What are Domain Names and How Do I Get One?

DOMAIN NAMES, ICANN, AND HOW TO REGISTER A DOMAIN NAME

The goal of this page is to help you register a domain name, and to become much more knowledgeable about domains. Apart from Wikipedia (overly technical explanation), there is no clear explanation of what domain names are exactly. When you’re finished with this domain name tutorial you’ll be an expert on domains.

WHAT ARE DOMAIN NAMES AND WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?

Domain names are the web address of your website. They are made up of two parts, the actual name and the extension. Extensions are the .com, .org, .uk, .net, (and so forth) part of a domain name. Any domain with these extensions are known as “top level” domains.

Extensions have two real purposes:

1) Extensions help identify the purpose of a website.

For example, anything with a .EDU means an accredited academic institution. Anything with a .gov is a United States government agency. A .com is for commercial websites while a .net was created for a website that acted as a portal for a network of websites.

2) Extensions can also be for individual countries.

These extensions are called “country codes”. Examples would be .au for Australia, .de for Germany, .UK for the United Kingdom.

A list and explanation of all the Internet top level domains and country codes can be found here.

The Most Popular Extension is the .com

The most popular and universal top level domain name is of course the .com, and that’s the extension you should get. Don’t do weird top level domain names. I will always take a 2 or 3 word .com over a shorter .net, .org etc word. In practice most register a .net or .org because the .com version of the domain name they wanted was already registered. Start off right from the beginning and go with a .com. A .org does however work well with health terms. Registering a new .com will cost no more than $10 a year.

Premium Domain Name

You can also buy a “premium” domain name if you like. A premium domain name is a domain that is already registered by someone and has a lot of demand. For example, candy.com is a premium name – it’s specific and thousands of people want it and will pay top dollar for it.

You can buy premium domains at any registrar, but don’t spend any more than a few hundred dollars (and only if you have some money to spend and the domain you want is premium).

FAQ

Does a .net or .org hurt my search rankings? Does Google give preference to .com’s?

Simple answer is no. You can build a popular website with an extension other than .com, .com is simply the most popular and universal.

What about country specific domain names like .ca or .co.uk?

Simple answer is that it’s complicated. I would only go with a regional domain if my website was specific to that country or in that countries language. For example, if I was Thai and wanted to create a Thai language website about a specific topic I would ignore .com and go with .co.th, the extension for Thailand.

So it’s up to you. If I lived in Canada, but I wanted to blog about personal finance I would go with a .com any day over a .ca.

The what the heck is .co, .io, .tech and so forth?

Those are alternatives to a .com. The .com is now saturated and competitive with squatters buying up various .com’s and holding onto them with the goal to sell them at a higher price down the road.

In practice, .co is the cool kid on the block. It’s used as an alternative for a .com.

A .io domain name can be used for anything but you’ll most often see it used for software companies.

All the other extensions I would ignore. When was the last time you visited a .tech website? Not to say these extensions are bad. THEY ARE NOT. But for your first website I would go with a .com, .co, .net or a .org.

Should I register the .com, .net and .org of my domain name?

It might be a good idea to register all three so someone else can’t register your domain name with a different extension.

This does not happen though in actual practice unless you have a really popular brand.

It’s more useful for brand ownership when you have a proper business that is popular, not a small website no one has ever heard of. Also, copyright also comes into play. So if you see a business or brand using a .org or a .co or whatever, you can’t just go and register the .com and build a similar website.

You don’t have to do this, it’s not critical to your success but it’s something to keep in mind when registering your domain name, particularly the domain is brand focused and not generic (brand – GuitarSage.com / generic – PlayGuitarNow.com).

What is private registration for domains?

When you register a domain name your contact information is public. Something called a “WHOIS” search can be performed on your domain and anyone anywhere can find the details you submitted for your contact information.

Don’t like the idea of your contact details being public? That’s what private registration is for. It’s an extra fee on top of your registration fee that masks your details with a proxy company so when someone does a WHOIS search the proxy shows up instead of your information.

Is it worth it?

