What Is a Domain Name and How Can You Get One for Your Business Website?
A domain name is like a business card for a company that runs a website. But how do you choose it and how can you get it?
Domain names are a key aspect of website building. However, if you have just started thinking about building a website, you might have more questions about them than answers. If you are wondering – what is a domain name and how does it work – you are not alone.
Whether you have just started learning about website building or you already have a clear concept of what you want yours to look like, it is important to understand domain names and how to go about acquiring them. Without a doubt, securing a valid domain name is crucial to setting up your business for long-term success online.
Here is the most important information you need to know about domain names before you launch your business website. So, if you want to build a solid foundation for your brand recognition online, keep reading!
- A domain name serves as a unique website identifier and as a professional business card for visitors.
- There are specific domain types and levels that can help visitors navigate and understand the website’s structure at first glance.
- Web hosting and domain names are two interdependent components that work together to enable website’s online accessibility.
What is a domain name, and is it the same as a URL?
A domain name identifies a website on the internet. A URL (Uniform Resource Locator), on the other hand, is a complete web address that specifies the location of a particular web page or resource on a website.
You can think of a domain name as a book title and a URL as a specific page number in that book. For example, google.com is a domain name that represents the Google Search engine, while https://www.google.com/search?q=domain+name is a URL that tells your browser to look up the term domain name on the Google Search engine.
In short, a URL tells you where to find specific information within a book. It includes the domain name, specific instructions on which web pages to visit, and any other parameters needed to access that content.
The importance of a domain name for business owners
A deliberately chosen domain name is crucial for business owners who wish to make their websites successful. The individuality, identity and credibility are, perhaps, the most important aspects of a domain name for business owners.
- Individuality helps create a memorable and distinctive online presence that reflects a brand’s personality and values.
- Identity gives businesses greater control and autonomy over their online presence, which helps build brand recognition and maintain a competitive edge.
- Credibility provides a professional image and increases trust while boosting customer confidence in the brand.
How does the domain name system work?
Behind the scenes, computers communicate using IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. An IP address is a unique numerical identifier assigned to a device connected to a computer network. It typically appears as a string of numbers, such as 188.8.131.52. If you typed this number into your search engine, it would launch google.com.
Of course, it would be impossible to remember all the different numerical combinations to access websites. Thankfully, computers are smart, and the DNS (domain name system) can solve the puzzle.
Thanks to the DNS, whenever you enter a domain name into your web browser, your computer identifies the associated IP address of that domain name to process the request. In short, it converts easy-to-remember domain names (such as google.com) into IP addresses (184.108.40.206). Here are some incredible facts about DNS.
Fact #1: The DNS is the phone book of the internet
Just like a phone book maps phone numbers to names, the DNS maps domain names to IP addresses. When you type a domain name into your web browser, your computer looks up the corresponding IP address using the DNS system, allowing you to connect to any website seamlessly.
Fact #2: The DNS is distributed
Rather than being managed by a single central authority, the DNS system is distributed across a global network of servers worldwide. These name servers work together to ensure that domain names are translated correctly. This distributed system also helps to ensure that the DNS remains robust and reliable even if some servers fail.
Fact #3: The DNS servers are hierarchical
The DNS uses a hierarchical system of servers to resolve a domain name to an IP address efficiently. At the top of the hierarchy is the DNS recursive server. This server queries the appropriate DNS server in the hierarchy to resolve the domain name.
Next are the root servers, followed by the top-level domain (TLD) servers, which contain information about the domains (such as .com or .org).
Finally, below the TLD servers are the authoritative servers for each domain, which contain information about the domain’s specific IP addresses and other records.
What are the different types and levels of domains?
Before you even start coming up with different names for your website, it is important to understand the different types of domains available so you can choose the best domain extension for your business.
Top-level domain (TLD)
The top-level domain is the highest level in the domain name hierarchy. It is the part that comes after the last dot, such as .com or .eu.
TLDs can be further subdivided into the following three categories.
- Generic top-level domains (gTLD): Generic TLDs are the most popular domain name extensions. They are often used for general-purpose websites and are open to registration by anyone, anywhere in the world. Some of the most popular examples include .com, .org, .net, .info and .biz.
- Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD): Country-code TLDs are designated for a specific country or geographic region. For example, .ca is assigned to Canada, .fr to France and .tw to Taiwan. They are typically used by local businesses and organizations that target specific markets.
- Sponsored top-level domains (sTLD): In addition to gTLDs and ccTLDs, there are also sponsored TLDs that are managed by specific organizations or groups. These domains are often used for specialized purposes. For example, .edu represents educational institutions, .gov – government agencies, and .museum – museums.
