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What is a Domain Name?

Domain Name: What It Is, How to Get One, & Cost

A domain name is a unique name that individuals or businesses register with a domain registrar to claim their own space on the internet. A registered domain name can be used as the name for a website, for an email or both. A domain name is needed by a web host to publish your website.

In this article, we’ll give you more details about getting a domain name for your website.

Parts of a Domain with Example

Let’s take our own domain name as an example. In order to reach our website, internet users can type the domain name (web address) fitsmallbusiness.com on their browser. We also have professional business emails for everyone on our team ending in our domain (e.g. firstnamelastname@fitsmallbusiness.com).

As this example shows, a domain name has two parts:

  • Top Level Domain (TLD) is found to the right of the dot. In our case and in most cases, it’s “.com”. Also called the parent domain, there are other TLDs aside from the popular .com and usually gives visitors an idea about the owner. For example, .gov is used by government websites and .org for non-profit organizations. Other TLDs like .uk, .us, .ca also indicate the location where the website owner is from.
  • Second Level Domain is found to the left of the dot. It bears the unique identity of the owner like a business name or the owner’s name or what the person does. In our case, the second level domain is fitsmallbusiness, which indicates that our site is related to small businesses.

At the close of the second quarter of this year, Verisign has reported that there are over 331.9 million registered TLDs supporting over 1.8 billion websites (not all those domains are active).

How to Register a Domain

Domain names are regulated by ICANN or the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.” You can register your domain through an accredited list of domain registrars on the ICANN website. The fee for your domain name will depend on which registrar you choose.

Note that web hosting is independent from registering your domain name. You can register your domain name with a domain register without having to use their web hosting services (if they offer hosting).

Here are the steps for registering a domain:

  1. Choose your registrar or web hosting service. Remember to check their hosting policies and pricing. ICANN has a list of reputable domain registrars.
  2. Search for a domain name. Your chosen registrar should have an availability checker, such as the one from Bluehost, which you can use to determine if a domain name is available. The advantage of the availability checker is that it will give you suggestions for alternative domains if yours is already taken.
  3. Fill out the forms. Expect that you will be asked for your personal information and contact details to complete your profile for the “WHOIS” database. Choose whether you want your profile to be public or private.
  4. Pay for your domain. Prices for the domain names will come up during the availability check. Depending on which web host or registrar you choose, you may be able to get your domain for free by purchasing a hosting package. After payment, you can use your domain name right away or park it until you’re ready to launch your own website.
  5. Link domain and website. Using the domain manager, enter the name of your web host’s primary and secondary servers into your registrar’s settings for your domain. This process will link your domain name to your website.
  6. Park your domain if you don’t have a website. If you don’t have a website yet, your domain registrar can park your domain name temporarily using a website setup for you. Parking a domain means having reserved that particular website address until you have your own website created to use with the name.

It is important to point out that some host and registrars will only register domain names with certain TLDs, so you may need to check their options before signing up.

Advantages of Having a Registered Domain

  • Adds credibility – having a registered domain name gives internet users an idea of what the business is all about and gives potential visitors to your website confidence in your brand.
  • Makes your business easier to find – use your domain name to introduce your business and make it easy for users to find you on the internet even if you change your web hosting site.
  • Email – Registering a domain name usually gets you a professional email address as well. Customers are more likely to trust businesses whose staff members have professional business emails.

Cost of a Domain Name

There are a number of factors that affect the cost of a domain:

  • Your choice of TLD – certain TLDs are more expensive than others. .com domains are the most expensive, followed by .biz and .org.
  • The length of words, certain words, or word combinations – Using popular keywords or phrases will make domain names more expensive.
  • The term length of domain name registration – on average, registering a domain name for one year costs $2-$20. Renewing a domain costs around $4 more than registration. If possible, when registering your domain, try to register for 2-3 years instead of one year to save on renewal costs.
  • Add ons – along with domain registration, subscribers can opt for add ons such as domain privacy and web hosting. This comes at an additional cost.
  • Buying a domain name that is already owned – It is possible to buy a domain that is currently owned by someone else in a bidding process, but this usually costs more than registering a new domain.
  • Domain registrar discounts – At times, domain registrars offer discounts. A .com domain name that would usually cost around $10-13 per year can go down to as low as $2-3 per year during special discounts.

Website vs. Domain Name

A website is a collection of web pages grouped together for a single purpose. A domain name is the website address that a website owner needs to register before customers can access the site. The web address or domain name is what visitors will have to type on the address bar of their browser to get to your website. Anyone can register a web domain and choose not to do anything with it, but you can’t have a website without a domain.

Bottom Line

A domain name helps your customers find your website on the internet. By choosing and registering the right domain name for your website, you improve your firm’s credibility and build customer trust.

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