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Check out our domain name buyers guide for everything you need to know about domain names.
A domain name is a website’s unique address. It’s how people access it: for example, this site’s domain name is digitalsupermarket.com.
You have to register a domain name before you can use it.
Several sites, like the ones compared above, are designed to make picking a name and registering it easy.
As well as being the address for your website, domain names also provide custom email addresses.
You can register your professional email ‘at’ your domain name, which can help to improve your credibility and build your brand. For example, [email protected]yourdomain.com can make your website seem more professional and legitimate.
Email accounts may be included with certain web hosting plans, which you can compare here.
It’s possible to get a website online without registering a domain name. Wordpress, for example, lets you create webpages for free.
There’s a catch, however. Those pages will always have wordpress in their address, making it clear that you’ve only used the free version. If you want a unique domain name for your business, you’ll have to pay to register one.
It’s a good idea to register a domain for your business early on, even if you don’t launch a website right away. This is because ‘cybersquatters’ are known to snatch them up in advance and then extort money from businesses who want them.
You only need to buy a single domain for a website. Once you’ve registered an address, you can have as many sub-pages as you want. For example, this page has the subdomain digitalsupermarket.com/domain-names/.
Starting a new, separate website will mean needing to buy another domain.
A domain name is your first impression online, so it’s important to think it over. The best domain names are short, memorable words that match your company’s name.
While most people nowadays don’t manually type in domain names, keeping it short means it’s easier to Google, which will have a big impact on your placement in search results.
Avoid words that are long or easy to misspell. If possible, don’t use punctuation such as hyphens. It’s more idiomatic for words to simply be strung together.
Two sites can’t have the same name, so whatever address you register has to be completely unique. If somebody is already using a name, it’s possible to buy it off them, but it’s more common to simply register a new address instead.
Stay away from names similar to websites that already exist. At best, you might confuse customers or send them to the wrong site. At worst, people might suspect you of trying to run a ‘phishing scam’.
Here’s 4 tips to choosing a great domain name for your new website.
A domain name has two parts: the name itself, and an extension like .com, .org or .edu.
This is called a ‘TLD’, for ‘top-level domain’. They’re managed by an organisation called ICANN.
These extensions indicate what the site is about or where it’s based. They’re an important way of making your name unique, but some are restricted to certain industries or countries—only companies in the EU can use the .eu extension, for example.
Every TLD has a specific meaning. Knowing what they are will help decide which one fits your site best.
You should pick an extension that matches the purpose of your site. For most businesses, .com is the standard choice.
Something to consider, though, is that different extensions can be more or less expensive. Because .com is very popular, it costs more to use than an alternative like .net.
While choosing an uncommon extension might be cheaper, unfamiliar extensions like .tech or .app are often associated with spyware or phishing attacks. They should generally be avoided unless you have a good reason to do so.
.com domain names are still the most popular choice for website owners around the world.
Research from Domain Name Stat shows that 43% of all domains have the “.com” extension.
If you’re not able to purchase the .com version of a domain name for your business, you should consider .net, .org or .co.uk (or the suitable extension for your country).
When you register a domain name, you’re simply marking out a space of the internet and saying ‘this is mine’.
To actually put something online, you’ll need to host content. You can do this yourself with a private server, but it can quickly get expensive.
A more common approach is to pay other companies with powerful servers to host your website for you, usually for a monthly fee.
Many companies combine these two services, letting you register a domain and host content there for one single fee. There’s little point in registering a domain name by itself unless you can also host it, so this is a sensible option for most businesses.
There are many ways to compare domain name providers like HostGator, GoDaddy or SiteGround. Let’s briefly examine the most relevant metrics.
Price is always a big concern. The standard model is to offer monthly plans at different price points, which can range anywhere from £5/ month to £20/month and above.
The core difference in plans is usually how much space you’re allowed and how much traffic you can get.
Space refers to the size of the files on your websites, like images and videos. This usually isn’t a big concern, since most websites are made from plain text, but it’s worth knowing if you think you’ll need several gigabytes of space.
More important is the visits cap. You can only get so many visitors to your site per month—once you hit your cap, that’s it. Your website is basically offline til the end of the month..
These caps are usually measured in tens of thousands of visits. While that might seem massive, even a medium-sized business can quickly run through several hundred visits in a single hour.
If possible, use past analytics data to estimate how much traffic you’ll be expecting—or hoping—to get on a monthly basis. Choose a plan that gives you some wriggle room above that amount, but don’t go any higher unless you need to.
The biggest advantage of websites is that they’re available 24/7. That’s why it’s particularly bad for them to go down or crash: users who get turned away aren’t likely to come back.
Web hosting services spend a lot of money ensuring their servers always stay up, but nothing’s perfect. Read user reviews to see how frequent scheduled maintenance is, if there is any, or how often their sites go down unexpectedly.
Security should be a top concern when building any website. If you’re not careful, it’s easy for hackers to take over your website and cause serious headaches. With unsecured websites, they can even do things like silently steal customers’ credit card details.
At a bare minimum, go with a provider who offers ‘SSL’, which stands for ‘secure sockets layer’. This is essentially mandatory for any website that has to deal with any user information.
Check out this guide to cyber security to help keep yourself safe online.
Dealing with websites can be hard, and eventually things will go wrong. It’s important to check what support you can get from the webhost provider.
This typically improves the more expensive your plan is. Cheaper options might only be entitled to text chats with support staff, whereas more expensive plans usually have a priority phone line for emergencies.
In the same way that many companies bundle together registering a domain name and hosting a website, it’s very common for them to offer extra features that make your life easier.
This can include visual website builders, which require no technical experience, integrated stores for eCommerce sites or built-in marketing and analytics trackers.
Definitely pay attention to the features each provider offers, but also make sure to ask if it’s something you really need. It’s always possible to upgrade later after starting out simple.
As with web hosting and other website services, there are a number of different domain registrars on the market, all offering similar prices and services to register the domain name you choose.
Look for some of the services that are offered, so you can decide what domain registrar is best for you.
By default, when you register a domain your address, email and phone number will be publicly available. Domain providers can hide this information, but they’re not required to. You may have to pay a little extra if privacy is a concern.
There are no limits on how many domain names you can buy. There are even people who deliberately buy hundreds of domains so that they can then sell them on to other companies. However, this practice, known as cybersquatting, is not always legal.
In addition, multiple domains are rarely necessary. Having more than one address for your company is only likely to confuse customers.
It’s not possible to modify a domain name once it’s been registered.
A common solution is to simply register a new domain instead, and redirect traffic from the old address to the new one. Be careful, however, as implementing redirects poorly can affect your placement in search engine results.
For this reason, it’s best to plan out your domain name in advance to minimise chances that you’ll want to change it later.
Once a domain has been registered, it can’t be removed. This means the number of registered domains only ever goes up.
You can, however, take down the website hosted on a domain and give up control of the address. If you registered a domain through a provider, they can handle this for you, but aren’t obligated to offer you a refund.
Because domains are never deleted, they are sometimes sold on to other companies down the line. If you don’t want this to happen, it might be best to eat the cost of maintaining the domain, even if you don’t plan to use it.
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