Second-level domain (SLD)
An SLD is the portion of a domain name that is immediately to the left of the top-level domain. Let’s take google.com as an example once more. Here, google represents the second-level domain, while .com is the generic TLD name extension.
In most cases, SLDs help differentiate specific brands, products, businesses, organizations or individuals (e.g., google.com or apple.com). However, SLDs can also be descriptive (e.g., news.com or travelguide.net).
A subdomain is the part of a domain name located to the left of the second-level domain (SLD) and separated by a dot. For example, in the domain name blog.example.com, blog is the subdomain, example is the SLD and .com is the TLD.
Subdomains can be useful for a variety of reasons. Of course, most commonly, domain owners create subdomains to organize website content or provide separate sections for different products or services.
How to get domain names in 2 simple steps
Domain registration can be a quick and painless process if you know what you are doing. Here are the two main steps you need to think about.
Step 1: Select a domain name and check its availability
Brainstorming a list of name ideas that reflect your brand or business can be the most creative part of the entire process. However, remember that there are 1.13 billion websites in the world, so it might take some time to come up with a name that’s unique and also available.
Domain name registrars act as the search engines for domain names. You can use domain registrars like GoDaddy or Namecheap to verify the availability of your desired domain name. Check your name ideas one by one, and the registrar will show you if the name is available or taken.
Note down available domains and then choose the one that works for your website the best.
Step 2: Buy and register your domain name
Once you’ve chosen a custom domain name, you need to secure it. This process is quite simple, and all you need to do is create an account with a domain registrar and complete the domain name registration process by paying the registration fee for a specific period. For example, you can choose to secure your website for a year or a decade. It’s your choice.
Please note that registered domain names expire, and it is important to be wary of expiration dates. Make sure you renew your domain registration in time!
What is the relation between web hosting and domain names?
Web hosting and domain names make your website accessible online. How? We can look at this from the perspective of a physical store. While a domain name is like a physical address to this store, web hosting is the shopping center that houses it.
So, when you register a domain name, you are essentially reserving the web address for your exclusive use. However, your website is not reachable until it is built and hosted on a web server. Thankfully, web hosting providers have the technology and infrastructure needed to store your website’s files and make them accessible over the internet, so you do not need to worry about hosting your business website yourself.
Once you purchase your domain name, the registrar is most likely to offer DNS hosting to provide a nameserver for your domain’s queries. Your web hosting provider, on the other hand, gives you space to upload all your website files.
How to transfer an existing domain name to a different hosting server
It is common practice to purchase domain names directly from hosting providers. Whether you choose to do that or rely on domain registries, it is important to know how to transfer domain names should you decide to switch hosting providers at some point.
You may choose to change your hosting service provider for several reasons. Cost, reliability and security being some of the factors that are most likely to influence this decision. The good news is that transferring a domain name to a different hosting server is quite straightforward.
All you need to do is update the domain’s DNS settings to point to the new hosting provider’s web server and then transfer any website files and databases to this server. While the specifics of the process can vary depending on the domain registrar and hosting provider involved, most providers offer user-friendly tools and guides to assist with the process.
How to get a domain name for a WAcademy website
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Getspace hosting also includes a domain name, so if you do not have one yet, they will help you set it up!
FAQ about domain names
Can I get a domain name for free?While you may find advertisements claiming free domains, in most cases, they come included in hosting packages. Therefore, while they are included in the same price, they are not free per se.
How much is a domain name?If you get a domain name as part of a hosting service package, it will be included in the hosting price. However, on average, purchasing a domain name directly from a registrar will cost between $10-$20 per year.
Who owns a domain name?If you have registered a domain name, you are its rightful owner; however, since you are paying someone to route your domain name to a server, you have to be wary of expiration dates. If you do not extend your domain name’s registration, it will be deleted eventually.
Can someone steal a domain name?The biggest issue you need to consider is domain hijacking. Cybercriminals can attempt and succeed at changing DNS registration data and abuse that to expose visitors to malware and phishing scams or redirect them to malicious websites. This is why implementing strong passwords and two-factor authentication is crucial.
Can I buy a domain name from another company?If you have become attached to a specific domain name, but it has been registered by another company already, you can try to buy it. However, it may be extremely expensive and take time. And if you are ready to launch your new website, waiting might not be an option.
How to choose a domain namePicking the right name for your business website is an extremely personal thing. Perhaps the most important step is taking the time to brainstorm ideas and then check which options are available. Keep in mind that your domain name should clearly represent your brand and your product – your domain name is the name your visitors and customers will associate with you.
Can I sell my domain name?If you have registered a domain name that you no longer wish to you, you can resell it. This might be easiest to do with the help of domain brokers, marketplaces or auctions. You might even profit from your sale!