When someone starts thinking about making a website, one of the first things that confuse them is when they hear the word domain. They’ve probably never heard the word before and don’t know what it means.
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Beginners get the term domain mixed up with a website or web hosting and that’s okay.
In this guide, we will answer the question of what is a domain name and how they work. This can sound all too technical, but it really does help reading a guide like this to understand and get you on the right path.
Let’s start from the very basics.
What Is A Domain Name?
A domain name is the name of the site that you put in the URL bar. It’s more commonly talked about as an address. Think about a house, the address is the place you go to get there. A domain name is just the address to a website.
If you want a more technical explanation, the internet is made up of more than a billion websites. Each web page and computer needs to be able to communicate with one another.
You might know that your computer and every computer in the world has an IP address. This is a series of numbers that identifies a computer on the internet.
Now, just like computers, websites are identified by IP addresses. Imagine having to enter certain numbers to log in to our Facebook or search Google every time.
Domain names were created to allow us to access sites easily.
How do Domains Work?
Domain names are important because they allow computers the ability to find the server a website is hosted on. The server then sends a signal to your computer, allowing you to access whatever site you type in.
When you type in a domain name in the browser, it actually sents a request to a network of servers called the Domain Name System also known as ICANN. These servers look up the domain in their records and send the request that you’re looking for their site.
This is where a hosting company comes in, which we will talk about in a little bit. The hosting company then allows the name servers to access the data stored by your website.
This data then gets sent back to whatever web browser you’re searching on to be able to translate it into the interface that you see on your computer or phone.
Difference Between Domain, Website, and Web Hosting
Let’s start with a website. A website is a place you go to get information or entertainment on the web. It is made up of code like HTML and CSS and contains the images and words that you see on a screen like you’re reading now.
We mentioned earlier that a domain name is like the address for your house. Hosting is like the platform your house is on top of. You can imagine as your House space.
Let’s say you have a 1000 sqft house situated in the xyz street. Here, 1000 sqft can be imagined as hosting (which provides you the option to host your website files like images, plugins, and content) and xyz street can be imagined as the domain name (eg mythemeshop.com).
Hosting is the place where everything on your website is actually stored. If you upload an image to a site, the hosting company is the one that has that image in their system.
Hosting companies have powerful computers, more commonly known as servers that store thousands to hundreds of thousands of web server’s data.
If you’re looking to create a website, both a domain name and web hosting is required.
Most hosting companies have the ability to buy domains and most domain companies have the ability to host your website.
It’s mostly recommended that you get both your hosting and domain services from the same service provider (eg: Bluehost), although it’s not a necessity.
These companies have ways for you to edit your domain name to search under a different hosting company and vice versa.
Different Types of Domain Names
Every address ends in the street, drive, avenue, etc. Every domain name has a certain extension that it ends with, and you can probably guess the most popular, which is .com.
Sometimes people don’t even know there are other options like .org, .net, .info, and more. It’s recommended, though, always to try to use the .com extension.
A top-level domain is the generic domain extension that most of us see. There are hundreds of different types of top-level domains, but we really only see .com, .org, and .net.
There are others like .club, .agency, and .biz. Though, we’d only suggest you to go for these when the above TLD’s like .com, .org and .net aren’t available.
A country code top-level domain is a specific domain name that is associated with certain countries. A website in the United Kingdom ends with .uk or a website in India ends with .in.
Sponsored top-level domains cater to the certain communities. Good examples are when you see an educational institution site end with .edu or a government site end with .gov.
How to Pick A Domain Name For Your Website?
With so many different websites out there and thousands more getting added each day, it might be tougher than you think to come up with a domain name that is still available. Here are some tips for helping you choose a domain name that is perfect for your website:
1. Importance of .com
Stick with a .com domain name. They’re popular, the easiest to remember, and there are theories that they rank the best on Google (though, we cannot say that the same is 100% true).
2. Use Keywords
Try to use a keyword in your domain name. If you’re making a website about books, try to incorporate a way to add books into the name.
This can help improve your SEO and also makes your site’s branding better.
3. Keep it Short and Simple
Keep it short and easy to remember. Try to think about when someone wants to visit your site.
If your domain name is long and hard to remember, they’ll have a tougher time typing it into the address bar and maybe even not go to your site at all.
Also, the domain name should be easy to spell and you shouldn’t use numbers or hyphens. Don’t use a form of a word like boyz with a “z” or anything that can be misinterpreted into multiple spellings.
If you put in the number 4 in your domain, people might try to spell out four instead. Visitors might not be able to find your website this way because of misspellings.
