What is a domain name? A very simple question with a lot involved.
This is the Ultimate Guide to everything you need to know about domain names and then some!
There will be links to sites in this post, that will have valuable information, if you’re interested to know a little extra, you should check them out. If not no worries.
Now, let’s get started and learn everything you need to know about what a domain name is?
Table of Contents
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name, also called a domain, is the address of your website, it’s your name that people will use to find you. They will enter it into any search engine’s browser URL bar or search box.
An example of a domain name looks like this: www.letsdothisblogthing.com, another example is www.foodandthensome.com.
But before it becomes a domain name, it starts with an Internet Protocol known as an IP Address, a set of random numbers.
Anything that connects to the internet has an IP Address.
If you wanted to know your IP Address, you could search whatsmyip.org and it’s available there.
Being that it’s made up of numbers, that would be hard to remember or share.
So, DNS, Domain Name System, translates those random numbers to the name of a site.
Is a Domain Name and URL the Same?
No, they are not the same. A domain name is just part of a URL.
We know that a domain name is the name of our site.
If I search www.letsdothisblogthing.com, it’s going to take me to my site; the starting point, the home page, the static page that I have set.
But if I search, www.letsdothisblogthing.com/domain-names-everything-you-need-to-know/.
I will be taken to that exact page, domain-names-everything-you-need-to-know and that is what a URL does, it takes you to a specific post, page, sales pages, or any other given address, you direct it to.
A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator and it will locate the exact address of a given resource.
Domain Name Extensions
A domain name extension comes after the dot (.) of your domain name.
The most popular top-level domain name extensions are the ones that started back when the internet first began.
There are 7 top-level extensions. You can find out about various levels of domain extensions from Wikipedia, if you’d like a lesson, it’s very interesting.
And there are many different levels of domain extensions. Below are just a few examples of the most popular, countries and businesses:
And there are hundreds more.
Why are there so many? Basically, because the internet has grown since the first commercial internet domain name registered in 1985.
Also, when it comes time to choose your domain, you need to know that certain domain extensions were created for certain sites, it was a way to categorize them by type, business, and country.
Now that you have decided that you will be starting on your site, you will need a domain name. But there are a few things that you’re going to need to go with it.
What is domain privacy and do you need it?
Every time a domain is registered, ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, requires that your information be submitted to the WHOIS database.
What does ICANN do?
ICANN Coordinates the internet domains and IP addresses, it’s referred to as the internet phonebook. This will explain ICANN and its responsibilities
Then who is WHOIS?
WHOIS is an internet record listing for domains
And it is available to the public, just like ICANN information is and it’s referred to as the internet’s directory.
When you purchase your new domain name from whatever registrar or hosting company you choose, you will enter your name, address, email, and phone number, this is now public information.
So, what’s the benefit of having domain privacy protection? Keeping your private information private.
Domain Privacy will replace your information with the information of the privacy service.
Do you need domain privacy? Sure, if you want to be private.
Is it mandatory that you have it? No, it’s not, but why would you want your information out there?
Is Domain Privacy Free?
It depends on who you get it from, some hosting companies give it for free, some only do it during the first year, and some charge.
Some domain registrars do the same. And some do it for free the entire time your domain is registered with them.
But if you want to know who offers it for free, search “domain registrar with free privacy”.
Remember that I told you that your information is now public?
This is my information available to the public in the WHOIS database.
Where you see Registrant, is where my personal information would be if I did not have domain privacy protection.
And this is my ICANN information, which is also public.
Reasons, why someone would want to look up your information might be to find out who your hosting company is if they ever wanted to report you or send a DMCA takedown letter to your hosting company or contact you about the sale of your name.
If you’re not familiar with the term DMCA Takedown Notice, I mention it in my post blogging etiquette.
What is an SSL Certificate and do you need one?
An SSL Certificate stands for Secure Socket Layer and it encrypts internet traffic and verifies a server’s identity.
And having or not having an SSL will determine whether your site is https:// or http://
For a little extra knowledge, check out Cloudflare and SSL Certificates.
Do You Need an SSL Certificate?
Yes, you do.
Not having an SSL Certificate will affect your ranking signal.
In 2014, Google confirmed that sites with an SSL would have an advantage of a boost in SERPs (search engine results page) over sites that did not.
In 2017, Google started marking sites as Non-Secure to inform visitors the site did not have an SSL and also required sites that collect personal information or accept payments to have an SSL.
