A domain name works as your website’s identification. It’s the name that people type in the URL bar to visit your website. For a beginner, learning about domain names can be puzzling with all the different elements in them – especially if you’re planning to purchase one.
Through this article, I will explain what is a domain name, how it works, and the five steps to registering a domain name. The aim is for you to understand all the domain name essentials that lead to better site performance and more. Read along.
The difference between a domain name and a website
First, let’s understand the difference between a domain name and a website. Learning their difference helps to know what’s included and not.
Domain names work as a pointer to an IP address. The domain names are what people type on the URL address bar. Purchasing a domain name means buying your website name, not the website itself.
The website itself, including its files and contents are stored on a server. The server’s location is indicated by an IP address. So, a domain name is used to point visitors’ browsers to that IP address so the website can be loaded.
Combining a domain name and a server that hots website files is how you get a site online. Through both, users can start finding your website and its content.
What is a Top Level Domain (TLD)?
The top-level domain (TLD) is the highest on the domain name system hierarchy. Also called a domain name extensions. Originally, the main purpose is to specify a website’s features.
Top-level domains don’t directly affect search engine ranking. However, choosing an appropriate TLD will allow you to build trust and give people a good idea of what your site is about. The most popular top-level domains are .com, .org, and .net. If .com isn’t available, you can use alternatives like .net, .tech, .online.
When choosing a TLD, you’ll never go wrong with .com but do keep in mind that other options are just as good if they fit your site. For example, if you’re running a non-profit site, .org is a great choice. Remember that each TLD stands for something.
Country-code Top Level Domain (ccTLD)
Country code top-level domains consist of country codes. It’s a location-based domain option for local businesses or government websites. These domains bring benefits for local SEO and a target audience that is based around a specific country.
ccTLD domains work for companies with localized websites. Additionally, you can use ccTLD for business expansions.
Few examples of ccTLDs are .au for Australia, .us for the United States, and .my for Malaysia. There is a ccTLD based on almost every country, making it a total of 200 options that you can choose from.
In some instances, businesses can use ccTLDs without being located in a specific country. They use the country code to indicate their line of business. Some examples are last.fm that uses the country code of the Federated States of Micronesia, and FORA.tv using the Tuvaluan ccTLD.
Second Level Domain (SLD)
In a domain name structure, the second-level domain is on the left side of the TLD. It increases website visibility and recognition. This domain also functions as the website identity alongside the TLD. You can use a second-level domain to distinguish your business name and website, by using your brand, business, or blog name.
As an example, the second-level domain is the ‘HostingWiki’ in ‘HostingWiki.org.’ They can also be in TLDs like .org.uk. In this example, .org is the second level domain under the .uk TLD.
When choosing this domain, remember to avoid using numbers, dashes, abbreviations, and double letters as they’ll make it harder to pronounce or spell it.
Subdomains are the extension of your primary domain name. Subdomains are typically used to separate different sections of a website. For example, if your business has the address business.com, its blog section could be hosted on the blog.business.com subdomain.
This domain works best when you want to organize your web page directories or if you have specific content separate from the main website. Oftentimes, subdomains use a company name, page category, or location. It also works for e-commerce websites to separate categories.
Some examples of subdomains are support.google.com or domain.wordpress.com. The latter indicates your domain name when creating a free WordPress account.
How to register a domain?
After understanding how a domain name system works, let’s continue to the ways of registering a domain name. Through these steps, I hope you can learn more and make better decisions for both your website and domain name needs.
Here are the five steps you can take for the registration process.
1. Choose the domain name that you want to register
First, choose the name you want as it is your website’s first impression. To name a domain, pick the ones easy to remember for you and other people. Keep the domain names short with simple pronunciations. Alternatively, use your company name for better SEO and branding strategies.
Additionally, choose whether the name should be brandable or descriptive as it also affects your brand value. Place yourself in the customer’s point of view. Test out the domain name on the URL address bar and see what you can improve.
If you’re stuck or need more ideas, try using a domain name generator or keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner or Google Trends for inspiration. To further help you, think in both short and long terms for better decision-making.
After that, always check the domain name’s availability with a domain name checker. Checking its availability ensures no other businesses or entity is using the name. During this process, it helps to create a list of name options and alternative plans if the domain you want isn’t available.
If the name is taken, some strategies you can take are to play around with the domain name, use ccTLD, choose an alternative domain extension, rephrase the branding, or try to buy it from its current owner. Actively research or use other keywords to overcome this challenge.
2. Purchase the domain name
When you purchase a domain name, you’re ensuring that no one will take the name. Prior to purchasing, choose a reliable domain name registrar, like Hostinger. Alternatively, you can buy a domain name through a website builder platform.
