Domain Name

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

In this article, we will take a closer look at domain names. We will address the common misunderstandings, suggest alternatives and answer underlying questions you might have on domain names.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the address that you type into a web browser address bar to get to a website. An example of a domain name is www.google.com

A domain name is unique to a website and cannot be shared between different websites.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Is a domain name the same as a URL?

No, a domain name is not the same as a URL. A domain name is part of a URL.

An example of a URL is www.yourdomain.com/products/product_A

As you can see, a URL goes into much more detail than a domain name, providing much more information, such as specific page address, folder name, file name, etc.

In other words, a URL is the actual address of a specific page on a website.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Are domain names and websites separate things?

Yes, domain names and websites are separate things.

Think of a website like a house and your domain name is your house's street address.
  • If you have a domain name but no website, it's like having an address but no house. You can tell visitors where to go, but there's nothing to show them once they get there.
  • If you have a website but no domain name, it's like having a house but no address. You could build the world's tallest skyscrapper, but you have no way of telling anyone where it is or how to get there.
Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Can I get a domain for free?

Yes, there are ways to get a free domain name:

  1. Many website builders, including WordPress and Weebly, offer an extension of their domains for free

    For example:
    • yourwebsite.wordpress.com
    • yourwebsite.weebly.com
    These are also called sub-domains.
  2. Many web hosts offer a free domain name with the purchase of their annual web hosting plans)
Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Why do I need a domain name?

There are many reasons why you need a domain name:

  1. Having your own domain name indicates you are a serious about your online presence and your business.
  2. A domain name helps brand your image and your name.
  3. It adds a level of trust and integrity to your website. Consumers usually hesitate when doing business with a company that doesn't own its domain name.
  4. It allows you to use your domain name (www.yourname.com) and email address ([email protected]) on your business cards and letterhead.
  5. If you don't secure a domain name for your business, your competitors might get there first.
Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Why should I register my own domain when I can just get a sub-domain for free?

While a free sub-domain is free, it is not always the best option.

Why? Simply because you don't own the sub-domain.

Take WordPress.com as an example, your free sub-domain would be userID.WordPress.com. The main domain name, WordPress.com, is the property of WordPress and subsequently all sub-domains and sub-directories it creates.

And because you don't own the sub-domain, this creates a lot of problems:

  1. You have little to no control over the sub-domain, from file upload restrictions to adding applications or plug-ins to your website.
  2. If you should decide to switch to another service provider, you won't be able to bring the sub-domain name with you. You will have to setup a new domain (or sub-domain if you're going to another free service provider) and all the work and effort you have put into promoting your name will be lost. On the other hand, if you own your domain name, if you ever change web hosts, your domain name goes with you.
  3. A domain name gives your credibility. Not many people will want to do business with a company that does not have its own domain name.
  4. A domain name increases your search ranking because search engines give preferences to domain names rather than sub-domains.

So, free is not always best.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Will I get a @yourdomain.com email address?

One of the benefits of having your own domain name is you can setup custom email addresses, ie. [email protected]

What it means to your customers and/or website visitors:
  • custom email address – this is a real business and you take it seriously
  • your old gmail.com or hotmail.com email address = this is your weekend hobby

Note that in order to create custom @yourdomain.com email address, you will need email hosting services from your website builder or web host. Many website builders, such as Weebly and Wix, charge extra for this service.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

How much does a domain name cost?

A domain name generally cost around $10 to $20 per year.

Let's take a look at the domain registration pricing of the most popular domain registrars:

Domain registrar Cost for a 1 yr .com registration
Domain.com $9.99
NameCheap $14.48 + $0.18
GoDaddy $14.99*
iPage $8.99*
HostGator $12.95*
BlueHost $11.99
Name.com $10.99
Doteasy $5.00*

These prices are for the 1-year registration of a new .com domain name. Prices are for domain registration only, hosting services not included. Please contact individual registrars for lower domain registration rates with purchase of hosting packages. Prices effective as of March 1, 2016.

* Price reflects the registrar promotions and specials at the time of price comparison. Please refer to the registrar's website for regular domain registration pricing and/or subsequent domain term renewal fees.

Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Can I purchase a domain name directly from a website builder?

Definitely.

Many website builders, such as Wix, Weebly or Website.com even includes a free 1-year custom domain name as part of their annual plans.

It's a good idea to get a custom domain name from a website builder because:

  1. You get one year for free when you purchase their annual plan
  2. Your custom domain is already connected to your website, everything is set up for you and ready to go
Everything you need to know about your website's domain name

Can I transfer my domain name if I change website builders or web host?

Yes, you can!

Because you own your domain name, you can take it to any website builder or web host you wish, as long as the domain is active (ie. you keep paying the annual fee). All you need to do is contact your domain registrar for instructions on how to change web hosts.

