What is a domain name and why do you need one?

Domain names, along with hosting, are a key ingredient to any website whether it be an ecommerce one or not, find out exactly what they are and why they are important.

Domain names, or domains for short are unique identifiers which all Internet users use to locate your content.

They are tied to something called an IP address which can be thought of as a telephone number for the Internet. All devices attached to the Internet need a unique IP address and they are a part of the fundamental communication system that makes the Internet work.

Technically you could access a website with just an IP address (depending on how it’s hosting server has been configured), however as IP addresses are just series of numbers and dots (123.456.789.012) they are not memorable or user friendly.

Therefore the need for friendly domain names.

A domain name is made up of three main parts: the extension, main domain name, and sub-domain.

Domain Extensions

An example of a domain extension would be ‘.com’, ‘.org’, or ‘.net’.

Originally extensions represented the type of website to be found, a ‘.com’ was designated for a company and ‘.org’ was for organisations.

Now a days this has pretty much gone out of the window and due to the massive popularity of the Internet many further domain extensions have been introduced to cope with demand, examples of relatively new extensions would include ‘.info’ or ‘.mobi’.

Also, countries have their own domain extensions, in the UK the popular one is ‘.co.uk’, France have ‘.fr’

Main Domain Names

The section of a domain name directly before the extension is what somebody chooses to call themselves, for example this is the ecommerceblog.co.uk and it’s obvious why I selected that for this site.

Again, due to how popular they are it can be difficult to find your preferred domain name and extension combination still available.

You are free to select any domain name available for registration.

Sub Domains

These are standard domains which have been further sub divided into other web sites or services.

For example I could create a subdomain of this blog called articles.ecommerceblog.co.uk and put a completely different website on it. This is easy to do and can be useful in certain scenarios.

What many people don’t realise is that the ‘www’ part of many domain names is actually a sub domain and stands for ‘World Wide Web’. It is actually more of a convention than anything else and many sites choose to operate without using the ‘www’ part.

Buying a domain name & costs

To register a domain name you need to use the services of a registrar, there are many to choose from and they allow you to check domain name availability and pay for them.

When ordering a domain name you are not actually buying it, you are simply leasing it for a set amount of time.

During this time you have the exclusive use of the name and nobody can take it from you, towards the end of the registration period you get the sole rights to renew for a further time period to ensure that the name continues to represent you or your business.

Costs for registration are relatively cheap but do vary depending on the domain extension you have selected.

Typical costs for a ‘.com’ are £10 per year, ‘.co.uk’ comes in around £6 for 2 years with others having various price points and registration lengths in and around those examples.

The domain I want has already been registered by someone else

You will find this a lot when looking for a new domain name. There are ways to purchase domains that have already been registered. I will cover the ways to do this in a future post.

Domain Name Tools & Resources

Ajaxwhois.com – Free instant domain name checker, a really quick way of finding available domain names. Tip – on the right hand side where it says ‘My preferred extensions’ click ‘edit’ then add ‘,.co.uk’ (without the quotes) to get it to search through UK domain names as well.

123-Reg.co.uk – Domain name registrar who I have used for years, there fees are fairly standard and they often have offers on. The control panel to access and manage your domains is fairly powerful but easy to use.

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