Getting Started with Domain Names Online
You may have heard the words “domain name” before, but not be exactly sure what it is. If you’re thinking of beginning a website, then learning about domain names is an important step. In truth, it is the very first step you need to take before you can get started.
In this article, we’ll look at some of your questions surrounding domain names. We’ll also try and clear up any confusion you might have regarding domain names. Let’s begin…
The Big Question: What Is a Domain Name?
Naturally, if you don’t know much about domain names, you’ll want to know what one is. A domain name is, simply put, the name of your website. Also known as a URL or web address, it is the name a user types to find your website.
For instance, if you wished to visit Google, then “www.google.com” would be the domain name.
Domain names are bought and created at several different websites. Each domain name will have an extension attached to it. In our example, the “.com” part of www.google.com would be the extension.
While it is terribly tempting to snap up a “.com” extension, you have other options – thousands in fact. They include: “.net”, “.org”, “.co”, “.info”, “.me”, “.biz”, “.us” and many more. Some are region specific, for instance, UK websites may use “.co.uk”, while Australian domains use “.com.au”, and French or Swedish sites use “.fr” and “.se”, respectively.
Unless you are planning on aiming your services at a specific market, there is no real need to opt for an extension which focuses on one country.
Do I Have to Pay for a Domain Name?
You will need to pay for a domain name. The cost of that domain can vary, depending on the extension you want, and where you purchase your domain name from. You should browse around for websites which sell domain names, to find one which is prepared to do the deal for a relatively low price.
Popular websites include GoDaddy and NameCheap. Domain names cost between $5 and £30 a year. Plenty of these sellers also have coupons and discount codes which may be worth using. Some may come with hosting (which is an entirely separate subject), website builders and other software. In this article, we’re only interested in the domain name.
What you want to stay away from are EMDs or Exact Match Domains. These are hugely expensive domains. They will typically belong to a brand and have been bought by others. Alternatively, EMDs cost large sums of cash for other reasons., such as…
Extensions: The most expensive domain names are those with a “.com” extension.
Popular Phrases and Keywords: Domain names which are based on popular phrases, or search keywords will often cost more than generic, personalized domain names, such as your own name. A domain with a popular keyword or name will instantly rank higher in search engines, hence the increased cost.
Previously Owned (expired): Domain names which were previously owned by someone who didn’t renew them may be bought by other people. If that domain name is a popular one, don’t be surprised if somebody snaps it up solely to sell it on at a higher rate. To get them to relinquish their domain name to you, you’ll have to pay considerably more than if you created your own domain name from scratch.
Potential: Domain names which could be used for a variety of purposes and consist of single words usually cost more than longer domain names. This is because there is likely to be more interest in them. A website such as “dog.com” could be used for any number of things. By contrast, “mymatesdogbrian.com” is likely to be far more specialized. If you want “dog.com”, expect a heftier fee to snap up the domain name. Before you ask, “dog.com” is already taken; we’re just using it as an example.
If you wish to obtain those domain names, you’ll need deep pockets. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to suggest you avoid that. Remember that when you decide to purchase a domain name, you must renew it every year (or buy a multi-year lease). If you don’t, somebody else surely will, and then you’ll have to pay them a large chunk to unlock what will likely now be an EMD.
Tips for Choosing the Perfect Domain Name
Choosing the right domain name takes time, and while you might be in a rush to get started, you should take your time. Naming your website can be as serious as naming your children. It is something which you’re going to have to stick with. It is not easy to change a domain name.
The biggest hurdle is likely to be that your desired name is already taken. Unless you fancy shelling out for an EMD, you’re going to need to come up with another. It needs to be something catchy, which will draw people in and says a lot about the site you’re trying to run. Here are some top internet tips for coming up with the perfect domain name.
1. Using Suffixes and Prefixes
If you’re set on calling your website “GameReviews.com”, you will likely find that the domain name is taken. Adding a suffix or prefix can work wonders, though. For instance, adding “Best” as a prefix, or “Online” as a suffix, so you get “BestGameReviews.com”, or “GameReviewsOnline.com” could lead to better results.
Of course, there are still likely to be other websites using those prefixes and suffixes, and this is where synonyms come in.
