After further thought, I was wrong about combining the topics of domain registration and selecting a web host. While neither step (registration of domain or signing up with hosting service) takes much time to physically complete, it will take two separate posts here to give you the necessary background information to help prepare you to complete those steps.
When registering your domain name, you have over 60 characters, several choices of extensions to play with, and possibly countless questions. What to name your site? What about hyphens & underscores? Do you need a .com or .net or .org or some other new and different extension? Where does one get a domain name, anyway? What’s a URL? What does DNS mean? And the question many have wondered for ages, who is WHOIS?
What should I name my site?
If this is a personal site, use your name. For businesses, your business name. If your name has already been registered to someone else, you may consider inserting your middle name or initial or, for women, your maiden name. For businesses, you can often add the words “The” or some other word before your name, such as “thenameofmybusiness.” However, if you do that, make sure all your promotions include the full name of your website to avoid confusing it with another business.
Should I Abbreviate or Hyphenate the Name?
Hyphens have good and bad points. Search engines can distinguish the separate words better, but there are other ways to use search engine optimization besides hyphens, and we’ll get into that in a future series. The bad part about hyphens and underscores is that if those looking for your site don’t remember to include them, they won’t find you. The same goes with abbreviations. They are clunky and often confusing. It may be best to use a descriptive phrase or tagline if the exact name you want is already taken. For instance, if “mybusinessname.com” is taken, try registering your tagline — “thegreatestbusinessonearth.com” — instead. In other words, make your domain name easy to remember, even if it’s a bit longer.
What extension should I pick?
Some extensions are open without restrictions (.com, .org, .net), and others (such as .edu) are for specific purposes. The .com is king philosophy is waning, because most people use a search engine, such as Google, to locate websites instead of typing in the direct URL. Dot org is generally associated with non-profit organizations and .net is used for networks, such as communities or even family sites. As the dot coms are becoming used up, many people and even businesses have shrugged their shoulders and registered the .net or another extension to get the name they want. As long as you promote your full website name (including the dot whatever part), you should have no problem.
Where do I get a domain name and how do I register it?
If you type “Domain registration” into Google, within seconds your search results will yield hundreds, if not thousands, of registrars to choose from. As you can see, by far the largest domain registrar is GoDaddy (above chart provided by RegistrarSTATS). In fact, many independent registrar sites are GoDaddy affiliates. As long as a registrar is accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN — the government management of Internet domain naming systems), it is safe to use their services. You can “park” your domain at the registrar’s server until you have selected a web host, which we’ll discuss in the next post.
Think of a few names you want, and go to the registrar site you’ve selected. You’ll need either a credit card or a PayPal account to make your payment. GoDaddy even has a step-by-step registration wizard to help you make decisions about the domain name you’re about to register, such as whether to keep your contact information private and what add-ons you may want (shopping cart, etc.). Most add-ons can be added later (thus the name “add-on), and many are available for no cost, so you may wish to compare prices before choosing any extras.
Is that all?
You now have enough information to get your domain registered, but in case you’re curious about other phrases associated with this topic, you’re welcome to keep reading.
What’s a DNS?
Every computer and every website are connected to the World Wide Web through a series of binary numbers known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. These are typically assigned in region-based blocks, kind of like an online zip code, only with more numbers. When you register a domain name, you are actually creating a new address into the web system. The Domain Name System (DNS) converts the IP address of that domain into the actual name you register. Think of it this way:
- The site name is what you’re looking for
- The IP address is where it’s located
- The route is how the web takes you there
All of this happens within seconds, and you usually won’t have to worry about it. Sometimes, however, the registrar of your newly registered domain will give you the IP address to use in case the name itself isn’t “up” already. I’ve found the DNS system to be quite efficient, so you likely won’t ever need to access your site using its IP address.
What’s a URL?
It stands for Uniform Resource Locator and is basically the file name of where a domain’s information is stored.
Who is WHOIS?
The WHOIS database contains all the registration information of domains. You can find out the administrative contact, technical contact, which servers the site is stored on, and a lot of other information about the site. You can choose whether to make this information public or private when you register your domain.
If you have further questions, create a forum topic and we’ll discuss it there or use the comments section below.