And depending on how many domain names you have, you will need an SSL Certificate for each one.
Below is a picture of a site that does not have an SSL Certificate. It shows in the browser bar as not secure.
If you have an SSL certificate, it will show a padlock.
Some hosting companies will give you an SSL certificate for free with your domain name. But if they don’t, there are free plugins that you can use for this.
You can also get a free SSL certificate from Cloudflare, by signing up.
Are Domain Names free?
Yes, some are.
When you decide to start a blog, you will need a hosting company. And as a new customer, the majority of hosting companies will give you your name for free for the first year.
When the year is up, it will be time to renew your domain name at the price that the hosting company is selling it for.
Prices are different on different sites, you may find your new domain name for less on one site than on another and everybody claims to be the lowest and the best.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?
It just depends where you get it from. Prices will vary on different sites. I have an example below.
I choose two different sites, one, a popular domain name registrar and the other a popular hosting company.
Site one, the domain registrar, has a discount code, with the discount code the price for a year is $5.98, without the discount code the price is $8.98/yr. The more years you purchase the same price you will pay.
With this registrar, you can purchase your name for up to 10 years.
The second site; a popular hosting company, charges $12.99 for the first year and does not offer domain privacy/protection for free, and if you take it off, your information is public in WHOIS. This hosting company does offer SSL for free.
This was an example to show you the difference in pricing, meaning shop around.
And if you buy from a Domain Registrar, you do not need to purchase the SSL from them, you can use the free SSL from your hosting if it’s offered.
Also, know that these companies will have add-ons that you can buy, but most likely you can get these add-ons with a free WordPress plugin.
When given an option for add-ons, some will come pre-checked, if you don’t want them you need to uncheck them. You only need an SSL and Privacy.
If you’re considering purchasing add-ons, make sure you know what they are for and why you need them.
You will also be given a choice of the length of time you would like to pay for your domain name. This means that for however long you pay for it, the price will not change.
And sometimes you may get a small discount for the longer you choose to pay.
When purchasing your domain name, check the regular price because after your special is up and it’s time to renew, this is the price you will pay or the new regular price at the time of your renewal.
Premium Domain Names
These domain names are expensive but could become popular, especially for someone trying to build a brand.
To find out more detailed information about premium domain names, visit Namecheap.
What if the Domain Name You Want is Taken?
If I pull up my domain name on any site, where names are sold, it will show that it is taken. But, anyone who is interested can make an offer.
If you make an offer, the owner of the name can choose to sell it or not.
But just because it says, “make offer”, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s up for grabs. I did not notify anyone that any offers would be considered but it says to make an offer.
I’ve seen offers start at $199.00 and the highest I’ve seen was $4000 and I’ve heard of higher than that.
So, if you want a name bad enough, make an offer, they can only say yes or no. Sometimes the domain is not even being used.
To contact the site owner, first, try WHOIS and see if there is contact info. If not, look on the site where the domain is attached and see if there is an email or phone number, or you can hire a domain name broker, which will cost money.
What is Domain Investing?
Just what it says; investing in domains.
A person will buy a domain and resell it for a profit. These names can be sold to other domain investors or to a person who wants the name for their site. When you pull the name up it will say. “make an offer” or contact.
Dealing with Domain Squatters
This is also known as Cybersquatting and it is illegal.
It’s when someone registers a domain name that is similar or matches a trademark to sell it for a massive price.
If you think that you’re dealing with a domain squatter, this article from NOLO.com will tell you about steps to deal with them.
Purchasing, Transfers, Renewals
- If your hosting company gives you a domain for free, take it. You then can choose to leave it with the hosting company or transfer it before renewal.
- Use the SSL Certificate the hosting company gives you, if there is not one use a free or paid plugin or sign up to Cloudflare.
- If you decide to transfer your domain to a different provider when it’s time to renew, do it before it renews or cancels. Transfering during renewal may casue you to lose the renewal fee that your hosting company has charged. If your domain name cancels for non-payment, you may need to pay for it before it can trasnfer, then you will have to wait a fews weeks before you can start the process of transfer.
- Or you can purchase your domain from a different site and point the DNS to the hosting company, this means that you will pay the other site your renewals and not your hosting company.
- Be aware that even though renewal says it’s in so and so month, the renewal fee may be taken up to a month before if you have automatic renewal or a credit card on file.
