A domain name is the address or URL of a particular website. Every computer that is connected to the internet has an address that is made up of a series of numbers that look something like 18.104.22.1680.
Since humans are notoriously bad at remembering a string of numbers, we purchase domain names and link them to these IP addresses. It’s much easier, for instance, to remember www.Yahoo.com than http://22.214.171.124/.
How Does Registering A Domain Name Work?
When you register a domain name, you’re effectively licensing it for a period of time. You don’t actually own it, so you have to renew your license to use that domain each year. To make things easier, you can choose to register your domain for a period of several years, if you’d like.
All the domain names and their corresponding IP addresses are stored in a centralized database made up of 13 special computers that ensures that only one domain name can be registered to one person.
Think of it like a telephone number. When you dial a phone number, you expect to reach one particular person – and in most cases you will, unless the person changes his or her number or you dial the wrong number.
On the internet, it’s the same way. If you type in a domain name, you’ll reach a specific page – unless the web owner decides to change or doesn’t renew the domain name or you type in the wrong URL.
Why Should You Buy A Domain Name?
There are a number of reasons why having your own domain name is good business:
- It’s portable – One of the biggest reasons to have your own domain name is so that if you ever change web hosts, you simply have to redirect your domain name to your new account. If you don’t have your own domain name, transferring your website from one domain name to another can be a major headache. First, all your visitors have to remember to type in the new URL rather than the old (which they won’t!). Second, all your pages that are indexed in search engines must be redirected to your new pages. Third, you have to wait for search engines to realize that the new pages are the same as the old, and in the process, you might lose your search engine rank. All three problems can be avoided by registering your own domain name before you create your site.
- It builds credibility – People expect companies to have their own domain name and they are more likely to trust sites with their own domain names rather than say, http://www.geocities.com/mysite. Even bloggers should consider registering their own domain name rather than relying on http://myblog.blogspot.com or http://myblog.typepad.com.
- You get your own email address – By registering your own domain, you also get your own email address. Like site domains, having your own email address like firstname.lastname@example.org sounds more professional than email@example.com.
- It’s easy to remember – Good domains are easy to remember. If you’re lucky, you might even get people that guess your domain correctly by typing in www.yourcompanyname.com or www.yourproductname.com in their browser.
- It’s cheap – You can register a domain name for about $10/year with
How To Choose A Domain Name
There are a number of factors that go into picking the perfect domain name for your business. Here are tips on how to choose a domain name:
- Branded vs. Keyword-Rich Domain – When it comes to picking a domain name, you have two primary choices: a generic name made up of keywords or a branded name (e.g. Google.com). If you already have an established offline company, you should consider registering your company name as your domain name. Since you already have a customer base, they’ll look for you online based on your company name.
However, there are several advantages to generic keyword domains. They tell people what your site is about and tend to be easy to remember. Search engines also like them because they are keyword rich, which can lead to higher search engine rankings.
- The Suffix: .com, .net, .org – If the domain of your choosing is available as a .com, then that should be your first choice. Dotcom domain names have been around the longest, so people naturally assume that your domain will end in a .com unless you heavily promote it otherwise. Also, in many browsers, if you type in a word (like “Yahoo”) and leave off a suffix the browser will assume you meant to add the .com and go there.
That said, sometimes it’s not possible to register the .com domain name you have your heart set on. I suggest that you brainstorm for similar keywords, plurals, or word combinations before you give up on it – often, you’ll find something that will work almost as well. For instance, if your company is named Acme but www.acme.com is already taken, try other combinations like www.acmewidgets.com or www.acmecorp.com. I’d advise against using hyphens like www.acme-widgets.com unless you absolutely have to because people are less likely to remember hyphenated domains than non-hyphenated domains.
If a competitor already has registered the .com domain name, you should probably consider coming up with a different name rather than registering the .net domain. Otherwise, you’ll inadvertently drive a lot of your traffic to their website. On the other hand, if you believe they are violating your trademark, you may want to check out the ICANN dispute-resolution policy.
If you do business in a specific country, picking a regional domain name like .uk or will probably suit your needs. In other cases, choosing a .biz, .info or .org can suit your organization just fine. Here’s the full list of top level domains to choose from.
Finally, if you want the domain badly enough, you can always perform a whois search to learn the contact information of the domain’s owner, contact them, and make an offer.
- Domain Length – You can register domain names up to 67 characters long, but that doesn’t mean that is a good idea. As of March 2006, all the 2 and 3 character domain names and almost 80% of 4 character domain names have been taken, so if you were looking to register your initials, you’re out of luck. Words tend to be much easier to remember than random alphanumeric strings.
That said, if you have a long company name, you might want to shorten it. For instance, if your law firm name is Smith, Johnson, Williams and Jones, you might consider shortening it to www.sjwjlaw.com or something similar.
A good general rule of thumb is that the domain you pick should be something you like, that makes sense for your business, and is easy to remember.