What’s in a (domain) name?
A domain name (for instance, “example.com”) is the address of your site on the internet. Another way of thinking of it: it is the name of the website, and what someone types in the browser address bar to go to that site.
Every website must have a domain name, just like every phone needs a phone number. And just like each phone number is unique, each domain name must be unique. Most businesses choose and register their domain name – mysite.com, mysite.net, mysite.biz. The part after the “.” is like the area code in a phone number: just as (512) 555-1212 and (210) 555-1212 are different phone numbers; mysite.com and mysite.net are different domain names.
Remember, every site must have a domain name. If you don’t set up a domain name such as mysite.com or mysite.biz, you still need something. The place where you build your website may offer a free version of a domain name, and it’s going to include more than the “mysite.biz”. For example, if you build your site on wordpress.com, the free domain name would be mysite.wordpress.com. Whenever someone wanted to visit your site, they would need to type “mysite.wordpress.com”. And if someone searches for your site, the search result will show “mysite.wordpress.com”. This works… and most businesses don’t want that extra “wordpress.com” (or “wix.com” or whatever) as part of their website name.
If you want your company name as the domain name without the “.wordpress.com”, you have to register that name and pay a nominal fee (usually around $10/year). This is similar to getting a phone number if you get your first mobile phone – you can pick a phone number and hope that it’s not already in use. If it is, you need to choose another one. Same for the domain name.
If you already have a domain name, then you should be good to go. If not, you need to decide on a domain name. It can be the name of your business or something that reflects the type of business. Domain names are used by help search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.) to locate your business. And if someone knows your domain name, they just type it in to go to your site.
Is your preferred domain name available? There are many domain registry sites where you can see if your preferred name is available and if if the domain name is available, you need to take a few steps to claim that name.
- One reference site that we use for finding available domain names is www.whois.com. Type in your preferred name (just the “mysite”) and click Go to see which domain extensions (.com, .net, .biz, etc.) are taken or available.
Once you have found a suitable domain name, you need to register that name with a domain registrar. A domain name registrar is an organization or commercial entity that manages the reservation of Internet domain names.
- We have used easydns.com as our domain registrar for a number of years to manage our domain names. If you try to register a domain name on their site and it isn’t available, they will suggest alternative domain names.
Arrrgh, my first choice isn’t available!
If your first choice (mysite.com) is not available, maybe similar names – mysite.net, mysite.biz, mysite.us (as in United States) – are available. You’ll need to decide if you want to use one of those variations or to change your “mysite” – maybe “mysitetexas”. Search engines do look at the domain name when searching for sites, so you may want to choose a domain name that reflects your business if your business name does not. Consider: how would potential customers search for your products or services on the internet – what would they type into Google or other search engine?
Registering your domain name – Choose a domain name registrar
The domain registry company you choose holds your domain name, it’s similar to holding the title for your car – rather important, so you want to pick a reputable vendor. Many – but not all – domain name registry companies also offer email services. If you may want to create mailing lists for your customers, look for this feature.
If you do not yet have a domain name registered, be sure to read 10 things you MUST know before you register a domain name with anyone. Absolutely read and fully understand ALL of the registrar’s fine print before you click Agree. Some registrars may have a low price to register a domain name but charge extra fees for any tweaks, such as making the registry information private. Caveat emptor and eyes wide open!
- Some companies offer the entire package – domain name registry, web site hosting and even templates for easy site design – for one monthly fee. This can work as long as the company maintains an acceptable level of service.
- The catch: if you decide to transfer your site to another hosting company, they could hold your domain name hostage; if you transfer your site, they lose your hosting fee. We subscribe to web design discussion groups and have read horror stories where it has taken months to get the hosting business transferred when one company originally handled both the domain name and hosting. Caveat emptor.