What is a Domain Name and How to Choose a Domain

Establishing your online presence has become a key aspect to legitimizing your business or brand on the internet. While there are several options to consider like social media or third-party publishing platforms, setting up a fully functional website provides a unique space for you to make your mark on the internet. The first step to creating a website begins with your domain name which is how visitors are introduced to your business or brand online. Domain names remain the online business card that can strengthen your online presence while allowing people to understand who you are and what you are offering.

What is a Domain Name 

All websites on the internet are made up of a unique combination of numbers and characters called the Internet Protocol (IP address) which determines how they are accessed from any device or location. Since the IP address can be difficult for any one person to remember, the domain name replaces the numbers and characters with a word-based format that is easier for users to remember. A domain name is the web address that a user types into the web browser in order to get to your website. Instead of the random mix of numbers 77.521.11.1 that represents your IP address, a user will type in www.yourwebsite.com and the “yourwebsite” portion of that address is your domain name.

How Domains Work

Before you can start creating your website, it’s important to understand what a domain name is and how it helps users find your website. When you enter your domain name in a web browser it sends a request to a global network of servers known as the Domain Name System (DNS). Your web host then forwards that information to a web server where your website is stored and the bits of information appear on your computer. When a user is ready to start a website, they are required to have a web host that can house their site. While a domain name represents your distinctive footprint on the internet, your web host is where your website lives.

A domain name should be unique, searchable, and reflect your site’s purpose. There are endless options to consider when selecting a domain name, but whether it’s for personal or business use, it should always be authentic and original. When you are considering a domain name think of keeping it short, catchy, and easy to type into a search browser. Think about the most important features of your brand or business and try to incorporate any keywords, phrases, or words into your domain name to make it distinguishable.

Getting Creative With TLD’s

As the internet continues to grow and make room for more websites, there have become more options to get creative with your domain name extension. A domain name extension can appear as the “dot” that follows your domain name such as bluehost.com. Top-level domains (TLDs) such as .com, .org, .edu, or .net are another feature of your website name that can strengthen your online presence. The availability of TLDs has expanded so users have more opportunities to get creative with their domain names by including extensions like .us, .biz, .blog, .tech, and more!

Using a top-level domain can give a user more flexibility to describe what their website is about and can include different pricing options depending on their web host. If you are wanting to target a specific country or region, top-level domains also offer the option to incorporate a geographic location like .co.uk or .us. You should always consider the popularity of a TLD and make sure it’s helping to improve your online presence and not alienating potential visitors. Once you’ve determined a TLD that aligns with the vision for your website, it’s time to register your domain.

How to Choose Your Domain

Now that you have a domain name, the next step is to find out if it’s been registered or claimed by someone else on the internet. Checking your domain name availability is an important step to creating your website because it can help determine if you need to explore other options for your domain name. If a domain name is already in use by someone else on the internet, you won’t be able to use it even if the website is not currently active

While you can do a quick web search for your domain, you can use a domain name generator that can determine whether your domain name is currently in use before you register it. The great aspect of domain name generators is that they can also provide creative alternatives if your domain name is unavailable.A few options to consider if your domain name is already registered to another person is changing the spelling, extension, or using a different word combination.

What is a Subdomain

Another option to consider when you are selecting a domain is creating a subdomain. A subdomain is an additional part or prefix that is added to your main domain name. Subdomains are used to organize and navigate to different sections of a website which can make it more accessible for users. You can create multiple subdomains for such as: blog.yourwebsite.com, mail.yourwebsite.com, store.yourwebsite.com. “Yourwebsite,” would be your primary domain name and then the subdomain would be the “store, blog, mail, etc.”

Why You Shouldn’t Let Your Domain Name Expire

After you select and register your domain name with a web host, it’s very important to keep track of your annual renewal date so your domain doesn’t expire. When you register your domain name with your web host, you’ll be asked to select a term that can range from one, three, or five years and then you’ll pay the required fees for the term you select. You can never “buy” a domain name in the traditional sense, you are paying for the use of your domain based on the term of your contract. If your domain isn’t renewed with the appropriate time it could expire and become available for other people to use it. 

When you are creating your website, selecting a domain name that authentically represents your business is the first step to helping build authority for your brand. Domain names can help give you control over your online identity and build confidence for visitors who are interested in your brand. Don’t forget to get creative with your domain name options and allow yourself to be flexible with incorporating a TLD which can help your website stand out from the crowd.

Desiree Johnson
Desiree Johnson | Content Specialist
Desiree Johnson is a Content Specialist at Bluehost where she writes helpful guides and articles, teaches webinars and assists with other marketing and WordPress community work.

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