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What is a Custom Domain?(+ 5 Steps to Set One Up)

  • Lyn MarlerLyn Marler

You’ve heard all the buzz about needing a website to gain online exposure. You might have also heard that one way to boost your exposure is to own a custom domain.

Sounds cool — but do you need one?

Well, that depends on if you’re okay with millions of people surfing the Internet for hours daily, and missing out on your slice of the online pie.

That’s why today’s post is all about demystifying custom domains. In this post, we’ll share:

  • What a custom domain is
  • How they can benefit your business
  • How much they cost
  • And how to get a custom domain set up

Sound good?

Let’s get to it…

What is a Custom Domain?

Think of a custom domain (also called your domain name) as an address. You type the address into your browser. Then, you’re transported to the website that owns the name.

So, when you have a personalized domain name that’s specific to your niche, you and your business are easier for Internet users to identify.

Niche Domain Names 

For example, this custom domain name and website “coffeedetective.com,” tells you that the site is for readers interested in coffee:

Also, the owner created credibility, branding recognition, and trust by being niche-specific.

And here’s a website called “comfyearrings.com,” that sells comfortable earrings. Again, there’s no doubt what this custom domain name represents:

Plus, when you own a name like “comfyearrings.com,” you can use your brand recognition to send emails. So, your reader sees your name, and a subject that interests them like this:

Custom domain emails enjoy a higher open rate as they already know and love you, so they want to see what you’ve got to say.

What if your name is your brand?

Tony Robbins in the self-improvement space owns a personalized domain — and in this case his name is his brand. Here’s an example that appears on Google when you type “Tony Robbins” into your browser:

Another advantage to owning a custom domain is that no one else can claim it. It’s your online address and part of your online shop window for as long as you want.

In a nutshell, custom domains are a part of telling your story. They attract business and people who want what you offer… online.

How Much Does a Custom Domain Cost?

The ballpark cost for a custom domain is $10 to $15 annually and you purchase one through a company known as a domain registrar. 

To use the name online, you also need a hosting service so that Internet users can find you, which costs about $120 a year.

You can often find flash sales for the first year, such as $1 domain names and discounted hosting packages.

Domain registrars that include hosting and one free domain:

  • Hostgator Hatchling plan is at $2.75 per month (60% off)
  • Bluehost Basic plan is $2.95 per month
  • Dreamhost Shared plan starts at $2.95 per month
  • And many more

Domain registrars for purchasing a custom domain name only:

  • Namecheap sells domains starting at $5.98
  • My Quick Domains has a pay “just one cent” foot in the door incentive (I pay $11.99 annually for my domains from this registrar)
  • And many more

Is using the Hubspot domain a good option?

Hubspot is a customer relationship system (CRM) that enhances traffic when creating a custom domain. 

While you can connect Hubspot to your website, there are limitations. Even so, it’s worth checking out to see if their free version will work for you.

That said, there are loads of other domain registrars to choose from. One thing to look out for is that many of these domain registrars want to tie you to them by offering great deals for hosting, but their hosting may be suspect. And, if you decide to jump ship to a new host, you can be hit with hefty transfer fees. Add to that the inconvenience and unknown factors of a smooth transfer.

So, before you make a decision, read some reviews and you’ll quickly see which domain registrar/ hosts stack up well.

How to Set Up a Custom Domain

Before we start, here’s a confession… I’m not a tech type. Still, I’ve purchased and set up five or so custom domains. If I can do it, I know that this is something you can do. If I hit a snag, the chat assistance has always set me straight. 

The domain registrar and host interface will vary, but they all use these basic steps:

Step 1: Choose Your Domain Name

Go to Google domain finder, or one of the domain registrars to buy your domain…

You’ll see a variety of custom domain endings. They’re called top-level domain extensions (TLD).

Most often, dot com (.com) is the TLD that works as it’s easy for your customers to remember. If your heart’s set on your dream name, and it’s taken, you can always add “and” or “the” to the name:

You can check out TLDs such as.net, .org, .us, or many more options that may suit your business.

Next, you’ll be asked for your contact details and payment, and directed to the login page for your domain registrar. In this example, “MyQuickDomains”:

Now that you’re a custom domain name owner, log in so you can paste the details you retrieve in step 2.

Step 2: Choose a Host and Change the DNS in the Domain Registrar

Sign up and log into your host cPanel (a control panel used for website and server management), 

Your DNS (domain name servers) will be located on the screen. Also, your host will send these via email.

In this case, I logged into my Hostgator account. Find your cPanel like this:

And log in:

The domain name server (DNS) management in the cPanel of your host looks like this. You’ll want to copy these.

Step 3: Return to Your Domain Registrar to Manage the DNS

Here’s the example in my domain registrar:

Paste your nameservers here:

Step 4: Install Website Software for Your Custom Domain

Here’s an example of finding the popular WordPress software in the Hostgator cPanel. Click like this:

And, install your custom domain name like this:

Step 5: Create an A Record

The A record (address record) maps the domain name to the IP address (Internet protocol address). Which is how the custom domain and the host find each other.

You’ll want to go to your cPanel page and find the DNS zone editor like this:

Click the button to add the A record like this:

A series of numbers and dots will appear. That’s the IP address. Click to add the A record like this:

Finally, it can take a couple of hours for your custom domain to direct to the IP address. So don’t panic if you type it into your browser and you get a “not found” error. Just wait a few hours and then give it another try.

Ready to Get Your Own Custom Domain?

Congratulations!

You now know how to get your own domain.

Also, if you’re still reading, you know that getting a custom domain is at the top of your to-do list.

I hope your head is exploding with name possibilities.

If so, it’s time to jot them down. Remember to make the names easy and specific, like “coffee detective” so that Internet users will remember it.

Next, place your ideas in a domain name checker and make a choice.

Then, just follow the steps of the setup process and you’ll be the proud owner of a new custom domain before you know it!