No matter what business you are in, having an online presence is not a matter of opinion anymore. You have to have a website and social media presence so that you can reach your audience as and when you like. And when we say business, we are talking about bloggers and freelancers too, who themselves are the brand and the business.
Now, if you want to set up your own blog or a website, you need a unique address that makes it stand out when someone searches for that name. Like, apple.com or walmart.com. It’s the name your users will be typing into the address bar of the browser. In the business, that is referred to as the domain name and there are a few things you should know about it to make the most out of creating a website. Let’s dive right into it, shall we?
What Is Domain Name?
In technical terms, the domain name of a website is a label that has a unique IP address. This is connected to the server that hosts your website. Your host is the provider who gives your website room on a webserver to store files including the code, images, and so on.
Every website has a variety of files like HTML files that store the content that is to be displayed, CSS files which are the stylesheet of the website with details about colors, buttons, spaces between all the elements on the web page, and the various font sizes, etc. The amount of space your website occupies on the server depends on the kind of host you pick.
The visitors to your website land on your page because they are connected to your IP address which is made possible by the domain name. Now, each domain name has two parts: the name and the top-level domain name or TLD.
For instance, if your website is websitename.com, the “website name” is your domain name and the dot com is the top-level domain name. There are different types of suffixes like .com, .net, .gov, etc.
There is another part of the name which is called mid-level domain. This is the part that is typically the name of the website and the one your users will be Googling if they are trying to find you through a search engine.
For instance, when you type Google into the address bar, you will go to www.apple.com. The “apple” in that URL is the mid-level domain name.
You can also check for the guide to sell domain names online for further help.
While we’re at it, here’s a quick look at the different components of your website address. https://www.google.com is the URL or the Uniform Resource Locator.
- Subdomain: Usually it is “www” for almost every website but some addresses are a bit more complicated than that. For instance, when you want to go to Google Maps, the URL is https://maps.google.com. Here, “maps” is the subdomain name.
- Protocol: There are three protocols: FTP, HTTP, and HTTPS. This is the part of the URL that defines the type of connection. FTP means File Transfer Protocol which is to upload and download files. HTTP is Hypertext Transfer Protocol that is used to browse the internet in general and HTTPS is the same but with the addition of “secure” which means your connection is encrypted for safety.
- Path: Sometimes you will see a whole mix of alphanumeric characters after the regular URL. That is called the path and it makes sure that you land on the right page. Each web page has a different path to make sure they are all unique. It’s like your full address. There can be only one of those so that the mailman can find it.
Now, the system of connecting the words in the domain name to the IP addresses is an internet system called the Domain Name System or DNS. It is essentially the phone book for these names and numbers.
The DNS is under the jurisdiction of ICANN which is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN came into existence in 1998 and it manages the DNS. They have contracts with the registrars who sell domain names which is how they get to execute their vision.
Types of Domain Names
We’ve already looked at TLDs which are the top-level domains that end with dot com or dot net. But sometimes you will notice other not-so-popular extensions. That is because top-level domains are not the only type of domain names in existence.
Within TLDs, there are other options like:
- Generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
- Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs)
- Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
Apart from that, there are also second-level domains like .co.uk or .gov.uk and third-level domains like subdomains (which we have already covered).
Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)
The TLD has categories within it because the DNS is a system based on hierarchy. The best way to ensure that your website has a reputable name is to add a TLD like a .com or a .net or a .org.
But unless your website name is unique, there is a chance that someone else snagged this name before you. In that case, you can opt for a less popular TLD like .biz for businesses, dot info for informative sites. This is an extensive list and you can check out your options on the IANA website. That’s the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and it manages all the TLDs.
Sponsored Top-Level Domains (rTLDs)
The next type of TLDs is one where the website has a sponsor and is meant for a specific purpose. Government websites that use .gov, international organizations that use .int, and websites of education institutions that use .edu fall in this category.
Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs)
This is, as you may have guessed, a country-specific code that has the last two letters that tell you which country the website belongs to. US websites end with .us, UK websites use .uk, Canadian sites have dot ca and the Germans go with .de. It’s .cn for China, .br for Brazil and .fr for France. As you can see, some are more obvious than others.
Registering, Buying, and Transferring a Domain Name
The process of registering for a domain name and buying it is actually not all that difficult. Even if you are doing it for the first time, you only need to follow a few simple steps to get it right.
Before you have the domain name of your choice, you must register it with ICANN. So, find yourself a domain name registrar like Domain.com, Namecheap or GoDaddy. Then you must make sure that the name of your choice is available with the extension of your choice. Usually, you can do a quick search on the registrar’s website and see what names and extensions are available.
Let’s do this with an example. If you go to Namecheap. There is a search bar at the top. Once you enter the domain name of your choice, it will give a list of extensions that are available for that name. Pick the extension of your choice and buy it.
For the purchase, you must add to the cart and give some information.
- First name
- Last name
- Payment information
- Billing information
- Phone number
- Email ID
- The domain name of choice
- The time period of registration (which starts with a year)
It’s basically like shopping on Amazon.
After a period of time, it is possible that you might want to try out a different domain name registrar. In that case, you will have to transfer it and that process isn’t too hard either. Say you want to take it to GoDaddy. Here’s how you work it out.
