You require two services to publish a website on the internet: domain registration (through a registrar) and website hosting (the company that stores your website data and makes it available to the public). You can get both through the website host you choose, or might even be able to register your domain free of charge (for a limited time) when you sign up for hosting. You aren’t required to have both at the same company, if you’d rather register your domain and choose a hosting company later.
Your domain name is your website URL/address and it will be part of your business email address. It’s broken down into two basic parts, the ‘second-level domain’ is the name you choose for your site. In our case, it’s ‘CanadiansInternet’. The ‘top-level domain (TLD)’ is the domain extension. In our case, it’s ‘.com’.
How to Register a Domain Name in Canada
Step 1: Search for Domain Names
Come up with a list of domain names that will work for you and then start searching. You’ll think of more possibilities as you try to find the name that’s available.
Choosing the top level website name is only part of the challenge, you’ll also have to choose a domain extension, such as .ca, .com or one of the many other possibilities. The .com domain extension is usually the most desired. Unfortunately, that means the domain name you want may already be owned by someone else (there are well over 100 million domain names that use .com).
You may want a different domain extension for other reasons too, such as geographic (if your target market is primarily in one country or province) or to further describe the type of website (such as .org for charities or .shop for a store).
Learn more about choosing the best domain name for your Canadian business.
Step 2: Register Your Domain Name
Registering your domain name makes it officially yours, as long as you continue to renew it for the specified time (usually up to five years). Following are companies we’ve worked with that provide Canadian-friendly domain registration, including the .ca option.
HostUpon (Based in Canada)
HostPapa (Based in Canada & Canadian currency)
The registration process couldn’t be more straight forward. You’ll have to fill out a form with your name and contact info like you would for any other service you sign up for, and provide billing information. Before you check out you’ll be offered more services, such as website hosting, email packages, security and privacy options.
Tip: If you prefer to buy an existing name, check out over 1 million premium domains at Buy Domains.
As your business evolves, you may want to register more domain names for different product lines, ad campaigns, languages or locations, or do so to protect your name in general. Otherwise, you may register mybrandname.com only to have someone register mybrandname.ca, for example. Registering with all domain extensions isn’t practical, but you can check the most common alternatives in Canada (.net, .org, .com, .ca and provincial extensions) and decide if you want those too.
If you don’t want to have your domain ownership and contact information open to the public, you’ll have to add Domain Privacy to your registration. Virtually all domain name registrars in Canada charge extra for Domain Privacy. Usually it will be offered to you during the domain purchase checkout process. If you’re registering a .ca domain name, you won’t be able to use Domain Privacy.
What is DNS?
You’ll receive confirmation emails as your domain moves through the registration process. This information should cover logging in, customer service, and Domain Name Servers (DNS).
The DNS info usually includes two alpha-numeric ‘names’ that look like:
You’ll need the DNS info when you set up website hosting, so it knows where to fetch your domain information from. If you registered your domain name with the same company that is hosting your website, it may be done for you automatically. The host’s tutorials will walk you through it.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost in Canada?
Some web hosts offer a free domain name when you host your website with them. Our host, Green Geeks, offers free domain name registration for a year. Otherwise, the cost of registration varies by domain extension, but is usually less than $25 CAD for a year. The majority of registrars will charge extra for domain privacy, which shields your contact information to avoid spam & scams.
Most registrars, even Canadian ones, will charge in US dollars. I recently purchased CanadianDigitalMedia.com for $14.99 CAD (not including domain privacy) from HostPapa. They’re one of the few registrars/hosts that charge in Canadian dollars.
Using a Domain Name Without Hosting
If you’re not ready to go live with a website, your own domain name can still be used for secure, custom email addresses, or to protect your brand name. You’ll also have it on hand for printed materials, such as business cards or signage.
Email-only services are often available through your website host or registrar (see Google Workspace Email in the above illustration). Otherwise, your domain will remain ‘parked’ with your registrar until you decide to publish a website.
These articles will help guide you through your next steps:
For more information about finding a Canadian-friendly website host (through which you can also register your domain), we encourage you to use our Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business.
Discuss this and other online business topics in the Online Business Canada Facebook group!
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