4. Stick with your Domain
Stick with it. You technically can always get a new domain name at any time, but this is highly not recommended.
Every time you change your domain, Google treats it as a new site, so you lose lots of rankings, and you also confuse website viewers that will try going to your old website domain name.
Find the right domain name you like and stick with it.
If you still need help with it, there are tools out there called domain name generators that are available for you to use for free.
These tools allow you to input a keyword you know you want in the domain name, and they give you thousands of suggestions. One that we use all the time is Lean Domain Search.
All you have to do is input your keyword and it pairs your phrase with other common and relevant keywords. It shows you which ones are available and how to register them.
Another tool we use all the time is Namechk.
If you have a couple of different domain name ideas, you can use this tool to see what domain extensions are available along with what is available on social media.
This tool is used best if you are creating a website and a YouTube channel around it, or maybe you want a Facebook page to match your site’s name.
Basically, if you’re looking to create a brand instead of just a website, this tool can help you from having to search a bunch of different sites first.
How to Buy A Domain Name?
So you’ve picked a decent domain name, and now you are thinking of purchasing it. The simplest way to buy a domain name is by picking a good domain registrar.
There are lots of different sites that are available to buy domain names, so these sites usually have different ways to separate themselves from the competition.
When it comes to our recommendation, we recommend NameCheap. They manage over ten million domains worldwide, and their customer support is one of the best out there.
Every domain purchased comes with a WHOIS protection program, free months to be able to use an email address for your domain, and more. NameCheap also has the capability to have extremely cheap TLDs to choose from if you can’t afford a .com TLD.
Any available domain name can cost you from $0.99 to up to a few thousands. This just depends on if any sales are running on that particular domain registrar, which domain extensions you choose, and also if your domain name has a really popular word in it. You may find premium domain names which would cost thousands of dollars.
Some other domain registrars that we have used before are GoDaddy and Bluehost.
GoDaddy is the world’s largest domain registrar with over 78 million and Bluehost gives you a free domain when you’re buying hosting packages. Bluehost is also one of the top hosting sites for WordPress.
If you’re looking for options, try these along with NameCheap to buy a domain name.
Other Things to Consider When Buying A Domain Name
There are some extra tips that beginners should know when buying a domain name. If they don’t know these things, you could end up losing your domain at some point or getting a bunch of sales calls that no one wants. Here are the things you should know:
1. Domain Privacy
Try to get domain privacy. When you sign-up for a domain, your personal details get put into a database called the WHOIS registrar and anyone can view them.
Businesses (usually not top-notch businesses) find ways to access this WHOIS registrar and use them as a list of phone numbers to pitch their services to.
Paying extra for domain privacy means that your details can’t be accessed by these businesses, so you won’t get spammed because of your new domain. S
ome domain registrars like NameCheap include this service when you purchase a domain.
2. Set Auto-Renewal
Set your domain to auto-renew every year. You can purchase a domain within a certain number of months like 12, 24, or 36 month periods.
Most people choose 12 months, but there are deals to buy them long-term. No matter what, though, your domain registration has an expiration date.
If you don’t renew the registration before the expiration date, not only can you not visit your website for that time period, but anyone is able to buy the domain at that point.
Auto-renewing allows you not to worry if your domain gets snatched up, and you don’t have to worry about this ever.
3. Social Media Essentials
Think about your socials. If you already have a popular social media page, it might be a good idea to use that as your domain name.
You already have gained some traction and popularity for the social media page, and that could carry over to give you a jump-start when starting your website.
The hardest part about building a website is getting those initial visitors, and if you have some already from social media, you’re ahead of the game.
4. Buying a Domain Through Reseller
What if the domain name I want is available through a reseller and not the domain registrar?
Sometimes you’ll find a domain name that shows that it’s unavailable to purchase through a domain name registrar, but it’s available to purchase through a seller.
This means, at some point, the seller bought the domain name you’re looking for and is looking to sell it for a lot more than what a domain name is usually worth.
In almost all scenarios, we recommend steering clear from buying these domains.
These domains are only going to be sold for thousands of dollars, and most of the time isn’t worth it to new websites and businesses just starting.
Now It’s Your Turn!
When you first start thinking about it, domain names seem very technical and hard to understand. After a little bit of learning and an explanation, it really isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Once you understand what a domain name is and how to get one, it usually becomes pretty simple from there.
And once you go ahead and make the jump to buy your first domain, any other domain you need in the future becomes much easier to get. Soon enough, you’ll have some great domain names pointing to some even better-looking sites for your business.
If you have any questions or doubts regarding purchasing a domain, do share them in the comments. We would be happy to help you make the right choice.