From third party publishing platforms to Facebook pages and groups, internet users have many options for establishing an online presence without a domain of their own. Whether you’re starting a personal blog or building a business, owning your own domain name is a smart move that puts you in control of your brand and the content you create on the web. If you have ever asked yourself, “Why do I need a domain name?”, the experts at Bluehost are here to help. This guide will cover the importance of a domain name, what it is, and why you need one if you want to start a successful website.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is an online address that offers a user-friendly way to access a website’s true online locator: its Internet Protocol (IP address). The IP address is a unique string of numbers and other characters that are used across the Internet to access websites from any device or location. But the IP address is hard to remember and type correctly, so the domain name represents it with a word-based format that is much easier for users to handle. When a user types a domain name into a browser search bar, the browser uses the IP address it represents to access the site.
Domain names consist of a unique name chosen by the user and an extension, such as .com, .net, or .org, that designates the site’s Top Level Domain. If you have a name in mind, you can check the domain name availability through one of the many domain name checkers available through domain registrars and web hosting providers. Because each domain name must be unique, you can’t use a name that’s already taken, but with many new TLDs currently available, you can choose from a number of combinations to get the right domain name for your new site. It’s even possible to buy an existing domain name from its current owner, or from a marketplace or domain auction site that brokers unwanted or unused names at varying prices.
Depending on the name you choose, buying and registering a domain name can cost as little as $10 USD or as much as thousands of dollars for a sought-after existing name. New, unusual TLDs like .me or .bio can cost more than the familiar .com or .net, too—but these extensions may be the perfect option for expressing your brand in the most vivid way. Once you have a unique name in mind, you can register it through an independent domain registrar, or through the company, you choose to host your new website. Even if you don’t have a website yet, you can still claim ownership of your ideal name and hold it until you’re ready to set up a site.
Why Should You Get a Domain Name?
The online world is rich with opportunities to create a business or blog on free or paid hosting sites, or even on social media. Free Facebook pages and blogging platforms like BlogSpot or Medium allow users to claim a space for posting content and images of all kinds. Online marketplaces like Shopify and Etsy provide storefronts for entrepreneurs to sell physical and digital goods. Sites like Squarespace make it possible for creatives like photographers and designers to set up an online portfolio without creating a whole website from scratch.
These sites demonstrate that it’s possible to have an online presence without owning your own domain. But if your aim is to be widely visible and build authority for your brand, these platforms and social media sites have considerable drawbacks—problems that can be avoided with the purchase of your very own domain name.
A Domain Name Is Unique and Searchable
When you sign up for space on a third party website hosting site or create a page or account on your favorite social media platforms, you’ll typically be provided with a subdomain on the hosting site’s domain. In other words, your “address,” would look something like this: hostsite.com/yourname. Depending on the site where you’re posting your content, it can make for a long, unwieldy and highly forgettable address.
Your own domain name, especially with the very familiar .com extension, clearly communicates your identity and purpose in a way users are likely to remember. That’s why it’s a good idea when choosing your domain that you pick something that explains your purpose right within the name. Number and hyphens make a custom domain more difficult to remember. When registering a domain, stick with simple, straightforward, and creative options that can be remembered by all.
A Domain Name Has Authority
Hosting your content on a third party blogging or social media platform can seem unprofessional, and undermine your efforts to build a business or professional identity. Since these hosted platforms are often used for personal blogs and other kinds of informal sharing, it can be harder to establish your site as a trustworthy, authoritative source in your niche. That’s where domain name registration comes in. Your own domain name can let potential customers and clients know that you’re a legitimate business with long term plans.
You Control Your Domain
Posting content to pages on a third party platform can be risky. A hosting site can close down and take your content and online identity with it. Some sites claim ownership of anything that’s posted, too, so that your content can’t be moved to another platform. When you own your own domain name, you can set up your site with any hosting company you like, anywhere in the world. The content you place there remains yours to move to any web hosting provider you prefer—a concept called “self hosting.”
Buying rights to a domain name reserves the name exclusively for your use, as long as you continue to renew the fees. Some internet experts recommend that everyone should register their own name as a domain name, along with any variant spellings. Likewise, it can be a good idea to register not only your ideal domain name, but also other variations that searchers might type into a browser’s search bar. That way, you can make sure that your online identity is exclusively yours and that your site can be located in multiple ways.
A domain name isn’t strictly necessary in order to create a presence on the web. However, having your own domain name gives you control over your online identity and the content you post – and a domain of your own is a must-have for building confidence in your brand or business.