twitter. Your Facebook. Even someone else’s Facebook.
- Search Engine Optimization: Google search results give precedence to sites that exist at the root of a domain.
To obtain a domain name, you will have to buy one (rent one, really) from a company that offers domain registrations, or a registrar. As long as you pay the yearly fee, it’s yours to do what you want with. The cost is based on the domain extension. While the cheapest extensions are the older, more established TLDs (.com, .net, .org to name a few), they are more widely in use, and thus the number of available desirable names are dwindling. Since 2014, more and more new domain name extensions have been approved and made available to purchase, with many more on the way. Different registrars have different extensions available, so you may have to shop around to get the one that you want. You can view a full list of available and upcoming domain extensions here.
You will need to keep in mind that there are sometimes requirements for registering some domain names. For example, only Canadian citizens can register a .ca domain, and .edu domains are reserved for educational institutes. On the other hand, .co, which is technically the country-specific domain extension for Colombia, is free for registration by anyone.
An additional cost you will also need to consider is domain privacy. Domain names need to be registered with complete contact information, including a physical address and a phone number. Domain privacy means your information is hidden, and often replaced by the registrar’s own information.
Here are the registrars I have used in the past, as well as some that have come at the recommendation of others.
|Registrar||.com Price||Domain Privacy||Available Extensions||Comments|
|Dreamhost||$11.95/yr||Free||200+||Good support. Absolutely love their control panel. Although they messed up my domain registration once and forgot to renew one year even though it was set to automatic renewal. Besides that point, I would recommend them.|
|GoDaddy||$14.99/yr||$11/yr||1000+||Very good support. They’re one of the biggest registrars out there. Recommended by Jose. They haven’t had the most stellar reputation in the past, but they are under new management and have improved a lot of their business practices, so this may be a moot point now.|
|Mediatemple||$15/yr||$8/yr||7||Very good support. Pricier than other registrars. Recently acquired by GoDaddy, which may or may not be a bad thing.|
We would love to expand this list, so if you have your own recommendations, let us know in the comments.
Now, for the fun part of the entire process — deciding on your domain name and your preferred domain extension. Keep in mind you must choose a name that hasn’t been taken yet. Every registrar has search tools that check for domain name availability. I’ve heard of people who even decide on the name of their project based on its domain name availability. Fortunately, with newer domain extensions, finding an available name will be much easier than finding one for a .com. Do remember, though, that the newer extensions also cost more per year.
An ideal domain name is short and memorable. Take a look at some examples of domains other webcomics have chosen.
|Comic Name||Domain Name||Comments|
|Lunarbaboon||lunarbaboon.com||Straightforward, full name of the comic. See also: Doodle for Food (doodleforfood.com)|
|PvP||pvponline.com||The comic name is three letters long and was mostly likely unavailable as a domain, so they added “online”.|
|Penny Arcade||penny-arcade.com||Maybe pennyarcade.com was taken, so they used a hyphen.|
|The Perry Bible Fellowship||pbfcomics.com||The comic name is too long to be practical, so they shortened it and added “comic” to the end, which is a great keyword. See also: Camp Weedonwancha (campcomic.com)|
|Moe||firmanproductions.com||The author personalized the domain name instead of using the name of the comic. This implies that the site has lots of different content that is not limited to just a webcomic.|
|Mercworks||mercworks.net||Perhaps the .com was unavailable, so .net was the next logical choice.|
|Looking for Group||lfg.co||Formerly lfgcomic.com, they switched to a new extension when it became available and now they have an amazing 5-letter URL.|
|Dinosaur Comics||qwantz.com||The domain itself is nonsensical or completely unrelated to the subject matter, but it is short and memorable. See also: Cyanide & Happiness (explosm.net)|
Why is it important for you to get a domain name? It’s a gateway to your online work, and getting a memorable one helps hook in new readers and retain old ones. It improves your search rankings, and makes you look committed and professional. It’s a cheap and easy way to market yourself on the web, and you can redirect it to anywhere you want. There are a myriad of benefits and no real downside, unless you have a phobia for accessible web addresses.
The question was, why would you buy a domain name? The real question is, why not?