I feel a little silly asking, but I’m always confused about tech jargon. I know I need a domain name, but what IS a domain name? Can you help?
—Down in the Domains
Dear Down in the Domains,
Kudos to you for asking a silly question – though as a curious person myself, I never feel like any question is silly. If you want to know, ask! And you did. So here is the answer to your question:
What is a domain?
A domain name is what you type in the address bar of a web browser that takes you directly to a website. It’s a quick and easy name that you share so that others can get to your website easily, too. A domain name might also be referred to as a URL or a web address. Domain names are related to IP addresses, which you may have heard of, but that’s more technical info than you probably need. You can read more about IP addresses here. So, google.com is a domain. And elon.edu is a domain. And so is something like bench.co or lindadoes.design.
WHAT ABOUT HOSTING?
Now, you didn’t ask about hosting, but you are going to need to know this: you can’t have a website with a domain only. You have to also have hosting! Hosting is an online service that you purchase and pay for, usually monthly, and it’s where all of your website files physically live, on a server (which is really just another computer, and nowadays, is sometimes called the cloud). Read more about hosting in this Hey, Linda! column right over here.
I like to use an analogy of an office building to fit all of these pieces of the web puzzle together: your website is one office in the building (it holds all of the content), your domain name is the address/suite number of your physical office (It helps others locate you), and your hosting is office building itself (the server where your website files live).
Make sense? Annnnd…. Back to domains.
HOW DO YOU GET A DOMAIN?
So, how do you get a domain? You “register” a domain with a domain host, reserving that domain name for your use, for the amount of time you pay for. Payment is usually yearly. If you stop paying for your domain, you lose your right to use it. That’s a big one! Don’t forget to set up auto-payments! Purchasing a domain for a longer length of time also shows Google that you are committed to your business, and you get a small SEO bump for that.
When you register for a domain, it’s important to keep this login information handy–you’ll need it for setting up email and/ or to connect your domain to your hosting.
PREFERRED DOMAIN REGISTRARS
I like domain registrars that focus on one thing: domains. No hosting, no extras – just domains.
- Hover.com (a great choice if you want an inexpensive email option that is simple to setup)
- Namecheap.com (domains only and does it well!)
It’s never too early to purchase a domain!
If you come up with an idea for the name of a company that you might want to use, check to see if it’s available, and if it is, purchase it. Purchasing a domain for a year is usually less than $20. That’s totally worth it if you decide to move forward, and no big deal if you throw it by the way-side.
If you need any more help, Down in the Domains, you know where to find me.
Til Next Time,