Domain registering means getting a web address like www.example.com (this is a reserved name for explaining purposes). If you are going to do a business online, you will surely need a domain name. Even though the process (getting one) is simple, it seems that newcomers get confused with the information available. And also there are some important facts you need to know before registering a domain name.

Difference between Domain Registration
and Web Hosting

Getting www.example.com doesn’t mean you have a web site and you can begin adding new pages to it. You need a space on a web server that is fully connected to the internet to store your web site stuff and to point your registered domain name. Then only you can have a live web site that anyone can access via your domain name. Getting a space on a web server is called web hosting and many web hosts provide a free domain name as a bonus.
Remember these are two different tasks and it is always good to have these two on distinct providers because if you want to change your host and your domain name is coupled to your hosting account then you first need to transfer your domain name to a new registrar which is an extra step. If you had your domain name separately then you can point it to new host with a simple Name Server change.

Parts of a Domain Name

In www.example.com, example.com is called Domain Name. com is called top level domain and www is called sub domain or host name.

  • Always remember that your Domain Name consists of the name you chose and the top level domain name. If you are asked what is your domain name then give this combination, not the whole address.
  • There is a range of top level domains you can choose from depending on the type of your web site (com - commercial, org - organization, edu - educational etc) or country your site located in (us - USA, lk - Sri Lanka etc). Remember that com is the most familiar one and unless you strongly fall into a different category, choose com.Top level domain tells where to go first when a request is made. For an example, a request for a domain name with com will be first pointed to a domain name server where details of com names are stored and resolved the request there onwards. This is bit technical. You can lean more about Domain Name Servers at Wikipedia or HowStuffsWorks.
  • Sub domains let you divide your web space into sub spaces and make distinct addresses to them. When a sub domain is assigned an IP Address, it is called a Host Name. Having sub domains depends on your web host.
  • Don’t be confused with http:// part in web addresses. It simply tells your pages support HTTP Protocol which governs World Wide Web. Your domain registration has nothing to do with it.

with and without WWW

The www part represents a sub domain in your web space and a sub domain can be pointed to an address of a different location in your site. But www is always pointed to your main domain name meaning both example.com and www.example.com are same. Internet users usually expect www in web addresses. So, even though the address works without it, include it as a convention.

Choosing a Domain Name

Choosing the right domain name is a critical decision in any online business because whole content and marketing campaigns are built around it and changing the domain name of a business (which is not advisory in anyway) after establishing can ruin the business. You have to decide on two things, the name and the top level domain. For an example, homebizpal and com.

  • Remember domains names are not case-sensitive meaning HOMEBIZPAL.COM, homebizpal.com and HomeBizPal.com are same.
  • You can only use letters, numbers and hyphens in your name. Some people tend to include hyphens that allow them to include keywords in domain name hoping more search engine consideration. This is a minor factor over other important SEO facts. Always remember that your domain name is for your visitors not for SE bots.
  • Remember both the name and the TLD determine a unique domain name meaning WordPress.org and WordPress.com are two different domain names.

Simply put, choose a domain name that is easily memorable and easily brandable. If possible, choose a one with low character count. This saves the typing and can increase the memorability and brandability.

Choosing a Registrar

There are thousands of domain registrars and you need to choose a reliable one because your domain name is the root of your online business. Domain name needs to be renewed annually and you can register 2,3 (or more) years in advance. The usual annual fee is around $10. If a registrar offers domains names for a rate below $6, beware that the offer may only valid for first year and you will have to pay regular fee after that. If you haven’t found a good registrar, try GoDaddy. It’s cheap and highly used. It also comes with some good extras.

Pointing a Domain Name

The most important technical detail that associates with a domain name is Name Servers which mean where to point your domain name. After registering, your registrar may point your domain name to its servers which then lead to a landing page of it. You can always change it at your control panel.

When you want to point your domain name to a web hosting account, get the Name Server details (usually provided with high priority) and set them in your control panel. You may get more than one Name Server address including the one of Primary Name Server. Additional servers are to resolve requests when primary server is not capable. After pointing, it may take about 24-48 hours to propagate the changes.

Important!

When you create a new hosting account, you have to mention the domain name that you want to associate with your account. If you have already registered one, mention it. Don’t be confused that your host may overwrite your domain name. It just configures its servers to capture your domain name when a request is made.

By providing Name Sever details of your host, requests to your domain name will be pointed to your web host which then can handle them since it has internally configured the details.

Domain Extras

To gain the interest, domain registrars provide bonuses with domain names. For an example GoDaddy provides a complete email account on your domain that you can use to send and receive emails. One thing you have to note is that after pointing your domain name to a web host, you will loose the bonuses that associated with domain registrar’s servers like email accounts. Many of them can be recovered because you can get same or more features at your web host.

Domain Transfer

If you are not satisfied with your current registrar, you can always transfer your domain name(s) to a new registrar. Almost all registrars offer this facility for a same rate as the domain registration and some may add the remaining time of your domain name to its renewal time as a bonus.

After initiating a domain transfer with a new registrar, it sends a request to the current registrar. It then sends you a confirmation email asking whether you initiated the domain transfer. You can still cancel the transfer at this stage. Upon approval, your data will be transferred to new registrar. Whole process can take about 2, 3 days or more.

Who Is Data

The details associated with your domain names like owner name and email can be publicly available. There are services like Domain Tools which allow users to see who owns a certain domain name. If your email is publicly available with domain details, there is a possibility to get unsolicited emails (spam). To prevent this, domain registrars offer Private Domain Name registration which encloses these details from public, usually for an additional fee.

Expired Domains

If a domain name is not renewed within a give period, the registrar no longer provides service for it and it’s tagged as expired. Usually the owner is given an extra period to renew it before making it expired. If a domain name is expired, it is publicly available to reregister.

There is a tendency on expired domains because they have already gained a certain level of exposure which can be an advantage, especially in traffic. But remember that no successful business would allow its domain name to be expired and most of the available names are ones that ran out of business.

Parking Domain Names

If you found a well brandable domain name or an expired one with some traffic, you may want to register it. After registering, you can point it to a domain parking service which allow you to earn from the traffic your domain name gets and also allow you to sell it for a price you specify (usually higher than regular prices). Sedo is a leading domain parking service that has more features and statistics.