One of the biggest areas of confusion for people starting out with online marketing concerns domain names.
If you have never registered a domain name before, the process can seem pretty complicated and daunting. Fear not, though, as we answered all the key questions about domain name registration below...
What is a domain name?
To put it simply, a domain name is your website name. It is the name people write in the address bar of their browser to reach a particular website.
The Domain Name System, or DNS, is the naming system for the addresses of web pages and web servers. If it wasn't for domain names, all web pages would only be accessible via their IP address - which is a string of numbers and not particularly easy to remember e.g. 18.104.22.168
Domain names basically hide this technical IP address - making it easier for people to spell and to remember.
Examples of domain names
A domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers, and is organised with the Top Level Domain (TLD) at the end (.com, .co.uk, .org etc...)
With seotoolsguru.com, the 'seotoolsguru' is the mid-level domain, and '.com' is the top-level domain.
Other examples of domain names are:
What are the different TLDs?
You'll notice from the above that there are quite a few different top level domains, or TLDs. Originally there were only a few of these generic TLDs, like .com, .org, .edu, .gov, .net etc... as well as country codes (ccTLDs) like .co.uk (UK), .fr (France), .de (Germany) etc...
Now there are hundreds of different TLDs managed by ICANN - the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - that are much more specific and related to individual businesses and organisations. For instance, you can now have a blog on the .blog TLD, or you could choose to have your business website run off a .company domain. Doctors could choose .doctor, florists could have a .florist or even a .flowers domain and so on.
How to buy a domain name
To get a domain name, you need to register it with ICAAN - and for that you need a domain registrar.
Once you know what domain you want you go to a registrar and pay them to register you as the owner of the domain with ICAAN. It may seem complicated to the uninitiated, but the process is quire straightforward and you'll soon find that the hard part is actually finding a suitable domain name that is available.
There are many domain name registrars to choose from, but if you are buying your first one it is recommended you use an established and reputable company. Some suggestions to get you started are below:
How much do domain names cost?
The cost of registering a domain name generally depends on: which domain registrar you use, what TLD you choose and how long you register it for.
A standard .com domain registered for a year shouldn't cost you more than £10-£15. A .co.uk for a year should be less than £10. The price goes up the more years you register a domain for, although most registrars do this on a sliding scale so it makes it cheaper to register it for longer, rather than keep renewing the registration every year - e.g. £10 for one year, £15 for two years etc...
As with anything you buy online, it's always worth shopping around to try and find the best deal. Just like any other business, domain registrars regularly run special offers and discounts and they all have their own perks and different packages that could work out better for you.
A lot of them also have hidden fees as well, though, such as auto-renew fees and transfer fees (if you want to transfer your domain later on) - so be sure to read through the smallprint before you buy.
How to get a domain name for free
Many domain registrars also double-up as web hosting companies, so it is usually possible to get a domain name for free if you use one of these and also purchase your web hosting through them.
If you are registering a new domain, it stands to reason that you will very likely also be looking for a web host - so take advantage and choose a host that offers free domains with their hosting packages.
Do I need WHOIS privacy?
WHOIS is a publicly accessible database that all newly registered domains have to be submitted to.
When you register a new domain, your registrar will ask for your details (Name, Address, Email etc...) which will go on the public WHOIS record for the domain. Not everyone wants their personal details publicly associated with a domain though, so for privacy reasons you can opt to block the WHOIS information.
To do this you will have to pay an extra fee via your registrar, which is usually around £5-£10 per year to make sure the WHOIS records are hidden for your domain. Make sure you stay on top of the renewals for this though, because your info will be viewable as soon as the WHOIS privacy lapses.
What's the difference between a domain name and a website?
It's easy to confuse the two, but it's important to know the difference between a website and a domain name.
A website is a collection of different webpages that are all hosted on a certain domain name.
Imagine your domain name is the address of your house, while the web hosting is the space within your house and all the furniture items are the individual pages, images and other files that make up your website.
What is the difference between a domain name and a URL?
A URL - or Uniform Resource Locator - is the address of a web page.
URLs tend to be long strings that can also include the folder and sub-folder where the requested page is located e.g. domain.com/category/subcategory/page
Every file that is hosted and available on the World Wide Web has it's own URL, which is an IP location as we discussed above.
About the Author
Luke Glassford is an SEO expert with over 15 years’ experience.
During his time working in SEO, Luke has set-up an SEO agency, worked as an in-house SEO for a major national company and managed his own successful SEO consultancy - using a lot of different SEO tools along the way!