When you’re running a large business, a small home business or simply want a personal website, you need two things. You need web hosting and you need a website address. Without web hosting, you won’t be able to share your data with anyone else on the Internet. Without a website address, no one will be able to find your data.
It is incredibly easy to simply visit a domain registrar and register a website address. It is a much harder task to analyze the market and determine exactly what your URL should be. A surprising amount of thought goes into this step, and many businesses get it wrong. URL gaffes, nonsensical phrases, too-long addresses and other problems are common.
If you’re looking to register a website address and create a website, it’s a good idea to keep some of these tips in mind.
What Is a Website Address
This first step to properly registering a domain name is understanding exactly what it is. A domain name, also known as a web address, is the string of text in your browser that points you to a website. For example, www.google.com is a website address. It takes you to the Google homepage, or whichever page they choose to redirect traffic towards.
If you were to register www.google.com, you first need to ignore the www. The leading www, and the http before it, are protocols used by web browsers. They are not part of your URL — or rather, they are part of every URL by default, so you do not need to register it. If you tried, you would end up with www.www.google.com, which is an invalid address.
If you were to visit a domain registrar’s site and click “register website address,” they would ask you for your desired domain name. In this case, you would simply type in “google” and proceed. It would then ask you for your desired top-level domain.
Without a website address, you would need to know the IP address of the server that holds the site you want to see. Some sites make themselves easy to access, but no one will ever remember an IP address over a website address. Without a website address, you may as well not have a website at all.
The Importance of a Good Website Address
Never underestimate the power of a good URL. Your website address needs to be quick and easy to find. It needs to be memorable. It needs to be short. It also needs to have little in the way of competition. Here are some negative examples, and why they are bad choices:
- www.googles.com – Bad because a prior company (Google) already owns a close name, www.google.com. In reality, Google owns both of these URLs, which may be an option for you. If you pick up your primary URL and the URL variants most commonly used, you can dominate a webspace.
- www.google.net – Bad because a prior company owns a very similar URL. You would be fighting for traffic with google.com. In reality, of course, Google owns the .net domain as well.
- www.myawesomecleaningbusiness.com – This URL is exceptionally long. It might seem easy to remember, but people may misinterpret it as “my great cleaning business” or “my awesome cleaning company” and never find your site.
- www.mldftyg.com – This URL is bad because it is a random string of characters. If your business has a long name, you may be tempted to use the initials as your URL. If you do, remember that an address that looks like a random string of characters is much harder to remember and type accurately.
- www.penisland.com – This URL is the website for a company that creates pens. Unfortunately for them, the first two letters of island change the meaning entirely. This site is a joke site, but it illustrates the point perfectly.
Picking a Domain
Your top-level domain may not seem like an important decision, but it has a minor effect on your future SEO and recognition. Most everyone will opt for one of the big ones: .com, .org or .net. Some special cases will prefer a .gov, .info or other specialized domain. Country codes are useful as well, such as .ca for Canada and .co.uk for the United Kingdom.
Originally, each top-level domain was set aside for a specific purpose. The .com domain was for commercial sites, the .org for organizations and .gov for governmental sites. Eventually, as the Internet expanded, more and more people began to use .com as the default. Today, most webmasters will opt for a .com simply because most people expect your website to be a .com site.
Chances are you will want to create a .com site. You may choose a .org, particularly if you are a non-profit organization. You can also choose to incorporate the domain as part of the URL for clever wordplay, like del.icio.us. Not every site can pull this off, however.
Contacting a Registrar
Once you have chosen your desired URL, you will need to contact a domain registrar to pay for it. Most website addresses only cost around $10 or less per year. The exact price depends on the registrar and the web host you choose to use.
If you already have web hosting, contact your hosting provider about domain registration. Chances are they offer registration for a lower fee because you are already paying for hosting. If not, they will certainly have a registrar recommendation. Many companies have deals with registrars or otherwise simply prefer working with one over another.
If you do not have web hosting, you can check one of the most popular domain registrars. GoDaddy.com, Register.com and Dotster.com are the big three.
One thing you might encounter is a parked domain. A parked domain is when someone buys the URL you want and sits on it, hosting a page full of advertisements. They will often sell you the URL for an increased price in order to make a profit. In some extreme cases, they will essentially hold the URL ransom for a high price. If this happens, simply walk away. Unless you are a Fortune 500 company, chances are it isn’t worth it.
Build a Website<
Now that you have your website address registered, it is time to build a website. Thousands of tutorials are available online if you choose to make your site yourself. If you’re running a business, there are hundreds of web design firms available to make a professional website, complete with SEO work. Once your website is up and running, all you need to do is hand out your website address to potential fans and customers.