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How Do You Get a Domain?

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You will need a domain name if you want to have a website. Setting up a domain name is not difficult. Here is a primer to get you started.

What is a Domain?

domain or domain name is a pointer or identification string on the internet. It is generally a recognizable and memorable name, such as www.example.com. The domain name actually points to an internet protocol (IP) resource or numerical address. Humans don’t remember long numbers very well, so domain names are used instead. A uniform resource locator (URL) is the complete name for the individual pages on your website, i.e. www.example.com/index.html. If you type www.example.com in the address bar, the browser will display the index.html or home.html page by default. Just think of your domain as your website’s main address.

Choosing a Domain Name

A domain name is composed of several different levels. The levels read from right to left. The top-level domain (TLD) is the one on the far right. It is separated with a dot and could be something like .com, .net, .org, .edu, or .gov. This node represents the type of domain, such as commercial, network, organization, education, or government. There are a few other types available, but these are the most popular. The second-level node is the main part of your domain name, such as “example” from the domain I noted earlier. You can have additional nodes, all separated by a dot, for each of your sub-domains or sub-divisions. The last node represents the host server, i.e. www, FTP, or mail.

The name you choose for your domain is very important because it has significant value for your online brand-building potential, advertising, and search engine optimization (SEO). The name of your company, product, or services is often used in your domain name. Since there are so many domain names in use today, you may need to be a little creative with coming up with a domain name for your website. Larger companies sometimes pay a lot of money to obtain a particular domain from a reseller or domain owner. You may also want to register common misspellings of your name to keep others from misdirecting your traffic to their site. You can have these additional domains that redirect visitors to your primary site.

Domain names are not case sensitive. You can start each word with a capital letter if you like, but it doesn’t matter if you type capital or lowercase letters when typing the domain name in the address bar of a browser. You also want to make sure that the name you choose cannot be misread. Use a hyphen to separate the words if necessary. For instance, Who Represents, a database of artists and agents, initially chose whorepresents.com, which can be misread as whore presents. They decided to add a hyphen so now it reads who-represents.com.

Registering a Domain Name

The first step in obtaining a domain name is to find a domain registrar online, where you can purchase or lease a domain. Domain registrars are accredited by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), who oversees the name and number systems of the internet. They maintain the Domain Name System (DNS), a database listing all of the domain names on the World Wide Web. You can find information about the domain owner for any existing domain by using the WHOIS tool to query this database. You can use this tool to get an idea of what domain names you will be able to use. Some popular domain registrars include GoDaddy, BlueHost, HostGator, and Yahoo.

There is usually an annual fee for your domain name. Expect to pay about $20 or so. Know that each domain registrar may charge a different amount for the same domain name. If you find options that are low-cost, below-cost or have free domain registration, be aware that you may wind up with advertisements on your website as a part of these deals. Other options include a free domain name with web hosting services. Web hosting is where your website will reside on the internet. It is not necessary to host your website where you purchased your domain.

It is best for the owner of the business to register their own domain name as you will have more control. Although you can transfer the ownership of a domain name, both the current and new owners need to participate in the transfer. It is very important to keep good records of your ID and password as you will need them. ICANN has very strict rules about who is able to update or transfer the domain.

It is also important to make sure that you renew your domain name before it expires. If you don’t, your website could be removed from the internet, or someone else could purchase your domain name. Neither of these scenarios would be good for your business. I recommend using the auto-renew feature if one is available.

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