The Importance of your Domain Name
Ironically, the first step in making a website is what you would think should be the last one. A good analogy is to think of your domain name as your website’s birth certificate. Without your own birth certificate, you could not apply for anything such as a driver’s license. The same applies to your website. You will need your domain name to order hosting and to setup your email address. It is also used by all your internal website links and structure.
Own your domain
Just like a birth certificate, it belongs to you and you only. It is how you prove who you are. You should never register your domain name through your hosting company.
You wouldn’t let someone else hold your birth certificate and you shouldn’t let anyone else hold your domain name. Many people have run into trouble when their hosting company folds or they want to move to another host and find they have lost control over their domain name.
Your domain name is arguably your most important piece of the puzzle when it comes to your website. It defines who you are online and is how visitors and customers will find you. Losing control over it could destroy your business overnight.
It is vital that you register your domain name with a reputable domain registrar, to ensure you have ownership and complete control. The one I recommend is Namecheap, because they have free WHOIS protection. When you register a domain name, your personal details such as your name, address and phone number are publicly visible. WHOIS protection displays the registrar’s information instead, keeping yours private.
Which extension to use
As the image above shows, there are literally over 400 domain name extensions available, with more being added all the time. Choosing one is a mind boggling experience.
When the internet started, there were only 4 and they have become the industry standards:
- COM – For commercial sites
- NET – For non-commercial sites
- ORG – For organizations
- INFO – For informational sites
Of these, the COM extension has become the one people assume you are using. When you tell someone your domain name, people assume it ends in .com
This website uses the .club extension for obvious reasons, but I have also registered sharedhostingclub.com so people can find it that way too.
The reason why there are so many extensions to choose from is mainly because it became virtually impossible anymore to find a .com one that suited your domain name. Squatters register .com names to sell them at inflated prices. When searching for a .com name for your site at a registrar, you will very often find that even though yours is already registered, there is no actual website. The squatters are looking to make a profit by forcing you to buy it from them.
Very often you will find the .com is registered, but not the other main three. You could then use one of them, but you need to think about why the .com one is taken. Does it belong to a website that does what yours is about or is it simply owned by a squatter? Remember, people are going to assume you are using the .com extension. You don’t want your visitors going to a rival website.
If all four extensions have been taken, then you need to look at using one of the other 400.
Country specific extensions
A good alternative is to look for extensions specific to your country. For example, .com.au for Australia or .co.uk for Britain. You can very often find these sorts of extensions are still available when others are not. However, you may find restrictions have been put on who can register them by the country itself. You will need to check with your registrar.
Don’t be tempted to “mutilate” your name simply to get the .com extension. It very seldom works and makes it very difficult for visitors to remember. Even putting a hyphen in it such as, hosting-club.com is a stumbling block. Using an acronym such as shc.com will guarantee no one remembers it!
Some people go to absurd lengths to mutilate their domain name just to get the .com extension. It is not worth it. Your domain name must be easy to remember and it is far better to use another extension and a simple domain name. Search engines will find it soon enough so that people can find you on there.
You can also try using online domain name generators. These enable you to put in one or two of your most important words for your website and will come up with suggestions and whether they are available for registration. But be warned, they can become addictive!
Once you decide on a name, search for it on Google or another search engine. See what history it shows up. You may find it has been used before and has a bad reputation. You may even find it brings up hits for unsavoury sites you had never ever expected!
Write it down and look at it. Show it to someone else. Sometimes you or they will see something you missed when seeing it on a screen. For example, if you are a therapist offering services online, you might choose therapistonline.com but it can also be read as therapistonline.com
Linking to your website
Once you have chosen and registered your domain name, you then have to link it to your website hosting. You would have gotten a welcome email from me when ordering your hosting. In there, there are two lines called Nameservers that look like ns1.example.com and n2.example.com
These entries tell the internet where your domain is hosted and are entered at your domain registrar. You can add these at any time. Your registrar will create default ones until you specify the right ones. If you change your hosting company, you only need to change the Nameservers, which is why it is vital you have full control over your domain name.
Now you are ready to move onto the next step.