2. The Use of Synonyms
Using synonyms can be a way to get around that issues of suffixes and prefixes. For instance, let us say that you have tried “BestGameReviews.com” and nothing was available. What you could do is look for “Best” with “Top”. You might try replacing “Game” with something more specific, such as “RPG”, “FPS”, “RacingGame” or “ConsoleGame”, and “Reviews” with “Critiques”, or something similar. Toying around with combos such as these should give you plenty of options.
3. Word Structure and Manipulation
You can also tinker with word structure and manipulate words to get the desired result. Changing “Reviews” to “Review”, “Game” to “Games” and “BestGameReviewsOnline.com” to “BestOnlineGameReview” could do the trick. Play with plurals, too, as they give you more options.
4. Unique, Original and Inventive Branding
At the start, you probably won’t have too much of an idea of how successful your site may (or may not) go on to be. With that in mind, you need to make sure that your domain name stands out from any “potential” competitors.
Google and Yahoo are two excellent examples of this. They could, in theory, be about anything. That gives you wiggle room to change your mind about the focus of your site before you start. However, once your site is up, everyone will remember such a catchy name, and you can begin to build your brand.
Things You Want to Avoid When Choosing a Domain Name
While there are things that you’re going to want to learn to get the ideal domain name, there are also things you should avoid. Here are a few of those, too.
1. Scrap the Unsightly and Grammatically Incorrect
The use of numbers in domain names looks cheap and untrustworthy. For instance, many file-sharing and torrent sites use numbers as prefixes, because their previous domain was closed. Avoid the use of all numbers if possible as it gives off the wrong impression.
At the same time, hyphens are not easily remembered by visitors, so should also be left out. Finally, you’re going to need to ensure that you avoid misspellings. If you try and obtain a domain name which is remarkably like another by misspelling it, visitors will likely end up visiting the domain name which is spelt correctly. Obviously, that is something you don’t want.
2. Stay Away from Obscure Extensions
It is tempting to avoid the major extensions as they often cost more. However, going with bizarre extensions, such as “.biz”, “.me” or “.info” can give off the wrong impression. Many visitors associate these extensions with spam or dodgy sites. Think about the number of sites you bookmark and visit. How many of them have obscure extensions?
You can always choose to ignore this advice. After all, it is not your fault that people are skeptical of such domain extensions. However, if you wish to maximize your chances of landing hits, it is best to go with the tried and tested extensions. People are also more likely to remember those.
3. Avoid Copyright Infringement and Lawsuits
It is vital that you try and avoid copyright infringement and lawsuits wherever possible. One way of doing this is to avoid trademarked names. If your name is John Ford, you’re going to find it incredibly unfair that you can’t use “Ford.com”. Imagine the difficulty you’ll have if your name really is Harrison Ford.
American companies and celebrities, in particular, love to file lawsuits against any domain names which are even remotely similar to their brands. If your name is “Ford” for instance, and you run a garage or car repair service, you could find yourself receiving a C&D (cease and desist) letter. We agree that it is totally unfair, and it amounts to bullying. However, if you do decide to go with this route, try and make your website (and domain name) as different from the more popular brand as possible.
The trick is choosing a domain name (and running a website) which clearly identifies you and your product or brand as unique. This way, any cease and desist letters you receive can effectively be thrown in the bin, as most courts in the land will clearly be able to tell that you are in no way piggybacking off the more popular brand.
4. Avoid Misinterpretations as Much as Possible
Again, like the above section, you need to ensure that your website is clearly identifiable as yours and about you or your brand. You want to avoid misinterpretations.
If your name is Harrison Ford, and by coincidence, you’re an actor, don’t start a website called “HarrisonFord.com”, go for “HarryFord.com” instead. Alternatively, go for something wholly different, like “HarryFordActor.com”. Look at the Hollywood actor Harrison Ford’s website and make yours as different as possible. At the same time, perhaps even include a disclaimer on your homepage which separates you from your more popular namesake.
You probably get the point by now. Just make sure that you reinforce it. Your website should be about you and your brand. If you stay away from similarities with other brands and people, you can’t be accused of misleading visitors by misinterpretations.
Now You’re Ready to Roll
That’s all there is to it, really. You should now know a bit about domain names and extensions. You should also know how to maximize your chances of landing a hit domain name and avoiding the pitfalls of a bad one. Now just head over to a website selling domain names, get a pen and paper and start thinking of one which works for you. At the same time, start looking into web hosting and how you might run your site.