Domain names are used every day, whether you realise it or not. If you’re looking for a website for your company, you’ll have seen a mention of the term domain name. If you’re new to the world of websites, you might not know what it is. It’s important to remember that a domain name is not the same as web hosting. You’ll need both a domain name and web hosting for a website to be found online, you can find out more about web hosting in our web hosting article.
So, what is a Domain Name?
Essentially a domain name is just like a PO Box address. It’s what helps people find your website on the internet. Every computer connected to the internet has its address. These addresses are called ip addresses.
Computers talk to each other using numbers to find each other. IP addresses are the computer’s physical address where a website is stored. If you have ever tried to log into your home router, you might have seen IP addresses like 192.168.0.
This is the same for a website on the internet. The domain name system allows us to associate words (that we’re better at reading and understanding) to find a web address.
Domain names are made up of a few parts, including a top-level domain (TLD), the .com, .net, or .org part, and then there are the second-level domains (SLD), which is everything that comes before the TLD.
For example, if you wanted to buy the domain name example.com the ‘example’ would be your SLD, and ‘.com’ would be your TLD.
Top-level domains are the most common ones you’ll see people using, and they’re usually what’s known as a country code top-level domain or a generic top-level domain.
A country code-specific top-level domain is two letters long, and it corresponds with the country the website is based in. For example, .us for America, .uk for the United Kingdom, .de for Germany, etc. If you want to target a specific country, then these are the domains that you should be using.
The other top-level domains are generic domains with three or more letters, and they’re not connected to any specific country. The most common ones are .com, .net, and .org domains.
As you can guess, the most common domain names are already snapped by companies. That means that the domain name registries have had to release new top-level domains to cater to the demand. You can now purchase more premium domains like ours .agency, or if you’re a travel agent, you might have .holiday domain name.
As these new domain extensions allow you to have a unique domain name, they cost more money to purchase.
How to Choose a domain
A domain name is part of your unique identity online, a way for internet users to find you, and a way for people to remember you.
Your new domain name should be:
- Easy to remember, make sure you stick in people’s minds with a memorable domain
- Descriptive of what you do or sell
- Not too similar to your competitor’s domain names (you don’t want people getting confused)
You’ll need to choose your domain name carefully. Once a domain name registration is complete, you won’t be able to change it, so take your time and make sure you get your perfect dream domain name
It might be that someone has already got the domain you want, in which case you might have to play around with the variations to get the right one for you.
If you are worried about competitors copying your domain name or making it as easy as possible for people to find your website, you buy multiple domains.
Multiple domain names would allow you to have .co.uk and a .com top level domains that point to one website so it doesn’t matter what web address people type into the browser bar.
Benefits of your own domain name
There are huge benefits for a company that has there own domain name:-
- You will be taken more seriously as a business, it shows that you are professional and have invested in your website
- It allows you to create professional email addresses with your company name, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org
- People are more likely to remember your website and business if you have a memorable domain name
How to buy domains
Once you’ve decided on your ideal domain name, you’ll need to check that it is available using a search tool and buy it.
Usually, the domain company will have a search tool available on their website, allowing you to search the domain name database.
The cost depends on the type of top-level domain you buy, some are more expensive than others. UK domain names are usually cheaper than .com domain names.
A handy thing to remember is that the domains are rented rather than bought. You usually buy a domain name for twelve months, although you can buy more years in a single transaction. If you don’t renew your domain name, it goes back into circulation so someone else can buy it.
There was a story the other year where Google had forgotten to renew one of their domains, and someone bought it before they could renew it. Ooops!
There are a few different places where you can buy domain names, and it’s worth doing some research into the different companies before settling on one.
Some domain providers will offer extras such as email services allowing you to have a professional email address and a website builder, so it’s worth considering what else you might need before deciding.
You’ll also need to check the renewal cost small print. Some domain providers offer you an attractive price for the first year but then hike the cost up in subsequent years to make up for it.
Information I’ll need to provide
When you buy a domain, you’ll need to provide the registration bodies with some information for the domain name registration process to complete.
As domain names are your online identity official bodies look after the registration details to allow for a fair and equal process for everyone.
You’ll need to provide the following information:
- The name you want for your domain
- Your name and contact details and you’ll need to nominate a technical contact too if different.
- The name of the company you work for (if applicable)
- Your address
- Your email address
- Your phone number
This information is public and can be searched in the whois database so be mindful you are using a private address. Some domain name providers offer privacy tools where for a small fee they’ll hide your address details during the domain registration process.
Do I have to stay with the same Provider?
No! Not at all, but few people do it, just like swapping energy suppliers!
If you’re not happy with your domain provider, it’s relatively easy to transfer domain names over to a new one. You’ll need to log into your domain control panel and use the trasnfer away option.
You’ll then be given a code that you’ll give your new provider, and as if by magic, your domain will be transferred, sometimes although there is a small charge for doing so, so bear that in mind.
An Important thing to remember is that your domain name isn’t your website, so transferring your domain to another provider won’t automatically move your website. If you’re moving your website, you’ll need to update your domain’s new address settings. If you’re not sure, your new domain provider can usually help you change the settings.
Hopefully, this explains what a domain name is in real terms. It is always best to research which provider you want to go with and the added extras such as an email service or website builder you get with a domain name, as it does vary by company.
When choosing your perfect domain name try to make sure that your domain is short, memorable, and descriptive of what you sell or do.
If you find that your domain name has already been taken, try using suggestion tools and domain name search tools that look at different combinations and domain extensions.
Before you buy your ideal domain name make sure you are happy with the one that you choose as you cant change it later.
If you want to protect your brand you can buy multiple domain names with different domain extensions to help with your brand’s online success.