Let’s face it, you don’t know what you don’t know. Deciding that you need a website is a big step. Figuring out what to do next can be very confusing. You go online to do some research on what to do and you find out you need a domain name to make a website. But you don’t even know what that is or how to get one. And, many beginners will often confuse a domain name with a website or with website hosting.
Well, I’m here to simplify it for you! So let’s dig in and find out all about domain names!
So, what exactly is a domain name?
Simply put, a domain name is your website’s name. For example, my domain name is rdwdesignstudio.com
It’s the address of your website where internet users can access your website. It’s what you would type into a browser search bar to visit your website. In basic terms, if your website was a house, then your domain name would be your street address.
To get a bit more technical, the Internet is a giant network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables. Each computer on this network can communicate with other computers. To identify them, each computer is assigned an IP address. An IP address is a series of numbers that identifies a particular computer. Now, imagine how tricky it would be if you had to remember a series of numbers! Domain names were invented to solve this problem. So, now if you want to visit a website, you just type in the domain name and not a series of strange numbers.
Now, how do domain names differ from a website and hosting?
A website is made up of different files like pages, images, website builder software and more.
Hosting is the actual computer, or server, where your website’s files are stored. To learn more about hosting and who I recommend, read this blog post.
So, if the domain name is your website’s address, you can think of hosting as the plot of land your house is built on and you can think of the website builder software as the basic frame or structure of your house.
To create your website, you need both a domain name and web hosting. And, it’s important to remember they are two separate services.
Now, a domain name must be registered before you can use it. Every domain name must be unique – no two websites can have the same domain name.
ICAAN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is a non-profit organization that manages the domain names system. They create and implement the policies for domain names. ICAAN gives permission to companies called Domain Name Registrars to sell domain names. These domain registrars are allowed to make changes to the domain name registry on your behalf. They sell domain names, manage the records, renewals and transfers to other registrars. As the owner of a domain name, it is your responsibility to tell the registrar where to send your requests and for renewing your domain registration.
So, how to you buy a domain name?
There are several domain name registrars where you can purchase a domain name. The most popular ones are godaddy.com, domain.com and namecheap.com. I recommend Namecheap. It’s where I purchase all of my domain names and what I recommend to all of my clients as well.
There are other options as well. Many hosting companies will offer domain registration services which will allow you to manage both services under one account. However, it’s my preference to keep them separate.
Domain names vary in price but generally cost between $9.00 and $15.00 per year. Some names are considered premium domain names and they will cost significantly more to purchase in the first year, but then the renewal price should go down to a more normal fee.
Now, it’s important to remember that when you buy/register a domain name you actually pay an annual fee to the domain name registrar so that the domain name remains registered under your name. When your registration period expires and if you don’t renew, you will lose the domain name as it will be made available for other people to register it in the open market.
Most domain name registers will contact you when your domain is due to expire and most of them will provide you with an auto-renew option as well.
You can buy as many domain names as you’d like.
How do you choose a domain name?
There are over 350 million registered domain names so it can be hard to come up with one that isn’t already taken.
Here are a few tips:
Stick with a .com domain name as it’s the most popular, easy to remember and easy to promote
Keep it short and easy to remember
Make sure it’s easy to pronounce and spell
Try not to use numbers or hyphens
Keep it unique
Avoid double letters as it can lead to typos
Make sure to research your domain name to ensure another business isn’t already using it and that it’s not already trademarked
One final thing to consider when purchasing your domain name is privacy.
ICANN requires people registering domain names to provide a lot of personal information and that information is made available publicly. Some of that information includes email, address and phone number. Domain privacy is a separate add on service sold by domain registrars which will allow you to show proxy information rather than your actual personal information. You certainly don’t need to buy domain privacy, but I wanted you to know that this service is available if you are concerned about your privacy.
One of the reasons I like Namecheap is that they include domain privacy for free when you purchase a domain name through them.
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