Perhaps the first thing to do before designing a new website is to think about choosing a domain name. A domain name often called a web address is the alphanumeric address of a website often proceeded by the letters www which stands for world wide web. Sometimes you’ll find people refer to a domain as “URL” which stands for universal resource locator and means the same thing.
Top Level And Regional Domains
First of all let me give you a little bit of background into why domain names exist. Every computer connected to the internet such as the hosting companies (on whos computer your website will live) has a number called an IP address. This will look something like 85.455.35.44 Imagine then how difficult it would be to memorise a websites IP address! Instead, we have domain names which are pointed at the IP address associated with the website. Domain names are easier to remember than just a long number.
Originally we had top level domains such as this website which is on a .com domain. A .com is considered as being a top level domain and for commercial use. To be honest the domain market became a bit messy a few years on as domain names that were intended for use by non commercial entities became desirable due to the shortage of short keyword rich domain names that had already been taken by others. Today we have hundreds of available domains such as .com, .net, .info, .org and then country specific domains such as .uk for the United Kingdom, .fr for France and so on. You can see the full list of domains on Wikipedia.
If you’re planning a website that will be aimed at a regional audience such as the United Kingdom then I’d always advise to go for a specific country domain so in this case .co.uk or in the case of France .fr etc. If, however, you want to aim worldwide then you may want to consider a non country specific domain such as .com (technically USA but considered “the” top level domain, you could also use a .net .info and quite a few others.
Keyword or Branded Domain Name?
This is an argument that has been debated heavily without a conclusion. I have discussed it at length on another website in the past. Essentially, if you have, or intend to have a strong brand then I’d always advise that you use that as your domain name. So if for instance you were launching a new snack bar called “Yummy” then you’d be better in the long run to use yummy.com instead of snackbar.com as your domain name.
An argument still exists however for those businesses that are local and who don’t have a strong brand, maybe that are in a competitive niche and who will rely solely on people searching generically. For instance, a hairdresser in London may get a benefit from using hairdresser-london.com (or .co.uk) as a domain. This is the sort of key phrase that potential clients would enter as a search term when looking for a hairdresser in the London area. It’s worth pointing out that such domains, i.e. ones with keywords in them, were often used to gain an advantage in the search results. Google tweaked its algorithm late in 2012 to change the “weight” given to exact match domain names. This hasn’t, as some may think, rendered such names useless. What it has done is removed the advantage that websites containing poor or scraped content once enjoyed.
What that means essentially is that websites with good original content that have an exact match domain name still enjoy good search engine placement whilst the poor websites with minimal, poor, or unoriginal content have had their advantage taken away. We’ll talk more about the importance of good content later on. In fact we’ll cover it in great depth on and ongoing basis in future articles. For now however, let’s stick with the domain name.
Buying A Domain Name
Technically you don’t buy a domain name, you rent it. They need renewing every few years and it’s relatively inexpensive to do. Once you have a domain name then it’s yours for as long as you want it (and continue to pay the renewal fees) and you can actually sell it. Some domain names sell for millions such as sex.com which if you do a Google search for the name you will see that it has been sold several times and also has been the subject of a 65 million dollar court case! Normally however you can obtain a domain name for just a few pounds or dollars depending on your local currency.
I’ve found that I’m better buying .com domains etc from a provider in the USA and any country specific domain names from a registrar in the Country to which the domain relates. To give you an example, for any .com, .info, .org domains I use GoDaddy who not only seem to be the cheapest for those domains but also provide excellent service. For .co.uk and other UK domains I always use 123-reg who again seem to be the cheapest but also are incredibly easy to use. Bear in mind I only use these companies for domain names and not for hosting, I’ll speak more about that later. Go ahead and click the links, each of the companies have a free domain search tool so you can check if your preferred domain name is available. Once you’ve decided and bought a domain name then move onto the next section Choosing how to build a website. Alternatively, in lesson three, I recommend a hosting package that also includes a free domain name!
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