No, when you’re starting out it’s not necessary. The main question you should ask yourself is why do you need to hide your details? If you’re building out a legit site there should be no reason to hide your name and email. You should understand what private registration as it related to learning how to register a domain name, but otherwise don’t concern yourself with it at this point in time.

How much does this cost?

$11 a year for registration of each .com domain name extension at NameCheap. The price points for domain name extensions other than the .com are less (unless we’re talking .co’s in which those are more expensive as a means to detour squatters from registering domain names that they will simply hold on to).

Also, your cost is reduced if you register for longer than one year. That’s one of the reasons why you should consider registering for 2-3 years minimum in advanced. Not only does it demonstrate to search engines that your site is in it for the long haul – it saves you money.


LIST OF DOMAIN NAME REGISTRARS

NameCheap is of course not the only domain name registrar, there are plenty of others.

I like NameCheap because of their price points, reputation as a leading domain name registrar and their years of being in business. If you want to look into other domain name registrars no problem! ICANN maintains a list of ICANN-Accredited Registrars you can check out here.

GoDaddy or Namecheap? We suggest Namecheap 

Namecheap is simply cheaper, that’s why you should use them as your domain name registrar. Let’s take a quick look:

Namecheap is 8.48, with the “real” price being 10.98 a year.

GoDaddy offers a bigger discount, but their yearly prices are almost 15$!

To me it simply makes no sense to go with GoDaddy.

GET YOUR DOMAIN

  1. Go to Namecheap.com.
  2. Use the search box on Namecheap’s homepage and type in what you want your site to be called.
  3. The next page will be results based on what you  typed.
  4. You want to get a .com version of your domain because it’s the most common, popular, and well known extension.
  5. If your domain name is available then great! Follow the steps to check out and register your domain name.
  6. If it’s not available then try different word combinations or numbers.
  7. You will need to submit contact details for registrant, administrative, technical, and billing. Unless you’re a company, make it the same person – YOU
  8. Submit accurate contact information not only to verify ownership, but to get email reminders about renewing expiring domains you own.
  9. That’s it! Make sure you keep your log-in information and receipts of purchase in a folder on your computer as a way to stay organized 8)

Pro Tips

  • Stick to .com’s. Most only register a .net or .org because the .com version of what they wanted was taken.
  • If you’re building out a brand and the .com, .net, and .org extensions are available – consider registering all of them so someone else can’t use your domain name.
  • If you’re not going for a brand, then go for a keyword focused domain name based around something thousands of people are searching for every month like “DateAHotGirl.com”.
  • Make it something easy to spell, easy to say, and memorable.
  • Keep it to 3 words or less.
  • Ignore the up-sell’s until you understand your needs better.

You need to register your domain name somewhere and the two with the best prices are GoDaddy and Namecheap.

Namecheap has better prices than GoDaddy, and they really are a “less hassle” way of registering domains because they don’t upsell you on every single page. Also the user interface is more simple and easier to navigate. The only thing I like about GoDaddy is they offer a no question asked refund for the first 5 days of purchase. Namecheap gives you store credit.

Not a big deal if you’re certain about your domain name.

Useful Free Tools and Rules For Finding the Right Domain Name

Now that you know how to get a domain name, what domain name should you pick?

Get a Good Domain Name you can be proud of

My first website I ever started was called SuperAwesomeDating.com.

About as dumb a domain name as you can get. If you don’t have the right domain name THERE IS NO POINT IN STARTING.

A good domain name should be:

Descriptive

Descriptive names are best for content driven sites that provide specific information to solve a problem, or to educate. Example would be CreateaClickableMap.com. That’s  a great name for that service that does exactly what the domain name implies. It allows you to create a clickable map for your website.

Descriptive names are easy to come up with. Just take your keyword (your main word or phrase you would like to rank for in search engines. Example would be “create a clickable map,” a phrase that has some decent search volume) and use it in your domain in some way.

So If I wanted to rank for ESL English Teacher and I wanted a descriptive domain name I would go with something simple like ESLEnglishTeacher.com or ESLEnglishTeacherHQ.com etc.

