This post about Domains and how to choose the best one you can is second in a series about Building Your Site with WordPress.
When you have a product to sell, an idea to spread, or a cause to promote, then one tool you will use is a dedicated website. The purpose of this article (and the complete series of posts) is to explain how to build your WordPress website… step-by-step. First of all, it's about more than just your domain name.
What is Digital Real Estate?
When you own a website, you control a piece of digital "real estate." Let's call our websites' properties' because there are similarities between real estate and web properties.
Your website is a digital property you own and control entirely. It's a website, a blog, forum, podcast, or video channel you use to promote your ideas and sell your products. On your website, you are the king of the castle. You invest in the infrastructure. You call the shots. You're responsible for the results.
Notice I'm not talking about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other Social Media website. We're at their mercy. They can change everything about their site because they own it.
Ditto for sites that offer free hosting, WordPress.com or other free blogs, etc. These sites can be attractive for those on a limited budget. Just understand these sites make money by showing ads to the people who come to the website you host there. You don't have too much to say about the ads they display. They could even show an advertisement for your competition!
The reasons to own your web properties are apparent, Agreed?
What follows is general information, but we've got to start somewhere. For newbies, it pays to learn how the pieces all fit together and some of the jargon as you build your digital home – your website.
If you're an intermediate or advanced user, hang on… it's always good to review the basics. Who knows? You might find new information here.
What is a Domain Name?
Computers connected to the Internet use domain names to identify and find specific websites. Each domain name is unique and registered to only one person or organization.
Domain names are assigned an IP (Internet Protocol) address. The IP address is numerical. IPv4 is made up of four sets of numbers (0 to 255) separated by periods. IPv6 consists of eight sets of hexadecimal numbers.
IPv6 is the successor to the first addressing infrastructure of the Internet, Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4), which ran out of room for new addresses in 2015. Ipv6 address uses 128 bits as opposed to 32 bits in IPv4. Consequently, IPv6 has a vastly enlarged address space compared to IPv4 and is unlikely to run out of new addresses for a very long time. [Source]
Since it’s easier for humans to remember names vs. numbers, the Domain Name System (DNS) was created to link the domain name (words/numbers) to an IP Address (numbers). When you buy hosting, your website is uploaded to Web Servers at your Internet Host. Visitors can reach it by using either the IP address (numbers) or the Domain Name.
Like your home’s physical address, a domain name allows people to find your website easily. You want visitors to come to your site. The Domain Name System make it easier for people to find your website.
How to Choose Your Domain Name
One of the first things people notice about your website is your domain name, be sure you’re choosing a good one. Choosing the right domain name for your business can make the difference between being profitable or not. Taking the time to get the right domain name is time well spent.
Choose your domain name very carefully. Just like your company name, logo, or phone number, your domain name has marketing value for you. A poor choice here can doom your website.
Rand Fishkin says it better than I can in this post: 8 Rules for choosing an effective domain name. It's a post from 2016, but it is relevant today in 2019.
In the long run, if you get too cute, no amount of advertising, SEO (search engine optimization), or any other strategy will help you get consistent traffic. It's essential to get your domain name right. Here’s a good post from FitSmallBusiness on Choosing a Domain Name – 25 Tips from the Pros
Currently, there are more than 1.7 billion domain names in the registry. According to Internet Live Stats, there are more than a billion websites online. Not all of them are active. They are "parked," or unused domains or inactive for some other reason.
From one single website starting on August 6, 1991, to over 200,000,000 active websites now… Talk about an idea that caught on!
Did you know the Internet ran out of space in the summer of 2015? The good news is they have added more room.
Early on, 4.3 billion addresses were thought to be enough space, so IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) was made to handle that number of internet addresses. Today, in addition to desktop and laptop computers, there are tablets, smartphones, digital devices of all kinds, and now, the Internet of Things.
All these devices mean we have to have a bigger address book. IPv6 is it. It uses a more sophisticated address, so there is space for 340 undecillion addresses. That’s 340 followed by 36 zeros.
Here’s the thing… The Internet is a crowded place so…
How Do You Find Your Unique Domain Name?
It can be difficult, but recent additions of new top-level domains are helping. To get it right, you’ll still have to put your thinking cap on. A DotCom is still what many users default to when they think about going to a website. The popular .com is followed by .org, .co, and .net. For now, if you can find a .com that works for you, buy it.
Recently, many more top-level domain suffixes have been made available to use. There is .guru, .android, .bank, .creditcard, .fish, .marketing, .yoga, .zero and many, many more. See a complete list of top-level domains here. The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community breathed a sigh of relief when Google announced it treats all top-level domains equally for search purposes.
Using a domain name search can make finding just the right one a lot easier. All domain registrars have a domain search on their websites. All of them tell you if a domain name is available for use. Most of them will offer alternatives too. However, not all registrars offer every top-level domain for sale.
A caveat is needed here. You may want to avoid domains that are an exact match for the keywords you want to rank. Here’s Neil Patel’s take on finding a domain from this post on Search Engine Journal.
“Back in the day—2012 to be exact—Google noticed that a lot of websites were trying to improve their SEO by choosing exact-match domains. Back then, if you wanted to rank for “cheap Nokia phones,” no problem! You would just buy the domain, www.cheapnokiaphones.com, for a few bucks, and presto! You would win first-page ranking.
No backlinks. No quality content. Just raw SEO power!
In response, Google dropped a bombshell. It was called the Exact Match Domain Update.”
And in a nutshell, that ended that!
How Is Domain Name Structured?
Your domain contains several primary sections. Look at one of my web addresses:
- The 'rocksolidinfo' part is called a second or mid-level domain. It’s the part you get to choose.
- The “.com” suffix is known as a top-level domain (or occasionally the domain extension).
- The 'http://' or 'www.' represent machine names.
There is often confusion between the terms Domain Name, IP Address (IP), and Uniform Resource Locator (URL). First, Domain Names and URLs are different. They mean different things. Let me explain the differences.
A domain name is only part of a URL. The URL is much more detailed than a Domain Name, commonly including the specific page address, folder name, machine name, and protocol language.
https://www.rocksolidinfo.com/creative-commons-media-guide/ is an example of a URL.
The domain is rocksolidinfo.com. See the difference?
Keep in mind Domain Names, and IP Addresses are not the same. Domain Names are like nicknames. They’re meant to be easily remembered by humans. The actual technical address of a website is its IP Address, which is a number.
You can enter an IP Address into a browser’s address field, hit enter, and the web page represented by that specific number will display on your monitor.
What is a Domain Name Registrar?
A Domain Name Registrar is a company accredited by a private non-profit corporation known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN is responsible for assigning domain names and managing the Domain Name System.
The Registrar is the agent between you and ICANN. Most domains are relatively inexpensive. A secondary market for aged, premium, or abandoned domains. Some premium domains have sold for millions of dollars. cars.com is the most expensive domain ever sold... $872 Million! [Source]
Way back in the day, there was only one Domain Registrar, but today there are hundreds of choices. Three of the top registrars in the USA are:
- Always a Top Rated Registrar, and my recommended registrar - NameCheap.com
- An Oldie, as a matter of fact, the first, for domain registration - NetworkSolutions.com
- Google is also in the business of selling domains.
In the next section, you'll learn about how to buy your domains.
If you found this post helpful, please share it on your favorite social media site. To make it easy, here’s a link you can share https://www.rocksolidinfo.com/dom10.
This post was originally published on RockSolidInfo.com on October 5, 2013, under the title ‘Domains and Web Estate.’ The date of the last update: November 17, 2019
Photo credit: ivanpw via VisualHunt / CC BY