In this article, you will learn about what a domain name is, how to register a domain name and a lot more information about domain names.
Let’s get going.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is an easy way to find a website on the internet. Websites are typically tied to IP addresses which are associated with the web server where the website is hosted. However, it can be quite tedious recalling and typing in IP addresses to get access to a website. Domain names are the solution to this problem.
A domain name is usually made up of a combination of letters and numbers and usually ends with a domain name extension such as .COM or .ORG. Popular domain names include: Google.com, Facebook.com and Amazon.com
When a visitor wants to access your website, it is your domain name that they type in the address bar of their browser. The system will then check for the website that is associated with that domain name and present it to the visitor. Every domain name is unique, and no two websites can have the same domain name, this is why when your domain name is typed into a computer, only your website comes up. Before you can get a domain name, you will have to register one with an ICANN approved domain registrar. While it is possible to register a domain name without buying web hosting, it will not be very useful to you.
How to register a domain name
Registering a domain name involves getting your preferred domain name via domain providers that are ICANN-accredited domain registrars. This may seem like a complicated process, but it is not. The actual registration process is quite easy and usually involves all or some of the following steps.
- Identifying the domain registrar you want to work with.
- Searching the database for your preferred domain name.
- If your preferred domain name is available, proceed to paying for it. if it is not available, you can change the parameters of the name and search again or change the domain extension to see if you can get your preferred word combination.
- Complete your personal details which will be used to populate the WHOIS records. ICANN mandates that domain owners provide personal information before a domain name can be completely registered.
- Choose how long you want the domain name to last for. You can choose anywhere between a year and 10 years.
- Choose if you want to associate your new domain name with web hosting.
- Pay for your new domain name.
When you are done with the steps listed above, the domain registrar will process your registration with the domain name operator. This usually takes a very short time. Once your domain name purchase is approved, you will be able to use it. It typically takes between a few minutes to 24 hours before your registered domain name can be used. As pointed out earlier, you can opt to add web hosting to your new domain name, or you can use an existing web hosting plan bought from a different provider. However, for your website to work, you will need to tie your domain name to your web hosting by updating your nameservers. To simplify the process, it is usually a good idea to buy both your domain name and web hosting from the same provider. This way, you avoid the hassles of technical complications.
Also, it is a good idea to buy your domain name and web hosting from a provider and data centre close to where your website visitors are. This will help your website perform better. For example, if you provide services only in New Zealand, you should consider going for a New Zealand domain registrar.
What is a domain name used for?
There are several reasons why you should buy a domain name. A domain name gives you a share of the internet real estate.
Here are just a few things you can use your domain name for:
- Build and protect your brand – If you have an online business or other form of internet presence, your domain name becomes your personal identity that is used to identify you on the internet. With your domain name, you can build your brand and create global awareness. You can also choose to buy multiple domain name extensions of your domain name to protect your brand. This is to prevent people from using your brand to defraud others. For example, if you run a business in New Zealand and have the .CO.NZ extension, you can also buy the .COM and .ORG extensions of your domain name. It is very simple to point multiple domain names to one website.
- Create a professional website – If you intend to have influence on the internet, you need to have a professional website that properly represents your brand. If you don’t have a domain name, you cannot do this. A domain name will also help how search engines and human visitors see your website, as you can include terms that relate to your niche in your domain name.
- Have a professional email address – With a domain name, even if your website is not ready, you can own a professional email address that will do more for your brand than the public email addresses available. The days of running a forward-thinking business using Yahoo and Google mail are long gone. Now, businesses have their very own custom email addresses and domain names.
What are the different types of domain name extensions?
When choosing a domain name for your website, you will need to choose the domain name extension that suits you. A domain name extension is the second part of your domain name or that part that comes at the end. There are different categories of domain name extensions, all of them totalling thousands.
The categories are:
- Generic top-level domain names (GTLDs) – This is made up of some of the most popular domain extensions. They include .COM, .ORG, .NET, .INFO and a host of others. .EDU domain extensions are also classified as GTLDs.
- Country code top-level domain names (ccTLDs) – ccTLDs are known as country code domain extensions because they end with characters associated with the country they represent. Almost every country has its own ccTLDs and most of them require that the person registering the domain either lives in the country, has a website hosted on a data centre in the country or provides products and services to local customers. Some popular ccTLDs include: .FR, .CO.UK, .US, .ES, .CO.NZ, .ID etc.
Having a country code domain extension gives local credibility to your business and appeals more to local customers. So, if you operate a business for local customers in a country like New Zealand, it is a good idea to go for a .CO.NZ domain extension on https://www.discountdomains.co.nz/domain-names, for example.
ccTLDs are typically more expensive than regular domain extensions as they provide a lot of local advantage to the owner.
- New Generic Domain Extensions (new GTLDs) – In 2012, ICANN approved a new set of domain name extensions that allow for more creative extensions. Some of these domain extensions are niche based, while others are just plain funny. Now, businesses can choose a domain extension that relates to their niche or industry. Some of the more common new GTLDs include: .PIZZA, .BAR, .ACCOUNTANT, .PHOTOGRAPHY and .LAW.
Even though these domain name extensions are not as popular as others, a lot of people do use them.
What are the new GTLDs?
In 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved a new series of domain name extensions as an alternative to the popular GTLDs like .COM, .INFO, .ORG and .NET.
Although this new set of TLDs was launched with much hype and fanfare, there are not as many of them in use as expected. Among the number of new GTLDs, only 35 have resulted in up to 100,000 registrations each. The most popular, .XYZ, has garnered about 2 million registrations at the time of writing. Some websites, however, transitioned from their traditional TLD to the new domain extension because it identified with their industry.
Some of the most popular extensions in the new GTLDs are: .XYZ, .LOAN, .TIP, .CLUB, .VIPS, .TOP.
There is also speculation that ICANN will approve more domain name extensions in the future, but the validity and timeframe for this is unknown.
How to choose the perfect domain name
Choosing a domain name is one of the most important steps you will take when planning for a website. Because your domain name is essentially your online brand, it is important that you make the right choice from the beginning. If you happen to choose the wrong domain name, changing it in the future can cause problems for your business, causing you to lose customers and even the page rankings that you have earned.
So, how do you choose the right domain name?
The following tips will help:
- Make it easy to remember and spell
- Keep it short and uncomplicated
- Include keywords that relate to your website
- If you offer local services, use ccTLDs
- Avoid numbers, hyphens and strange characters
- Be unique and memorable
- Make sure there is no legal complication attached to your preferred domain name
- Choose the domain extension that best represents your brand
You can also opt for a set of domain names known as domain hacks that allow you to customise your domain name with the domain name extension. For example, if your business is ‘maids ‘r us’, you can hack your domain name and use something like www.maid-r.us. There are several variations of domain hacks and different ways you can make it work. However, you have to be sure that a domain hack is something that suits your brand, otherwise you will end up passing on the wrong message which will affect how people perceive your brand.
Domain hacks may not be ideal for corporate websites, government or educational facilities.
Domain names usually take just a few minutes to buy and are very inexpensive. Virtually anyone can afford their preferred domain name and own their own piece of online real estate.
The internet has made it very easy for everyone to have an online presence, but cheap domain names and hosting packages have made it even easier. It is our hope that the content of this post has helped you understand all you need to know about domain names and how to register one for yourself.