Most of the time however I suggest branded domain names unless you’re creating a very specific service or you’re solving a specific problem.

Branded names are a bit more tricky. They need to be purposeful, original and concise. They need to be the essence of what your site is about. Otherwise there will be a disconnect between your products, services and content, and what your domain name actually is. Take a look at WebsiteCreativePro.com.

If you were to tell someone that domain name, would they get what it’s about? YES. Something about creating websites or a web design company.

Memorable

Domain names need to be memorable. Keep it as simple as you can be but also convey a sense of curiosity.

Use as few words as possible

Most 1 word domains are taken unless you simply make up something. Diply.com comes to mind. A single word that literally means nothing. It was created in 2013 and has grown into the fastest growing website to date.

Easy to repeat

People won’t remember your domain name if it’s not easy to repeat. You don’t care so much that people won’t repeat it to other people. What you’re more concerned is about people repeating it to themselves in their head.

Straight forward spelling

TwoApples.com or 2Apples.com?

Wait, or is it Two-Apples.com?

Using numbers, words with different spellings, hyphens and even weird domain extensions cause confusion. Avoid this.

Here are some tools to help with branded domain names (or descriptive domain names)

Name Boy – A domain name generator

Instant Domain Name Search – Tells you if a domain name is available as well as alternatives. A great example of a “descriptive” domain for a website that has a singular service.

 Panabee – A domain name generator

Domain Groovy –  A domain name generator

Lean Domain Search – A domain name generator

Domainr.com – A domain name generator

NameStation.com – A domain name generator

GoSpaces.com – A domain name generator

Shopify Name Generator – A domain name generator

Impossibility – A domain name generator

How to use a domain name generator

If you know for sure what keyword you want to use in your domain name then use these generators as a way to give you ideas. Keep going until you find something you like. If you don’t care about a specific keyword, pay attention to word combinations that you like and think you could leverage and apply to your own website.


ICANN is the abbreviation for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

So why the heck do I need to use GoDaddy or Namecheap in the first place? Why do I have to use this middle man? It’s because of ICANN.

ICANN is the non profit private organization responsible for managing top level domains and unique identifiers for each site. This coordination and management of ISP’s and domain names allow a uniqueness to exist so computers can know where to find what. Without this coordination we would not have a global Internet…so yea, ICANN is kind of a big deal.

ICANN is responsible for managing top level domains, but they don’t allow registration of domains through them directly– you need to either go through an “ICANN Certified” domain name registrar like Godaddy or NameCheap. You can also go through an affiliate partner site of an ICANN Certified domain name registrar.

It’s best to simply make your purchase through the certified domain name registrar as any affiliate partner site MUST increase their prices over the registrar to make a profit.

If you purchase your domain name through your web host, they will increase the price on your domain name. So while a lot of hosts offer a “free” domain, it’s only free at first, then you’ll be paying an inflated price. This is why in all WebsiteCreativePro Tutorials we instruct you to purchase your domain name at NameCheap.com as they offer the best prices.

The Important Parts of a URL Your Should Know

Now that you know how to get a domain name and a general idea of what a domain name is, let’s dissect some url’s and give you some definitions and meanings so you understand what people mean when they speak this web jargon 😎

http://

This part is called the “protocol”. Other common protocols are htpps and ftp.

blog.website.com

In this url “blog” is the name of the sub domain for website.com.

Common examples of sub domains are  maps.google.com and so forth. Sub domains are made ideally for different products and services your website offers that are different from the main website.

Also, sub domains act as a mini websites all on their own.  When you set up a sub domain on a domain you own it’s similar to starting a whole new website.

One of the most common uses of sub domains is to install forum software on a sub domain so you end up with something like forums.digitalpoint.com.

forums.website.com/faq

The “faq” is a web page found within the sub domain website (not on the main website).

website.com/faq

“FAQ” is a web page on a website.

website.com/blog/parts-of-a-url

In this instance blog, is not a web page, it’s a directory. Specifically, it’s called a top level directory.

