I am hoping that in this article about domain names I will answer any questions you have about what domain names are, how to get one and how to use it once you have one.
1. What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is your website name / address, so when people ask “What is your website address?” you will tell them www.yourdomainname.co.uk (or whatever the suffix is, see point 3 below) – this is your domain name.
2. Is a Domain Name the same as a URL?
URL stands for Universal Resource Locator (OK, too techy by far and I am sure you didn’t really want to know, but just in case) but basically means the address of a specific page on a website. This could be your home page, in which case it can just be www.yourdomainname.co.uk as that will always take a visitor to your home page, or it can be a reference to a specific page on your website – lets take your About page as an example, the actual URL may be www.yourdomainname.co.uk/about.html.
3. What is a Domain Suffix?
A domain suffix is the last part of your domain name, the .co.uk or .com etc. There are now literally hundreds of domain suffixes available, most of which you will never see or hear of, however it is important to know the difference between the main suffixes in use and which one is best for your business domain name.
- .com (commercial)
A global suffix that can be used by anyone in any country but is predominanatly associated with and used by American websites. I would recommend having a .com suffix if you want your business to be seen as global
- .co.uk (UK company)
For use by UK businesses only and if it is important to you to be seen as a UK company (which it should be if you are based in the UK) then this is the suffix you should choose
- .org or .org.uk (organisation)
Intended for non-profit websites only and should not be used for a normal business as it can be misleading to visitors of your website
- .net (network) and .info (information
Again these are global suffixes that can be used by any business but are seen as associated with technical web companies (i.e. companies who provide hosting services)
4. Which domain suffix should I choose?
My advice is to try and get both the .co.uk and .com suffixes for your domain name (when I say try, it is all dependent on whether or not those versions of your required domain name are available) as it protects your business from other people registering a domain that includes your business name with a different suffix and could cause you problems in the long term (i.e. confusion if people type in the wrong domain and don’t get your website or trying to get that domain at a later date should you decide that you want it).
Then use one as your main domain and ‘point’ the other to it. So, for example, my main client base is within the UK and therefore my main domain name that I use in all marketing material is www.simplycious.co.uk but I also have the domain name www.simplycious.com which redirects people to my website should they type it into the address bar in their browser (try it in your browser).
If you want to cover all bases then you can also register the .net and .info versions but you have to stop at some point and it all adds to the cost. You need to decide if it is worth the cost and really necessary.
5. Do I own my domain name?
In a sense you do own your domain name but you are really leasing it for the period of time you have paid for its registration – normally a 2 year period though things are changing and you may be able to pay for up to 10 years depending on the type of domain you have or are registering.
You also need to ensure that if someone else registers a domain name on your behalf (for example your web designer/developer) that they do put you as the owner of the domain (if you are a business, ensure they put it as belonging to your business, not you personally) and not themselves. I have seen this happen and not only is it unethical but it also means that if you want to move your domain name to a different web company you will have problems as you don’t officially own it even though you paid for it.
6. How much to domain names cost?
Registration of domain names can vary widely in cost and it is also very dependent on what type of domain suffix you want, but my recommendation is not to go for the cheapest as if you ever want to move your domain to a different registrar (a company that is licensed to provide domain registration services) you may have a shock at how much your current registrar will want to charge you, especially since it is usually free. As a general guideline you will be looking at paying anything from a couple of pounds upwards for 2 years for a .co.uk domain and normally double that for a .com domain.
7. Is the domain name I want available?
The easiest way to check is go to any hosting company’s website (just search Domain Registration) and search for the domain name you want to register. For example, if you go to Heart Internet and click on Domain Names you will see Domain Name Search quite clearly on the page, just type in your domain and click the search icon. What you will be presented with is a list of your chosen domain name with various suffixes and next to each one it states if the domain is available or not.
If the domain shows as unavailable, you may want to find out a little more information about it and some websites will link through to what is called the Whois database where you will be able to see who owns the domain name, when it was registered and when it expires. If you cannot see any way to get to this information, if it is a UK domain (i.e. it ends in .co.uk) then you can go directly to Nominet (the governing organisation for all UK domains) and search for the information there (use thw Whois Lookup on the right of the page). You can also use this method to see what others see about you and your domain registration if you already own a domain name.
8. I have a domain name – does that mean I have a website?
Not exactly, not yet. To be able to have a website and use your domain for emails you need to have web hosting. This is an area on a server (like a huge computer) that you pay for, usually on an annual or monthly basis, to be able to have email facilities and a website that is online and viewable on the web.
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