What is a domain should be an easy question to answer, but to an absolute internet beginner, it is perhaps not. If we go back to the example we used in “What is a website?” I said a website is the equivalent of a collection of documents and photos held in files in a lockable filing cabinet. How does that help with the domain? Well, the domain is the name is what you want to call the filing cabinet. In my case, my filing cabinet (to use as an example) was Squiggle Web Design. People often ask why Squiggle, to which I reply it’s one of my favourite words. Another one is curly wurly, but for obvious reasons, I didn’t choose it. I always said if I could use the word Squiggle as a business name, I would, so hence Squiggle Web Design.
How you choose your domain name could be very different; for example, what is your brand? Do you have a unique selling point or USP? If you have a draft name Google it and see what comes up. A short name is better and easier for people to remember make sure it’s easy to spell too. Check if it’s available on social media and also check out trademarks you never know what direction you might want to go in the future.
So once I had made my decision about the name I was going to call not only my website but my business, I needed to buy the domain name. Now you can get free domain names, and I’ll go into that later, but for the moment, I wanted Squiggle Web Design, and I wanted to buy it. Now if you Google “how to buy a domain”, one of the websites that will pop up is 123.reg this is the one I use to buy my domain names through however, there are others. It really depends on where you are in the world and which browser you use as to which websites will be shown to you.
The bottom line is if you want a website, you need a domain name; the two go hand-in-hand; you can’t have one without the other.
As I mentioned, you can get a free domain name however, you will never own it. You may have heard of Wix or Weebly. They are website builders, and you can get a sub-domain from them for free. If I had wanted to go down this route for Squiggle, my website name might look like the following:
Why do I hear you ask, isn’t everyone using these options? After all, they’re free? The reason is, as mentioned, you will never own it; the website builders such as Wix etc, own it, and if you ever want to move provider, you might not be able to use it. Another reason is it will always show Wix, Weebly or whatever provider you are using at the end of the domain name. So, in the Wix example, it would be squigglewebdesign.wix.com instead of squigglewebdesign.co.uk. Therefore, I would always recommend you buy your own domain name then it’s yours, no questions asked.
How much a domain costs is really dependent on the name; normally, it’s around £10; however, if it’s a brilliant name, it can cost hundreds, if not thousands. There are people out there thinking of wonderful domain names and then charging the earth for them. Likewise, if a provider thinks it is a popular name, the cost will be more.
Another thing is to try not to have a hyphen in your name, for example, I could have had squiggle-web-design. Google hates them, so don’t do it. Don’t use stop-words either Google is not a great fan of them, that said it is getting better but it I would suggest you stay away from them. Stop words are the most common words in a language, for example, some of the stop words for the English language are a, the, of and for; as you can imagine, the list is very long.
Another decision you will have to make is what the domain name should end with, i.e. .com., .co.uk, which are known as top-level domains or TLDs. You might want to consider buying the various variations of the TLDs as this may help to protect your brand. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry. Yes, it is a bit of a yearly commitment, but it may well be worth it.
When you buy a domain name, you are asked the length of time you want it, for most people go for 1 or 2 years to start with. A word of advice: yes, you will get renewal emails from the provider when it comes to your renewal date however, this is VERY IMPORTANT: make a diary note because if you forget, not only will you lose the domain name, you will lose your website and someone else can buy your domain name!
When you register/buy your domain, most providers will ask you do you want your personal information protected. Essentially if you don’t, then anyone can look it up and find out your details as the owner of the website. If you do want to protect them, there is an additional charge per year.
Your domain name may be the most important decision for your business; why? Because, essentially, it will match your company name. Why would you have a company called ABC Ltd and your domain XYZ.com? They should match otherwise, it looks like bad branding. Here lies the problem the world and its wife are creating websites; let’s face it, there are nearly 1.8 billion websites out in the big bad world, so it’s fair to say it becoming more difficult to be unique. So think outside the box, do you have a unique selling point? If so, focus on that and come up with a domain name that will last forever (or as long as you want it to), and voila, you can go forth and prosper!