Domain Names: What You Need to Know
Did you know that domain names have been available for over 30 years? That’s 10 years before I even learned about the internet!
You probably don’t need to know that, but if you have a business and/or a website, there are facts about domain names that you should know. In this post, I share answers to some of the questions I’m asked most often.
What is a domain name and why do I need one?
A domain name is the name that identifies a Website, e.g. janetbarclay.com. Without a domain name, your website address will look something like 126.96.36.1999/~yourname, which is ugly and next to impossible to remember, or yourname.wordpress.com, which is only slightly better.
Having your own domain name is important for branding.
Prospective clients might hesitate to deal with someone who doesn’t have enough confidence in their business to invest in something as affordable as a domain name.
How can I get a domain name?
To register a domain name, you need to go through a domain registrar such as MyDomain or GoDaddy. Many domain registrars also offer website hosting, but you don’t need to purchase both services from the same company. There are both advantages and disadvantages to keeping them together, but that’s a topic for another day.
How much do domain names cost?
Domain name registration usually costs $10.00 to $15.00 and must be renewed annually.
Watch out for hosting companies who tempt you with free domain registration when you host with them. One of my clients wanted to move her site to a faster hosting service, but learned that her domain name belonged to her web host, not her! Domain registration is relatively inexpensive, so don’t cheap out!
What happens if I don’t renew my domain name?
It’s important that your domain registrar has your current contact information so you receive your renewal notice on a timely basis. I recommend that you use an email address that’s not connected to your domain, because if it does expire, they won’t be able to contact you.
If you don’t pay your renewal fee, your domain registration will expire. There’s a grace period of 30 days, but after that, it becomes available to anyone else who wants it.
How should I choose a domain name?
A domain name which corresponds to your business name will make it easy for people who already know about your business to find your website, but only if it’s easy to spell and remember. It’s quite a mouthful to say, “my website is at annmariewilsonclothing4children.com” — and just try and fit that on your business card!
If you’re a solopreneur, I recommend registering your personal name, even if you also have a business name. For starters, people are more likely to remember you than the name of your business. Secondly, I can’t even count the number of people I know who have changed their business name or direction since they started (myself included). Using your own name right from the get-go makes that type of transition much easier.
If your ideal domain name isn’t available, think hard about what else might be effective. Using hyphens to separate words is one option, but keep in mind that you’ll have to mention those hyphens every time you tell someone your website address.
Do some brainstorming with your business coach, accountability partner, or a colleague.
Should I get a .com domain, or something else?
The most common extension is .com, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to secure a good .com domain. Many Canadians use .ca, either because .com with their preferred name was already taken, or to make it clear that they are a Canadian business. Other countries have similar domain extensions, but .us has not caught on nearly as well.
There are over 1000 other TLDs (top level domains), with new ones being introduced every year. KeriLynn Engel wrote a great article outlining the pros and cons of the different options.
How many variations do I need?
Because domain names are so inexpensive, many business owners register several variations to ensure that they’re not available to competitors. You can also register several options and only renew the one(s) you end up using.
What is Domain Privacy and do I need it?
Information about all registered domains are listed in the WHOIS database. Having your contact information publicly accessible may expose you to unwanted phone calls and emails. If you use your home address, you might even be at risk for identity theft.
Before you jump into a decision, consider whether this information is readily available on your website or elsewhere. As soon as you publish your email address and phone number online, you’re going to get spammed anyway. It’s an unfortunate fact of life on the internet.
What’s the oldest domain name?
The first domain registered was symbolics.com, on March 15, 1985.The Symbolics Computer Corporation is no longer operating, but the website has some interesting historical information.
Did I miss anything?
If you have any other questions about domain names, please let me know.
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