One of the first actionable items you need to do when creating a website is to purchase a domain name.
But why does the domain matter so much? Is the domain similar to web hosting? How do you select the perfect name that will help your business? And should you buy a .com name, a .org name or go with one of those new ones like .info or .io?
So today let’s walk through what a domain is, what the different top-level domains are and discuss how to select the perfect domain name.
Hey there and welcome back!
So when you’re creating your first website, one of the first things that you need to do is to select a domain name. It’s one of the most important parts of any website. After all, how are people going to navigate to your website?
But you might have a lot of questions about them. What exactly is a domain name? Where do you buy a domain name? And how do you select the perfect name? Do you use dot com or dot org or dot io?
So today we’ll take a deeper dive into domains and answer those questions.
But before we begin, if you want to watch more videos on web design, ecommerce, digital marketing and other website related topics, be sure to hit the subscribe button and ring the bell for notifications.
Now let’s get started.
What is a domain name?
To put it simply, a domain name is the string of characters that a user enters into their browser’s address bar to go to a website. The easy examples are facebook.com, google.com, twitter.com, etc.
Think of it this way, the domain is to your website what your address is to your physical store’s location. It simply points to where your website is located so that a user can load up your site.
On a more technical level, a domain is more or less an alias for the IP address of the server where your website files are being stored. Every computer connected to the network has an IP address, which consists of numbers and periods. For example, your localhost on your computer, which is where local web development happens, has an IP address of 127.0.0.1.
Domains act as sort of an alias for the IP address. When you enter in an address, say google.com, your browser then goes to see if that domain is already registered, where it’s registered and finds the IP address to where that website is hosted. Then it loads the website. This way you don’t have to memorize a bunch of numbers to surf the web.
And when you purchase your domain, you’ll be able to point that domain to the IP address that your web host provides. The good news is that as long as you don’t change web hosts, you can basically set and forget that.
Difference between domains and web hosting
This can be a little bit confusing at first, but web hosting and domain names are completely separate things, even though some web hosts offer both as some sort of package deal. And that doesn’t exactly help this misconception.
A domain is just what we talked about. It’s a string of characters that points to your where your website is located.
Web hosting, on the other hand, is where your files and database(s) are stored, and that’s usually on a server somewhere.
Why domain names matter so much
So first off, domains make it easy for people to navigate to your website and other websites. You don’t have to remember a bunch of numbers. Instead, you only need to remember a name or a phrase. Remembering names is a lot easier than remembering a bunch of phone numbers.
But more importantly to you and your business, a good domain name will be memorable to your clients and customers. That way they can easily get back to your website. Plus, the domain can give you some SEO boost as well.
So you really should take time to come up with the perfect domain name that matches your business.
Different top-level domains
One of the most important decisions that you’re going to need to make with your domain name is what top-level domain you are going to buy. This is the dot com or dot org ending to every domain name.
The top-level domain you select will affect two things: the price you’ll need to pay for the domain name and the general level of trust has in your domain. Dot com is pretty trustworthy while something like dot rocks or dot info might not have the same level of trust from people just browsing the web. And yes, dot rocks is a top-level domain.
Dot com technically stands for company and is the most popular and trusted one on the list. You’re probably going to want to use this one.
Dot org stands for organization and is best suited for charity and non-profit organizations.
Dot net is a pretty good backup if your dot com one is already taken. It’s a bit weird, but it can work if you really want that domain name you thought of, but can’t get the dot com version.
Dot edu is used for institutions of higher education, like colleges and universities, but has been restricted to only those institutions since 2001.
Dot gov is used for any U.S. federal, state or local government agency or institution, and it is also locked down for only those institutions.
Dot io is technically a country-specific top-level domain as it stands for Indian Ocean, but so many tech and software companies use it for their websites that Google has categorized it as a general domain. If you fit that mold, you might want to look into it.
Speaking of country-specific domains, these are usually two-letter country codes after the dot such as dot uk for the United Kingdom or dot be for Belgium. Some of them are free for anyone to use, but others require residence or other something similar to purchase the domain. You’ll need to do your research ahead of time.
Finally, there are a whole bunch of new and interesting top-level domains, such as dot info, dot rocks and dot blog that you can choose from. They are still new-ish and don’t have the same level of awareness as .com. But it also depends on your audience. If you think it will connect with them, then feel free to go with it.
How to select the perfect domain name
First you’re going to need to select your top-level domain. I personally would go with dot com as it’s the cheapest available and most people are pretty familiar with it. But if something else works better for your business, then go for it as long as you can justify the reason.
Next, make sure your business name is in the domain in some way. That will make it a whole lot easier for people to remember your URL, and it will give you a slight SEO boost.
Also, shorter is better. The less people have to remember to navigate to your website, the better. Sometimes the simplest option is the best one.
Finally, it’s a good idea to have a list of domain names ready to go before you purchase one, just in case your top idea is taken. So maybe one variant is to have your location in your name, such as atx for Austin, Texas. Or if your website is for software or technology, you can add “get” at the beginning of your domain name.
I had this issue when trying to create the website for the Sports Bench WordPress package I offer. Sportsbench.com had already been taken. But since it’s related to WordPress, I added “wp” to the end of it to come up with sportsbenchwp.com (which is allowed by WordPress).
Oh and if you’re confused by www or no www, don’t worry. It doesn’t really matter at this moment. You can use the manager from whichever company you buy the domain from to cover both versions.
Where to purchase a domain name
The good news is that you have a lot of options when it comes to buying your domain. So let’s go through some of your top choices.
Name.com is a really good place to get a domain name. I use it for my domain names and haven’t had any issues. It’s competitively priced and makes it easy to manage the domains. They also offer web hosting apparently, but I wouldn’t recommend using it.
Domain.com is another one that’s pretty easy to use and competitive in their pricing. Plus, you can register your name for up to five years, which is a lot better than having to renew every year.
Namecheap checks in as the cheapest place as they start at around $8.88 for a domain. Plus, that cost includes privacy and protection which are major plusses.
GoDaddy and Bluehost are the best when it comes to getting both a domain name and web hosting from the same company. You can easily knock out two birds with one stone, and they are competitive in their pricing.
So what other questions do you have about a domain name? Be sure to leave them down in the comments section below.
Also, if you’re ready to get started creating your new website with that perfect domain you’ve selected, I would love to help you create a website that fits your budget or a completely custom website design.
Next week we’ll be discussing the cost of a new website, whether or not you should use a page builder for your WordPress website and go over the elements of a website.
To see those videos and more videos on web design, ecommerce, digital marketing and other website related topics, be sure to hit the subscribe button and ring the bell for notifications.
But until next time, I wish you and your business the best of luck.