Choosing a website address or domain name is one of the first steps in establishing a web presence.
Your website address/domain name identifies your website on the Internet and looks something like this www.mywebsite.com.
In addition your domain name will also be used for your email addresses, which take the form: email@example.com.
There are three steps required in getting a website address:
- Choose the desired domain name
- Check if the domain name available
- Register the domain name
Choosing a Website Address/Domain Name
Domain names are, like business names, and domain names for offline businesses generally use the business name.
For example, Microsoft corporation ( business name) uses the domain name microsoft.com.
Domain names like business names are decided on by the person/company registering the name.
The only criteria is that the domain name cannot already have been registered.
However unlike business names, domain names have a structure as you can see with the example microsoft.com.
Here you can see that full stops (dots) are used to separate the different name segments microsoft and com.
It isn’t really necessary to go into the technical detail on the exact structure in order for you grasp the basics of what a domain name is. See Understanding domain name structure if you want more details.
Domain Name Selection
1. Domain Name Extension e.g. .com .co.uk etc
Most people automatically think that they should have a domain name ending in .com and usually use businessname.com as the domain name.
For Example if your business name is J smith and sons then your domain name could be:
There is nothing wrong with this, and it is indeed a good choice. However it is not the only possibility.
The .com domain name extension It is the number 1 choice for anyone with a North American based business or an International business.
However; if your business is local in nature and is located outside the USA/Canada then a geographic name like businessname.co.uk (UK ) is usually more appropriate.
UK Websites .co.uk or .co
the .co domina name was introduced to server the same purpose as the ,com domain name.
However it came a little too late as the .co.uk domain extension was already in widespread use for UK business websites.
However if you find that the .co.uk version of the domain name is already taken then the .co extension is an alternative.
2. Domain Name Length
Try to keep your domain name as short as possible less than 15 characters is considered best. This can be difficult to do due to the number of registered domain names.
3. Delimiters in Names e.g. Hyphens
Try to avoid using delimiters in the name .e.g. buildyourwebsite is now considered better than build-your-website.
If you need a delimiter use an hyphen -.
4. Keyword or Brandable Domains
Keyword based domain names are popular with many small sites that rely on search engines for their traffic. The keywords are what you would expect a searcher to use when looking for a site on a search engine.
For example if you had a store selling log burners you might try the domain names LogBurningStore.com
Larger companies tend to go for short and catchy names like Google,Yahoo, WhatsApp,
Avoid domain names that are easily confused with existing brand names and trademarks.
5. Naming Tips
- Adding a letter of modifier to an existing word e.g. itunes,flickr,Pinterest,
- Combining 2 or more words ForUs,ToGo,YouTube
For example YouTube looks better than youtube, but they are the same domain name.
Avoiding Domain Name Scams
Domain names are cheap, typically costing less than $20. I have heard of small businesses paying $100 for a domain name by “so called” domain name registration companies.
Beware of any company that tries to sell you a domain name over the telephone or through the mail and charges more than $20.
Checking if the Domain Name is Available
When choosing a domain name you have to be aware that others may have already registered the domain name you want to use.
Therefore part of the name selection process is to eliminate those names that are already registered.
I use the 1&1-UK domain check tool on the 1and1 website.
Using the tool doesn’t mean you have to buy the domain name from them.
There are many domain registration companies available and you should always register your own name.
You should register the domain name with the same company that you use for hosting the website as it is easier to manage from a single control panel.
For example I host this site on 1and1 UK and registered the domain name through them.
This means that I can manage the hosting space and the domain name through the same control panel.
If it is registered on your behalf by your website designer then you should always insist that it is registered to you/ your company.
Here are the registration details showing myself as the owner for one of my domain names.
Further down the form you will see 1and1 Internet ltd listed as technical support. This is the company I used to register the domain name. This is perfectly normal and what you require.
Private Domain Registration
Normally when you register a domain name your contact details are publicly available via the whois database.
This is actually a requirement of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Unfortunately this information can, and is used by spammers and telemarketers.
Many Domain registrars offer domain privacy services which protect your personal details.
Essentially they replace your personal details with generic company details belonging to the domain registrar.
You should be aware that domain privacy is not available on all domain names.
In addition some domain registrars will charge for this service.
If you are wondering if you really need it then this article details the pros and cons.
Personally I don’t use it.
Domain Names Need Renewing
When you buy a domain name you are actually leasing it, as you will need to renew the name periodically, usually yearly.
If you forget you lose it!!!. Therefore I recommend you choose a domain registrar that does automatic renewals on your behalf.
Domain Names and Email Addresses
You can use your domain name as an email address and most domain name registration companies provide the ability to create and manage email addresses as part of the domain name registration package.
Moving Hosts/Domain Name Registrars
If you are unhappy with your present domain name registrar or host you can always move.
Moving a website between hosting providers is quite a technical process, and I do consider this a last resort, and should not be done lightly.
Common Questions and Answers
Q- Are Domain Names Case Sensitive?
A- No but they are often written with some letters capitalized to improve legibility.
Q- Can You Use Numbers in Domain Names?
Q- Do I Get Hosting With a Domain Name?
A- No but you often get a domain name with web hosting. See- Website Hosting Guide
Q- What;s the difference between a domain name and a URL?
A- The domain name is part of a URL -See Understanding URLs Beginners Guide
Q- How many Sub domains can I have with a Domain Name?
A- In theory as many as you want but your registrar may restrict the number- See Beginners Guide to Subdomains
Q- How to I link my domain name to my website?
A- This is done using a DNS record which you may need to edit. However if you use the same domain name registrar and hosting company it is usually done automatically when the hosting account is initialised.
This video shows the process using a subdomain but the same applies to a domain.
Old 3 part video series on domain names that you might find useful:
Related Articles and resources:
- Shopify site has a good article on choosing a store name with links to name generators that you can use for inspiration.
- Understanding Website Hosting Options
- 1and1 Hosting Review
- Bluehost Hosting review