- And if you purchase a domain name from a domain company, you do not need to purchase the SSL.
Having More Than One Domain Name?
A lot of bloggers have more than one site and sometimes more domain names than sites.
I think a better question is: If I purchased hosting with unlimited sites, will I get those domain names for free?
No, you will not.
Most sites but not all will give you your first domain name free for the first year and only your first domain name.
If you have unlimited sites and add more domain names, you will have to purchase those new domain names and possibly Domain Privacy and SSL’s, depending on where you purchase them from.
And if you purchased everything at different times, renewals will be at different times.
It will most likely be cheaper if you purchased those extra names from a domain name registrar and kept them there.
Changing Your Domain Name
This might be important to you one day after you’ve spent the time to come up with a domain name and now you’ve decided you’re not that thrilled about it, it doesn’t match your brand or you think you’d like to rebrand.
If you have a name and decide you want to change it later, you can, but you will need to purchase a new domain name to do it and then with some redirects, you’re good to go.
You cannot change your domain name after it has been registered, just because you changed your mind and don’t like it and decided on a new name. In other words, you cannot return a domain name in exchange for a new one. You own that name until it expires.
It’s not hard to change a domain name, but it is time-consuming and a pain in the butt. And it’s something you really don’t want to do.
Here are some things you’d need to do to change your domain name:
- purchase your new domain name, ssl and privacy
- back up your site
- update DNS
- content audit
- rebrand your website
- redirect your old posts and pages
- redirect traffic
- set up 301 redirects
- create a 404 error page
- upate contact details
- notify search engines and your subscribers
- create and submit new site maps
- reroute from social media
- use the change of address tool
- update Google Analytics and Search Console
Not particularly in this order, but these things will need to be done.
See, pain in the butt.
But if your site is new and hardly none to a few posts, that’s even better and easier, if it is not still in the registration phase.
Just a little info to think about.
Misspelling a Domain Name
If you purchased a domain name and you did not double-check the spelling and spelled it wrong, you cannot change it, once it has been registered.
You will need to purchase another domain name and let the wrong one sit until renewal and then cancel it or direct your misspelled domain name to the new one.
If You Don’t Have a Domain Name Yet
You don’t have a domain name but you want to start working in WordPress.
Then know this; some hosting companies, but not all give an option to decide on a blog name later, then you would just need to go through a process called Rename, that the hosting company will do for you, it could take anywhere from a few hours to 24. I’ve been there and done that.
Hosting and Domains
This is a question that gets asked a lot:
Should I have my domain name and hosting company in the same place or should I keep them separate?
You need to use your own judgment here.
Everyone has a different opinion about keeping them both together and apart.
Pros of keeping them together.
- They are in one spot
- They will renew at the same time but they charge seperately
- It’s possible you’ll get the name, privacy and/or SSL for free the first year
Cons of keeping them together:
- If something happens to the hosting company, something happens to your name and site and you have the possibilty of losing both at the same time
- If you miss the renewal payment, your name could be held from you, till payment is received, only if you owe for a previous registration
- Keeping your name at a hosting company may be a higher price at renewal than a domain name registrar
- Your hosting comapnay can hold your domain name hostage
Again, it’s what’s best for you and what goes with your starting budget.
Transferring Your Site to a Different Registrar
When and if you want to transfer your name to a new domain registrar or hosting company, you can and it’s not hard at all.
Companies will have detailed instructions on how to do this. Just call them or pull up chat, if you need help.
There may also be restrictions that may prevent you from transferring at the time you want. You need to check with your new registrar.
How to Decide on a Domain Name
You want to choose the best name for your blog and make sure that it gets your point across.
You want your domain name to speak to people, you want it to be remembered easily. This domain name is a representation of you and your business.
Things to Consider for a Domain Name
- Keep it plain and simple. But there is no rule that says a domain has to be a specific length.
- Go for a .com extension, it’s the most popular and everyone is familiar with it
- Don’t use hyphens or numbers, it makes it a little more difficult to type it in fast and easy.
- Don’t make up words, you’re not going to get more traffic becasue you created a new word. No one is going to know what it means or how to spell it, because no one’s ever heard of it.
- Don’t create new spellings for old words, spell it right. People have been spelling words the same way long before you came along, and all of a sudden you’re going to change that? If you can get it in front of people’s eyes, like billboards, magazines, tv and a jingle, so they can remember it, fine. But think about if you can’t and someone is just trying to remember off the top of their head.