You can even transfer your domain from one registrar to another. For instance, transfer your domain from GoDaddy to Doteasy. Both GoDaddy and Doteasy have step-by-step tutorials showing you how to change domain registrars.

How to choose the right domain name?

Ideally, your domain name should be:

  • relevant to your content, service or business
  • short
  • catchy and memorable
  • easy to pronounce
  • easy to spell
  • not a violation of someone else's trademark

Shorter domains are easier to remember. They are also easier to type and less susceptible to mistakes. However, keep in mind that long domain names that have your site keywords in them have an advantage when it comes to search engine ranking – search engines give preferences to keywords that also found in your domain name.

How to choose the right domain name?

.COM, .NET, etc., how do I choose one that's right for me?

.COM, .NET, etc. are called domain suffix or domain extensions. They are also called a top-level domain, TLD. In addition to the .com and .net, there are hundreds of other domain extensions, the most common being the .com.

People tend to prefer the more popular TLDs, such as .com, .org, .net. There is an undeniable familiarity with .com that you will not find with any other TLDs.

TLDs that are country specific (such as .ca for Canada, or .jp for Japan) is always good for businesses that are targeting local customers. It raises the confidence of users visiting your website, especially when they come from the country of the TLD.

Do keep in mind that it can be difficult to find a preferred TLD that is still available. This is especially true for the .com and .net domain names.

How to choose the right domain name?

What do I do if my .com domain is taken?

If the .com domain name that you want is already taken, you have a few other options:

  1. You can consider buying the .net or .org version of the name.
  2. You can register the .co version of the name. .co naturally stands for company, corporation or commerce.
  3. You can consider using a domain hack.
How to choose the right domain name?

What is domain hacking?

Domain hacking is not hacking someone's domain name or stealing it. The idea of a domain hack is to take a word and use the domain extension as part of the word.

So instead of thisismyname.com, a domain hacker would go with thisismyna.me (using the .ME domain extension) or thisismy.name (using the .NAME domain extension).

Examples of domain hacks include YouTu.be and Ma.tt.

Pros of domain hacks:

  1. It is a fun and creative way to create a domain name that is unique.
  2. It opens up for a plethora of options compared to .com names.
Cons of domain hacks:

  1. Your domain must be well promoted and well branded so that people can easily understand and remember your domain name.
  2. Domain hacks do have SEO disadvantages. Search engines do not care about domain extension other than regional searches. For example, the SEO value for YouTu.be is in "YouTu" and not "YouTube". You will lose traction when it comes to competitive keywords if your keyword or phrase is domain hacked.
How to choose the right domain name?

Should I get a domain name with spaces in between to improve readability?

Unfortunately, you won't be able to purchase a domain with embedded spaces.

Workaround ways to separate words in a domain name:

  1. Use hyphens

    You can register a domain name with hyphens, such as your-domain.com. However, keep in mind that having hyphens in your domain name leads to more potential errors – it is easy to forget the hyphens when typing a URL.
  2. Write your domain name using camel case.

    Domain names are case insensitive. The domains yourdomain.com and YourDomain.com are the exact domain. You can write it with any combination of capital and small letters and it will still be regarded as the same thing.
How to choose the right domain name?

Should I use a temporary domain name until my preferred domain becomes available?

That is actually not a good idea.

When you develop a website on a domain, the search engines will begin indexing it so it will show up on the search results. If your website has useful content, other websites might also start linking to it.

If after some time you get the domain you've been waiting for and move your website to that domain, search engines will treat it as a new website and it takes time to have the site indexed and not to mention you will lose all the search ranking results and linking you have attained.

How to choose the right domain name?

Can I reserve a domain name for future use?

Unfortunately, you cannot reserve a domain name. If there is a domain name that you want to use, whether it is now or in the future, you will need to register the name first. You are not required to associate the domain name to a website until you are ready.

A website is a separate thing from a domain name. A domain name is just a name. When you register a domain name, you are simply getting the right to associate it to a website. It is like getting a business name – you can register a business name before renting premises for your shop.

Should I opt for Private Registration?

When you register a domain name, ICANN requires that your email address, mailing address and phone number are accurate and made publicly available. This means anyone can look up the ownership and contact information of a domain name owner.

How does a private domain work?

Private domain registration protects you by hiding your registration information. Instead of listing your personal/contact information, the domain registrar will replace it will their contact information. You will still be the owner of the domain name, but your contact details will not be accessible publicly.

Benefits include:
  • shield your personal information online
  • protect against telemarketers, spam, scams and junk mail

Private registration fee differs from one registrar to another:

Domain registrar Cost for a 1 yr private registration (USD)
Domain.com $8.99
NameCheap $2.88
GoDaddy $7.99
iPage $9.99
HostGator $9.95
BlueHost $11.88
Name.com $3.99
Doteasy Included

Prices effective as of March 1, 2016.