What is a Domain Name, and Why Should I Know About It?
Imagine this scenario: your IT company or your in-house IT is helping you manage your domain migration, and they're asking you to make decisions. However, you don't even know what a domain name is. What do you do?
Don't fret. The fact that you're reading this article right now means you're on the right track. The first step to making sound decisions is by learning and understanding the basics.
At ITS, we've helped hundreds of business owners understand more about their technology by explaining it in ways that make the most sense for them. That way, they can make better decisions.
We'll help you unravel the mysteries of your domain name and help you understand why it's important to know about it. To do that, we spoke with Peter Swarowski, Director of Operations at Intelligent Technical Solutions, to help us answer the following questions:
- What is a domain name?
- How do you buy a domain name?
- What are the types of domain names?
- Why is it important to know about my domain name?
What is a Domain Name?
Type in your website in your browser. You've probably put in something like this: "companyname.com." The letters you just input in the address bar make up your domain name. Many people confuse that and call it their website. But the truth is your website is a collection of files like HTML pages, website builder software, images, and more. On the other hand, your domain name is what you type in to find that bundle of files.
Think of it this way: if your website was your house, your domain name is your address that helps people find it. If domain names didn't exist, the only way your guests could find you is by giving them coordinates, which are a lot like IP addresses. They are a long string of numbers where your website is located, but they're hard to remember.
The internet is a giant network of computers that's connected to each other, and each can communicate with the other. To identify a specific computer, they are assigned an IP address. A typical one looks a lot like this: 192.168.1.9. Now, as you can imagine, it's difficult to remember typing in that string of numbers in your browser's address bar to find the websites you need. That's generally why domain names exist.
As far as your business is concerned, however, "a domain is proof of ownership of a name," Swarowski stated. It's a lot like owning the rights to your brand. He explained that if you want to use your company name when people search for your website, then you need to register it as your domain name.
How to Buy a Domain Name?
Now that you know what a domain name is let's dive into how you can buy one for your business.
There are a lot of ways you can purchase them, but the most basic one is via a domain registrar. Those are organizations that manage the reservation of internet domain names.
"You pay registrars that have been set up on the internet for that subscription, so you can say: 'hey, I own this name,'" Swarowski said.
Another method is by purchasing it from another person.
"It may be somebody bought a domain name with the hopes of reselling it to someone who wants it later because they think it's a cool name," he explained.
That usually happens for popular names that are likely to get purchased for high prices.
According to Swarowski, once registered, you will then have to pay an annual fee to continue using that specific domain name. The amount you pay will vary depending on how popular a domain name is or whether it is still available or not.
"Some of them may be obscure enough that they're very cheap. If they're very ubiquitous and highly available, you might only be charged around $1015.00 a year or something like that," he said.
Types of Domain
To make the best choice when it comes to choosing domain names, let's first understand the anatomy of one. Domains consist of two main parts, namely Top-Level Domain (TLD) and Second-Level Domain (SLD).
Top-Level Domain (TLD)
TLDs are also referred to as domain extensions. If you take a look at an existing domain name, the ".com" is the TLD. It's one of the most commonly used extensions on the internet, with over 35% (as of writing this article) of registered domains using it. There are other options available out there, including .org, .net, .edu, among others.
However, Swarowski explains that there are requirements for using certain TLDs.
"Some of them have certain restrictions. For example, to use ".edu," you need to have certain proof to show that you're an educator; for ".org," you may have to show that you're a nonprofit, while others are country-specific like ".uk," he said.
For your business website, however, ".com" remains one of the best options followed by “.net.” Because while Google maintains that extensions do not affect their algorithm, it does have an impact on public perception. Since ".com" is so popular, people tend to expect a website to have it. On the other hand, websites with extensions like ".pizza" might be perceived as fake or less secure.
Second-Level Domain (SLD)
The SLD is the domain that most people think of when thinking of their website. It's usually your company's name or a campaign name. If you use the example companyname.com, "company name" is your SLD, and ".com" is your TLD.
For your SLD, try to make it memorable and brandable to help make your website easier to find and remember.
Why is it important to Know About Domain Names?
Knowing about your domains will help you make better decisions when it comes to managing your organization's online assets. Whether you're still getting started with your website or you're migrating domain hosts for better annual rates, understanding its value is essential.
According to Swarowski, at the very least, "they just need to know it's important for their presence on the Internet," he said. "If you're gonna continue to run that business and own that name, you'd better make sure when the email comes through that says pay now to renew your domain, that you don't brush it aside," he added.
It could cause downtime for your online assets, or worse; you could lose ownership of your domain name. While some hosts will try to hold onto your name for you, if you keep failing to renew ownership, you could find it up for grabs.
"Sometimes, you have people who will snatch up your domain and then try to resell it to you for a profit. It can definitely present some risk if you don't catch it quick enough," Swarowski said.
Ready to Manage Your Domain Name?
You don't need to know all the intricacies of how your domain works to make good decisions. However, knowing enough to tell how important it is for your organization can mean the difference when it comes to maintaining a strong presence online.
At ITS, we've helped hundreds of businesses get a better handle on their technology. If you need a hand with domain migration and securing your online assets and domains, we can help. Find out what we can do for you by scheduling a meeting with one of our experts.