- Check social networks to make sure it’s available: when you have decided on a domain name, check social networks you plan to use and see if it’s available there too.
- Pick a domain you can stay with: if you ever decide you need to change your name or want to rebrand, changing is not hard, it’s just a pain.
Your Domain Name Should Be Easy
You want someone to be able to type your domain name into a browser bar or search box without any problems, what so ever. Remember, when they are actually taking the time to type your name in, you’re not there to spell it out for them.
Keep The Potty Mouth Out of It
If you ever plan to monetize (make money) and you’re trying to sign up to Ad Networks, Ad Networks do not like profanity, especially in domain names and it’s very possible you will be rejected.
And if you ever plan to promote and show other’s bloggers’ products on your site as an affiliate, you have to apply to them through their site and they can deny you.
Choosing a Domain Name for SEO
I’m sure you’ve heard how SEO can Impact your domain name and search rankings.
Well, it won’t, back in the day it might have, but times have changed.
Well, I’m not an SEO expert, so I’m not getting too deep into that. But you can read this post from the Search Engine Journal, where they explain whether a domain name is a ranking factor.
And just a little extra info from me.
Using keywords in your domain name will let readers know what your site is about automatically, but you also want to leave yourself room to expand and branch out.
Domain Name Generators
A domain name generator is where you will enter words into a search box and it will provide you with generated names.
There are a ton of name generators out there and a simple search on Google can bring them up.
I researched 12 of them and found that if I had decided to use them, I would have not. But that’s just me. Try them out for yourself.
I found that entering names in a search box generates the name as it is entered and will add random words to it. Not a big help.
Below is an example of one of the many domain name generators available.
I entered the words “blogging for beginners is easy” and the generator gave me names like blogging for newbies dot info, blogging for beginners is soft dot org, and in some of the names, it even changed the word for to the number 4.
A second generator gave names like fine blogging for beginners, business blogging for beginners, Michigan blogging for beginners.
But one thing that can come from a generator adding random words to it, is taking those random words and adding them together to form a domain name you like.
For example, blogging for newbies is easy, blogging for beginners building an empire.
Just taking words and putting them together.
Where to Purchase Domain Names
There are plenty of sites to purchase a domain name from.
When you decide who you’re choosing for hosting, the majority of companies will give you your domain name free for the first year.
If you want to use the free name then use it, it’s free. A charge you don’t have to worry about now.
Remember though, you will need an SSL Certificate and Domain Privacy.
And whichever one your hosting company offers for free, take it.
But also remember that when the year is up, you will renew your name at the price that the hosting company is offering it for, and be sure to check if the free offers of SSL and/or Domain Privacy expire too.
Domain Name Registrar
At this point, you can transfer your name to a domain name registrar before your renewal to prevent your hosting company from renewing it and holding it until it’s able to be released.
A site like Namecheap is easy to transfer too and will have the name for a lower price than a hosting company.
Namecheap offers Domain Privacy free for life as long as the name is registered with them and you can use the free SSL from your hosting company. If there is not a free SSL, and you did not purchase one from Namecheap, when you point your domain name to your hosting, you can use a free plugin or even better, sign up to Cloudflare and use the free SSL from them.
Domain Name Registration
How does this happen?
You choose a name and pay for it or get it for free.
There is no possible way to use a domain name if it is not registered and you will have to do this through a domain name registrar or hosting company.
So, when you get a name from a domain registrar or hosting site, the name is registered for you.
Free Domain Name Registration
There are sites out there that are free blogging platforms, meaning you start a blog for free and they give you a free domain name.
But with free blogging platforms, there are stipulations to your domain name.
For example, the free blogging platform site will be in your domain name:
yournewdomainnamehere.wix.com or yournewdomainnamehere.weebly.com
But these platforms will still registrar your name for you.
Conclusions for Domain Name
In this post, I have put everything I could think of that would be valuable information for you to know about getting started with domain names.
There is so much techy stuff, so many techy words and so much techy information, that trying to read it all or search every post written about it is just too much.
I did include links that I hope you read and learned some things from.
Remember that with your domain name, you will need an SSL Certificate and domain privacy.
If you found this post informative and it helped you out, please pass it onto someone who you think could benefit from it.
If you’re ready to move forward, head over to my post on “Tips for Choosing a Domain Name“.
Do you have any questions? Or something you want to know about? Put it in the comment box or send me an email.