Facebook.com

Facebook is the domain name.

website.com

The “.com” is the top level domain (TLD). TLD’s can also be specific country codes as well like .co.uk or .us.

So can you explain:

 http://en.ilovecoffee.jp/posts/view/29 

for me?

  • http:// is the protocal.
  • en is the sub domain.
  • ilovecoffee is the domain name.
  • .jp is the TLD, in this instances it’s the country code for Japan.
  • /posts/view: “posts” are the top level directory and “view” is the second level directory.
  • /29 is the name of the web page.

Understand? Yes you do because you’re smart 🙂

So what we have here is a Japanese language site/blog about coffee with a sub directory called “en” for any English language published content. This is the ideal use of sub domains (e.g. content that is different from the main site, in this instance the main site is in Japanese).

Domain Name Jargon

No industry is complete without it’s jargon!

DOMAIN NAME TASTING

This was a popular practice before 2008, and has all but vanished as of 2009 thanks to some stiff penalties imposed by ICANN.

Domain name tasting is and was the practice of buying a domain name, setting up a web page with ads (or redirecting it to another website) and using that domain for a short time (the grace period) to test the potential marketability for that domain name.

Once the 5 day grace period was over, if the site performed well you would keep it. If not you would ask for a refund of your money.

This practice has come to an end because ICANN only allows registrars to rescind 10% of their registrations now. This is fine for the average person. The grace period exists because fundamentally you should be able to return something you bought. It’s also for the instances where you spell your domain name wrong, or change your mind or whatever.

Where it went bad was people taking advantage of the grace period by buying hundreds of domain names a year and refunding most of them.

DOMAIN NAME KITING

The act of registering a domain name, holding onto it for the grace period, then returning it before the grace period is up, only to re-register it again and getting a new grace period.

DOMAIN PARKING

You register a domain name. You don’t do anything with it. You just register it. No website, no email, no nothing. This is what domain name parking is. Domain parking is a common practice particularly if you want to secure a specific domain name BUT don’t have the time to build a site for it yet.

DOMAIN MASKING

This is when you mask or hide the actual domain URL from the web browser. An example for Website Buddha would be that NO MATTER what page you clicked on (about, faq, domain names etc) it would always say WebsiteBuddha.com in your web browser. Want a live example? This real estate site uses domain masking. Pay attention to your web browser and how the UR does not change.

How this is used

People use masking as a way to forward their unused domain names to a built site. The real estate world is common for this.

Real estate companies will build domain specific sites for homes or properties. Once those properties are sold, the domain becomes useless. With domain masking you could then forward that domain to  another property listing or website. Rinse and repeat. The advantage is you can have many domain names all ranking in Google that when clicked on forward to a website (but without changing the URL in the browser).

So to put it another way, you can end up with multiple domain names ranking in Google. Each one without a website of its own (as it forwards to a website).

DOMAIN TRANSFER

The process of moving a domain name from one registrar to another. Here is an article where the term is used.

DOMAIN FORWARDING

The practice of having one domain send you to another. This is very important and used in a few different ways:

  • People tend to own the .net and the .org version of their sites so they like to forward these to the .com version. Type in WebsiteBuddha.net or .org and you are forwarded to the .com.
  • Another use is picking the preferred version of the domain. So is ithttp://www.websitebuddha.com or https://websitecreativepro.com? You need to pick one version and have the other one forward to the one you picked.
  • Lastly, it’s used over media. If your product was found at website.com/ProductName you could register a domain name for your product and have it forward to the page on your website. This makes it easier to drive traffic when speaking in a video or over a pod cast.

DOMAIN NAME SQUATTING (cybersquatting)

Domain squatting is when you actively seek out in bad faith to register domain names of potentially popular, copyrighted products or brands in the hopes that you will be able to sell that domain name back to said company or brand at an inflated price. This is illegal to do in the United States.

You can also lock and unlock domain names! What? Yep! Read on.

  • What is a locked domain name?
  • What is an unlocked domain name?
  • Is this free or a premium feature?
  • How do I do this?

What is a locked domain name?

