There are two crucial parts to any website, no matter what service you want to use.
One part is hosting – see our article, How to choose good web hosting – the other part is a domain, which is the web address that people will use to get to your server.
No matter what hosting service you use, you will always need to make sure you choose the right domain name.
Here are some tips to make sure you buy a good one.
First, let’s do a quick primer on domains.
Servers make websites available for public view.
That website gets an IP address, or a unique number assigned to your website. Think of it like a mailing address or a phone number.
Since these numbers are not very easy to remember, you can purchase an easy to remember name called a domain, or a URL.
Usually, you can purchase domains from the same place you get your hosting, but it’s not always recommended, in case one day, you might decide you want to change hosts.
If you’d like to purchase a domain separately, which I recommend, 123-reg.co.uk and Google Domains are our go-to’s.
They offer several domain types, known as TLDs or Top Level Domains, from .com and .org to .io, .me, and even .xyz.
Below, you’ll see a simple breakdown of a URL.
From left to right, we have a protocol, which tells the computer how to handle that data we’re getting, the subdomain, which is usually a separate section of the site and can be optional, the name of the website and the TLD.
The TLD is the extension of the URL, and usually, it implies some sort of meaning about the site that you’re on. The latter two make up the full domain name.
Domains like .edu, .mil, .gov and country TLDs require verification.
You can view all of the restricted domains at your domain registrar.
You might also notice that some domains use HTTP, and some use HTTPS. The difference is that HTTPS uses something called a secure socket layer, or SSL.
This means that any data sent to and from your website will be done so securely. It’s handled by your host, and not during the registration process.
There are lots of tips out there for choosing the right domain name, but here are a few important ones to consider.
Make it unique and easy to remember. You want your domain to stand out, but not so much that it’s difficult to remember when someone tries to visit.
Make it easy to speak and type. A hard domain will send people to the wrong place or dissuade them from going at all.
Try to avoid numbers and hyphens.
They are very hard to speak. Is that a number typed out or is it the digit? And hyphens are often forgotten about.
Try a .com first. About 70% of TLDs are .com, and that’s even as the number of TLDs grows.
So, users, when they can’t remember a domain, will try that first. Make it as short as possible.
This goes back to making it easy to remember, speak and type. 11 to 14 characters seems like a sweet spot.
The last thing you want to do is change your domain because of copyright infringement. And be aware of word combinations.
This sounds silly and somewhat juvenile, but you don’t want to accidentally create a vulgar domain. There are a few places you can buy a domain from.
My personal favourite is Google Domains. They offer a great range of choices and great prices.
They also offer bulk discounts for those of us who are chronic domain purchasers.
If you are having trouble generating ideas, there are some fantastic tools out there that will allow you to give one to two keywords, and they’ll generate available domains for you. Google Domains is worth checking out.
Also, it’s worth checking to see if it’s a registered business name in the UK, Start.biz has a really useful tool for checking.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a checklist.
The goal is to do the best you can and most of all, make your domain relevant to your website and business.
Caroline brings over 15 years as a Designer and Developer; featured in .NET magazine, the only woman in the UK accredited for Google Mobile Sites. A business mentor with Enterprise Nation, STEM Ambassador and Google Women Techmaker Ambassador Previous client projects include Blackberry, FIAT, Clark Shoes and Sky.