So you have decided you want to start a website. You already know what you want your website to be about. Now your website needs a name. In this post I am going to:
- suggest how to choose a domain name,
- explain the differences between a domain and a webhost and,
- provide my recommendation for the best domain registrar.
If you already have a domain name picked out, skip to the end of this article for my recommended best domain registrar.
How To Choose A Domain Name
When you look at the address bar for any given webpage, the web address can have a variety of parts. Here are a few examples showing the different parts:
The first part is the protocol.
The two most common protocol options are “http” and “https”. Wikipedia has a pretty complete list of all of the protocol options. The default option is http. In the past, getting an https has been difficult and expensive. Hosting providers are moving toward offering a free basic SSL (https secure) certificate.
WordPress as a company is moving toward recommending moving toward SSL. I have not yet converted this website, but once I do, I write a post to help you convert your website to https also.
The next (optional) part is the subdomain.
In the examples above, “www” and “smile” are both subdomains. Most newer websites have opted not to use the “www” subdomain, which is why my website doesn’t use it.
Some larger websites offer you a “free” website, but the catch is that it is a subdomain of their website. They have rules for using a subdomain and if you accidentally violate those rules, they can delete your website.
It is like renting a house versus buying a house. If you buy your own domain, it is like buying your house. It is your property.
Well, there is a yearly fee to keep your domain registered to you, but that is like paying property taxes.
The next (required) part is the actual domain.
This is what you commonly think of as a website’s “name”. You get to exhibit some creativity when choosing your domain name, but I have a few tips to get the best results.
No abbreviations, hyphens, or made up words. I know Google and Facebook pulled it off, but most of us will have better and quicker success using 2-4 real dictionary worthy words. Pick a phrase that when you say it to your friends, they know what it means (or at least the general concept).
Ultimately you want something that people will feel comfortable clicking on when it comes up in search engine results.
The last part is the top level domain.
Pick a domain that is available as a .COM top level domain (or TLD). There are hundreds of different TLD, but priority in search results is given to .COM domains. Also I don’t know how many times I have emailed somebody and mistakenly put .COM when their address was a .NET or something else.
The only exception is if your topic is country specific in which case your country specific TLD (like .CO.UK or .COM.AU) might be appropriate.
What Is The Difference Between A Domain And Webhosting?
To continue with the analogy from before, your domain is like a house. To get a little more precise though, it is a mobile home. You have to rent a place to park your mobile home and hook up to the utilities.
So even after you buy a domain name, you still have to pay a company to host your website. In theory, you could build your own server and connect it to the internet, but that really isn’t feasible for most of us. So a webhost is a company who owns the servers where you can host your website.
I Read That Some Webhosts Offer Free Domains.
This is true that many webhosts offer a free domain for the first year when you buy a webhosting plan. What they don’t tell you is that they don’t offer free domain privacy protection.
This is important: When you buy a domain name, all of your contact information becomes public information.
A while back, I tried to cheap out on my husband’s website by not ordering this protection when I registered his free domain with his webhost. Within hours he was getting phone calls and emails spamming him for anything and everything.
I quickly signed him up for domain protection. This replaced his contact information with contact information for the registrar and he stopped getting spammed.
So Who Is The Best Domain Registrar?
NameCheap.com is the best domain registrar. You can read more about why in my product review post: Namecheap Review: Best Place To Buy Your Domain.
I did a lot of research before I bought my first domain. They had the best prices and excellent reviews everywhere I looked.
Domain Protection Price Comparison
As I mentioned earlier, domain protection is a critical spam reduction measure. In case you are still a bit skeptical about foregoing your “Free” domain provided with most webhosting plans, just look at the calculations in the table below.
|Domain (Year 1)||$8.88*||$0.00||$0.00|
|Domain Protection (Year 1)||$0.00||$9.99||$12.00|
|Total (Year 1)||$8.88*||$9.99||$12.00|
|Domain (Year 2)||$10.69||$14.99||$12.67|
|Domain Protection (Year 2)||$2.88||$9.99||$12.00|
|Total (Year 2)||$13.57||$24.98||$24.67|
|Total (Years 1 and 2)||$22.45||$34.97||$36.67|
*Today’s price, not including $0.18 ICANN fee. Full price is $10.69 + ICANN fee.
Siteground and InMotion Hosting are two of the most popular webhosts and they offer one “Free Domain” with most of their plans. As good of a webhost as they may be, that doesn’t make them the best option for domain registration.
I will be discussing webhosts more in an upcoming post, so keep an eye out for that.
I’ve tried to cover all of the basics related to domain names. If you have any further questions, just ask in the comments below.
Whether you already own a domain name or not, be sure to read my review of the domain registrar Namecheap.