A “locked” domain name is simply a specific status status your domain name registrar applies to your domain name. The reason anyone would want to “lock” their domain is because the lock status prevents unauthorized, unwanted, or even accidental changes to the domain name in question.

What is an unlocked domain name?

A domain name that can be modified. For example, if you registered your domain name with Blue Host or Host Gator and now want to move that domain name to a proper domain name registrar. The domain name status would need to be “unlocked” in order to do this.

Is this a free or premium feature?

It’s a free additional security measure domain name registrars offer.

How do I do this?

Your domain name registar should have a free guide on this, otherwise simply contact support.

Setting Up Nameservers for your domain name

I’m assuming you’re actually going to want a website and not simply a domain name. Just because you registered a domain name does NOT mean you have a website. For that you’ll need to purchase a shared hosting account and then connect the two. I explain this step in great detail in all Website Creative Pro Step 1 to done tutorials.

Let’s get to it:

You registered a domain name at Namecheap.com!

You signed up for a shared hosting account (baby plan) at HostGator.com!

….well now what?

This is the part that answers that fundamental newbie question: How do I make it so I can type in whatever.com and up comes a website?

The answer is name servers.

Every single online tutorial I’ve seen online tells you to register your domain name with your web host. This is a terrible idea because you end up paying a marked up  price when compared with registering at a domain name registrar.

I suggest you have a hosting account and an account with a domain registrar. My favorite is Namecheap.com.

Why do tutorials online do this? Because it’s easier to explain and demonstrate in a video. But is it better for you? No! Connecting your domain name to your hosting account is as simple as a copy paste job. Here’s how to do it.

You need to set the name servers at your domain name registrar (Namecheap) to that of your name servers at Host Gator. Relax, it’s actually very easy.

Name server?

Name servers, (typical form is something like – ns1.HostGatorRocks.com and ns2.HostGatorRocks.com) map an IP address to a more logical and memorable name. Much the same way your phone maps names to numbers so when you want to call Mike, you just select “Mike” in your phone.

This is why you can type in WebsiteCreativePro.com and come to this website instead of having to type in the IP address of every website you want to visit.

Think you have a lot of phone numbers?

Imagine having to type into your web browser 66.249.95.255 every time you wanted to visit Google!

The second thing they do is map computer systems and resources on the Internet. In other words- all your data and files on Host Gator to a corresponding IP address and website name. Which again is why you are able to type in Stupid.com and up pops a website.

When anyone access your site what is really going behind the scenes is the person is sending a request to your server via the IP address and name server for the corresponding information and data. Depending on the distance from the server as well as the quality of the web host and Internet speed determines how fast that web page loads.

Make sense?

In a nut shell that’s what name servers are and do.

So let’s set up that name server

  • 1) Go back to Namecheap.com and log-in if you have logged out.
  • 2) Click “my account” button on the far right of the screen. There will be a drop down.
  • 3) Click on manage domains.
  •  4) Click on the domain name that you want to change the name servers for.
  • 4) Click on “transfer DNS to Web-host” in the left hand sidebar under “general”. It will take you to a new screen.
  • 5) Now look and make sure “Specify Custom DNS Servers (Your own DNS Servers)” is selected.
  • 6) Change name server 1 and name server 2 (literally 1. and 2.) to the name servers provided to you by Host Gator. Just copy and past the details from the email – ns1 goes with name server 1 and ns2 goes with name server 2.
  • 7) Click OK and you’re done. It takes about 2 hours for changes to take effect. If you have trouble contact the staff at Namecheap – they provide great support.

So in this example:

email registration host gator

Nameserver 1 is ns3595.hostgator.com and Nameserver 2 is 3596.hostgator.com. You just plug these two numbers in.

Where? Well in your Namecheap account just go here:

Super easy. Navigate to this page –

That’s it. Simply copy past your nameservers from Host Gator. Done!

Buying and Selling Domain Names

To  finish off this massive guide, let’s talk about buying and selling domain names.

You can register a domain name obviously, but if the domain name you want is already registered and not in use you may have to make an offer to who ever owns the domain name to purchase it.

