Every website needs a domain name so that visitors can find it and its reach can grow. It should really be seen as a branding exercise as much as anything else, and so deserves your full attention.
But what is a domain name exactly, and how can you go about getting one for your site? Here’s an overview of what you need to know about this essential online asset.
A Brief Introduction To Domain Names
Domain names have existed for decades, and they’re essentially a way of giving websites an identifying feature that doesn’t rely on users knowing the exact IP address they occupy.
Most domain names consist of a top-level domain, or TLD, preceded by subsequent levels of additional domains which provide more information about the identity and location of the site.
Generic TLDs include .com and .org, while there are also country code TLDs such as .co.uk which are associated with particular parts of the world.
Understanding Domain Name Registration
In order to use a domain name, you need to register it with one of many approved domain name registrars. There are a few ways to go about this, and a few steps involved, including:
Getting A Free Domain With Your Web Hosting
While you can register a domain name separately, without building a website to go with it, it most often makes sense to get this bundled with a web hosting package, giving you a place for your site to live while getting a good deal on the domain name in the process.
If you’re not sure which hosting provider to go with, you should research your options at HostingAdvice to find the right package.
Choosing A Domain Name
This is a pivotal point in the process, and one which you shouldn’t rush. The domain name you pick will determine all sorts of things, such as how your site fares from an SEO perspective, and how successful it is at building brand recognition, as mentioned earlier.
For businesses, having a domain name which is the same as their business name is usually the most sensible move, although there are best practices for composing a domain name which might necessitate some alterations.
For example, shorter domain names are generally more effective, so you might need to trim down a longer business name to fit.
The TLD also has a part to play. For instance, while .com is regarded as the most trustworthy, it might not be as well suited to targeting visitors in a particular region as a country code TLD.
Checking That Your Desired Domain Is Available
This is as simple as searching on your desired domain name registration provider to see whether the name you intend to use is free for your site, or whether it has already been chosen by a third party.
If it is taken, then you’ll need to go back to the drawing board. This might be as simple as choosing a different TLD, or it might require a total rethink.
Remember not to go too off-piste with your domain name, as even things like spelling and the use of symbols can render it less than useful.
Snapping Up A Domain Name
We mentioned that hosting providers may let you get a domain name as part of the price of the package you pick, effectively making it free.
The point to make is that whether it’s included at this point or not, you don’t buy a domain name indefinitely. Rather you register your ownership for a set period, normally for a 12 month period.
After this has elapsed, you’ll need to pay to renew your registration, and continue to do so annually for as long as you want to remain in control of the domain.
If you don’t renew, then it will go back into the pool of available domains, and someone else could buy it.
Understanding Cost Variations
There’s a whole market for domain names, because values are assigned to names according to their perceived significance.
The most generic domains tend to be the costliest, with some selling for millions of dollars. On average, registration is around $15 annually, so don’t worry too much about costs unless you’re gunning for the biggest players.
Providing Your Information
That’s why it’s worth making sure that you’re paying extra to your chosen registrar to keep this information out of view.
You’re now ready to get out there, choose a domain name and register it for your website. Working with hosting companies definitely makes sense, and gives you access to other services that will get your site off the ground quicker.