First, you must make sure that the email ID with which you originally registered your domain name is still the one you want to use because this is required during the transfer. In some cases, the new registrar-to-be will ask for an authorization code or a transfer key from your existing registrar. You won’t need this if yours is a ccTLD. But if you need one and don’t have it, you can just ask your present registrar and they will email it to you.
Make sure that the extension is available with GoDaddy before you start the process. But if it does exist, choose the option ‘Keep my current nameservers’ which is for active websites so that the transfer happens without the site’s performance interruption.
You can also change GoDaddy’s nameservers if they already have your email for the domain name of your choice. This option is also for those who have created a Premium DNS transfer template before transferring the domain name or use GoDaddy’s off-site DNS.
The transfer will be complete in five to seven days. For some extensions like .ca, .UK, and .au to name a few, there are special instructions that you must read before you start the transfer process.
Why Consider Changing Your Domain Name Registrar?
Every registrar gives you a set of services and features. This includes key aspects like hosting and privacy options.
- Your first reason to change registrars is if you want a better package that a different registrar is offering.
- You must also consider pricing because while some are part of the default package, some features are offered as add-ons which will cost you a little extra. You must also remember that some registrars offer certain features for free in the first year and when it is time for renewal, the prices go up. Looking for a registrar who will offer it for the same price if not less is a wise move.
- You must also consider how easy or difficult it is to implement these features. What does that mean? You must determine if the implementation is through tools that make it easy to manage them or you need to manually execute them.
- Customer support is another key aspect, quite literally like any product you buy. You want to make sure the registrar is available when you need them.
- Some of these features are brought to you by the registrar but are sold by different providers. You must check out if there is third-party involvement and if there are any clauses with respect to execution and customer support.
- Changing admins is also something to think about when you are considering switching registrars. If you want to make someone else the admin, sometimes you will have to transfer the domain. For instance, if you first registered the domain name with your personal account but now you want to switch to a business account, you might have to transfer the domain name.
How to Pick a Domain Name?
This is a very important decision considering this is how people will remember your website’s name. Here are some of the basic ideas that need to be a part of the decision when you are picking a domain name.
- The name must be easy to remember, pronounce and most important spell. If they can’t recollect what to type or have too much trouble spelling it, even Google might not be able to help them.
- This is the name that might one day become your brand. So, you want to make sure it is the same as the name of your brand. But be sure not to make it generic because then the domain name can match to many other names. You want to make it special enough for people to find it right away but not so special that they can’t remember it. If your brand has more than one word, you must remember that the domain name doesn’t have partial keyword matches.
- Don’t add hyphens or numbers to your domain name because those are not easy to recall.
- The name must be simple and short to avoid semantic problems.
- Steer clear of names that are of well-known brands. This is not the place where the confusion works in your favor. In fact, it works against you because it might take your audience to the better-known brand’s website and it also leaves you open to the possibility of getting sued.
- The extension of your choice must be catchy but also appropriate. There are plenty of new, innovative TLD available for purchase on the internet. But experts say that you must stick to classic choices like dot come because it is the most recognized and hence the most popular suffix. As a business, if you are focussing only on one country’s market, your best move is to pick a ccTLD.
- You want the name to tell the audience a few things. Like, what your business is about without being too literal. You can be clever with the name but remember that the name must tell your web page visitors what they will see when they get there.
Some Rules and Regulations
You are free to pick any name as long as it is available. But there will be a few limitations. Here are a few roadblocks you can expect to encounter.
- You cannot use names that contain punctuation marks and symbols. You can use punctuation marks like period (.) only to separate the domain name from the extension. That means you can’t use a dot because you will use at the end for dot com or dot net and so on.
- Sometimes, you can use special characters. But those are called Internationalized Domain Names or IDNs to allow people to use characters from local languages.
- You can use multiple hyphens (even though it is not recommended) but you cannot use a double hyphen. By the way, the hyphen cannot be before or after the domain name. But you can start and end the web address with a number.
- If you have noticed, the case is not an issue when it comes to domain names. You can call it WEBSITENAME.com or websitename.com or WebsiteName.com. It’s all the same.
- Every domain name must have at least two characters and 63 characters at the most before the extension.
There might also be specific restrictions for certain domain names. You should check with your registrar about that. After creating a website, do secure it from hackers by following our guidelines.
Domain names are an important part of making your brand credible with visitors. Whatever the name, it places you in the same league as the leaders in your industry. And if you are a small business, your customers get the idea that you are in sync with their 21st century needs in terms of making yourself accessible to them. This is a priceless asset and it might even inspire them to put you above other local businesses that have not yet reached this point.
Once your domain name becomes a recognizable brand, your website becomes a great place for you to attract potential customers and tell them more about yourself. This strengthens your business’s image and is the first step towards making yourself a relevant entity on the internet. And you should know by now that it’s the most happening place right now.
Maryam has been teaching IT as a school teacher for over a decade, and her main subject of choice is Internet safety, especially helping parents keep their families safe and secure online. When Maryam is not teaching or writing she is a big fan of the outdoors, the complete opposite of staring at a computer screen for hours.