In the domain world, some domains are worth well more than others. It’s a lot like online real estate. Imagine how wealthy you would be if you registered onlinerealestate.com or sex.com or cellphones.com, ringtones.com, or even blue.com back in the 1990′s or early 2000′s.

You would be a multi-millionaire.

We covered already the process for registering (or buying) domain names – so how do you ago about selling a domain name?

Well, selling a domain name you already registered is only an option if it’s a short, memorable, valuable domain name. Who determines that?

The market.

When these types of domains go back on the market for sale by owner they are referred to as premium domain names.

Premium domain names are things like brickovenpizza.com or crushable.com (now a website). They are words or phrases previously registered that are now for sale at a much higher price by the owner.

How to sell your domain name

There are 4 main ways to sell your domain.

1) Build a portfolio website showcasing the domains you own, how much you will sell them for, and provide a way for someone to make an offer to you.

2) Create an account on Sedo, Godaddy or Namecheap (as they have huge audiences) and list your domain name for sale in auction there.

3) Market to a specific person, group, or company you think would be interested in buying your domain name. A good example would be that you have a domain name that’s regional like BeautifulTexasRealestate.com. Find a company in the state of Texas to buy your domain name.

4) Your buyer will find you. If you have a unique enough and in demand enough domain name, someone somewhere will contact you looking to purchase.

Investment

Making a living from buying and selling domain names is only an option if you already have money as domain names worth any significant value are very, very high priced. Regardless, if you do have quite a bit of cash to spend, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a few expensive domain names. Hold onto them for a few years and sell them for a much higher profit.

Though nothing is guaranteed. You could spend thousands of dollars on a domain name and never turn a profit, or you could be like Amy Schrier who bought Blue.com back in 2002 for around $65,000 and sold it to a private investor for $500,000 in 2006.

It’s a lot like a lotto ticket, except the odds are better 8-)

Buying domain names

We cover the technical side of registering as well as the branding vs keyword focused domain here. Let’s cover now WHAT exactly constitutes an objectively good domain name.

  • Get the .com. The .com is the most widely accepted and understood domain extension.
  • Shorter & simpler is better – Make it easy to remember.
  • Only ONE possible spelling
  • No hyphens – <—that  is a hyphen. Only use hyphens if you need to. An example would be a domain name that looks weird when the words are together or if you have a brick and mortar business and someone already registered your domain name (without the hyphen).
  • Keyword rich – It’s always a good idea to have a keyword in your domain name. If you’re selling tea for example, the website teavana.com is a clever playoff the word tea.
  • Avoid number substitutions – 2 for two (or to, too -again only ONE spelling as it gets confusing). 4 for four (or for). There are exceptions though where it works. Just be careful.
  • Don’t use the number 0 – it looks like the letter o.
  • Slang is not cool – use correct English as slang is regional and can become dated.
  • Type in traffic – Do people naturally type your domain name into there browser? Like if I wanted to go to stupid.com just to see if stupid.com exists THAT’S type in traffic. Cellphones.com gets plenty of type in traffic.
  • Copyright – don’t infringe on someone else’s domain name.
  • Easy to understand – does your domain convey the essence of what your site is about? Do people have some clue as to the content of the site just by hearing the name? It does not need to convey perfectly but it does there does need to be a connection. E. g. dodocase.com = ? some type of case for something…let me check…ohhh an IPad case.
  • Jargon – using jargon is a clever way to get your right people to your site. Most won’t get it and understand it, but those who do will.
  • Easy to type- make your domain easy to type in to search engines and web browsers so visitors can return to your site.

Think carefully about what domain name you want to register. Once you decide on a domain name, think it over a bit before registering and get feedback on the name from people you trust.

Conclusion

There is a lot more to a domain name than meets the eye. But hopefully if you’ve made it this far (and actually read the material!) you should have a strong grasp as to the most common questions with domain names: What are domain names, how do I get a domain name, how do you register a domain name and so forth.

So you should be ready to register your domain name. Head over to Namecheap and get started.

Do you have and tips or advice for coming up with clever domain names? Let me know in the comments below!