Choosing a reliable domain name registrar or website builder platform provides advantages and creates an easy domain or web host transfer. Additionally, most website builders offer a user-friendly site builder with affordable prices – which is worth considering.
Typically, domain name registrars require a minimum 1-year registration period. Some offer a period of up to 5 years, but the best way to know which one you need lies on your website and budgeting plans.
To give you a better idea, let’s take an example from Hostinger. Their one year .com domain costs $8.99, .tech and .online cost $0.99, and .me costs $6.45. When going to websites like this, consider the instant domain activation and evaluate all the advantages.
The more popular the TLD is, the higher the price. However, you can get more SEO benefits from the popular ones, like .com. The benefits include building your brand easier, more visible to Google, and more memorable for the target audience.
Before making the payment, pay attention to how much you’re spending. Check and ask if there are any hidden fees or additional charges to save you from future problems.
Understanding price varieties allows you to make better domain name purchases, including when to consider the affordable ones and when to go for the alternative. Additionally, consider the pros and cons of the domain name and how it affects your business.
3. Register the domain name
After you purchase a domain, next comes the domain name registration process. When you register a domain name, you will be listed on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number, or ICANN
The domain registration process is straightforward and ends when you make the payment. A part of the domain registration process is inputting information, like name, address, phone number, and domain details. All of these domain names and contact information go to the WHOIS list for people to see.
After finishing the purchase, you will gain access to the control panel. From here, you can start managing your website. If you purchase the domain name from a hosting provider, you’ll be ready to work on your site immediately. However, if your registrar and hosting aren’t udner the same company’s roof, you’ll need to point the domain to the hosting company’s nameservers.
4. Set the domain nameservers to point to your hosting provider
Before getting to the how-to, let’s first understand how nameservers work and how they’re connected with the web hosting.
Nameservers are a part of the Domain Name System (DNS). They are internet servers that handle queries from your domain’s name services. They work to translate domain names into IP addresses.
In this case, the nameservers will help point your domain name to your hosting. There are three steps to do this, which include retrieving your new nameserver, add that new nameserver to your domain registrar, and wait for DNS propagation.
- The first step is to get your new nameserver from the new hosting provider. Locate your nameservers on the hosting account details, with a structure that looks like ns1.servername.com and ns2.servername.com. Copy all the nameservers as they will be added to the domain name platform.
- The second step is adding the nameservers to the domain name registrar platform. Login to the registrar platform – the place where you bought the domain. Go to the domain management or overview page and start adding the nameservers.
- Add them according to the nameserver slot. For example, ns1 goes to the first nameserver slot and so on. Pay attention to avoid mistakes. Alternatively, check online guides or ask the customer service team to help with the transferring process.
- The final step is to wait for the DNS propagation. Keep in mind that the DNS propagation might take a few hours and up to 24 hours to finish before the changes apply.
5. (Optional) Add WHOIS privacy protection
Last but not least, it’s about adding a WHOIS privacy protection for your website.
When you register a domain name, your contact information becomes public on WHOIS domain databases. Some people might find this disrupting their internet or personal privacy. Therefore, opting for WHOIS privacy protection provides a layer of security.
If you’re planning to add WHOIS privacy protection, start by checking your domain name registrar. You can purchase it when paying for the domain name registration or adding it later on. Take time to think if you really need it now or later when the website grows.
Also, check if your domain name extension covers the privacy protection option. There are certain TLDs and second-level domain names that don’t support WHOIS privacy protection, like .asia, .am, .ca, .jobs, .travel, and .ru. You can find more of the extensions here.
If all is good and you decide to add this privacy protection, simply make the purchase and enable it. Depending on the domain registrar, you can choose the protection period. After purchasing, enable the WHOIS privacy protection through the control panel.
Also, this WHOIS privacy protection is flexible. You can enable, disable, and renew the protection according to your needs and preference. Renewing the WHOIS privacy protection is as simple as enabling it. You can continue it for another year by making a new purchase.
However, take into account how much you’re spending and see if it’s worth the purchase.
This article covers what is a domain name, including its types and importance as a part of a website. Hopefully, you have learned how to continuously improve your domain name.
It also explains the steps to register a domain name. To quickly sum up, here are the five steps to register your domain:
- Choose the domain name that you want to register
- Purchase the domain name
- Register the domain name
- Set the domain nameservers to point to your hosting provider
- Add WHOIS privacy protection
Remember the things you need to do prior to registering a domain name and what to do after. The key is to spend wisely and match it with your website needs, both temporary and permanent.
Lastly, I encourage you to explore and be open to all possible opportunities to grow your website. Good luck!