What’s a Domain Name?

Back when I was building websites for clients, one of the first questions I used to ask was; “do you have a domain name yet?”. This simple question was a stumbling point for business owners who recognized the term but really didn’t know how to go about getting one. Maybe this will help.

Your Domain Name is your Address on the Internet

This is what people would type into the address bar of a browser like Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer to find your website. Chances are, your domain name would be something like: mybusinessname.com
browser address bar

Breaking down a Domain Name

The first part of a domain name is the specific name that you’ve chosen. In the example I’m using; mybusinessname.com it would be simply mybusinessname without the .com. You can choose anything that’s available, but keep it simple. You can string a few words together but don’t use hyphens. Domain names are not case-sensitive, so you can make certain letters pop like MyBusinessName.com as opposed to mybusinessname.com on your printed material and website text. Hyphens are so yesterday!

Top Level Domain Names or TLD’s

Now we get into the second part of your domain name. The dot-whatevers. Everyone knows .com .org and .net but what’s the difference and what do they all mean? Okay, you asked!

.com – one of the handful of original TLD’s, and generally associated with either international businesses, or businesses from the U.S. The .com used to be the standard, but they are getting pretty tough to get. There have been many new TLD’s

My Domain tells people where I’m from

For example, since I’m in Canada, I use a .ca domain which tells everyone I’m a Canadian domain name. More examples would be a .uk for Britain, .au = Australia, .pl = Poland, .no = Norway etc. You get the picture.

When do I use .org?

Generally, .org domains are associated with non-profit/not-for-profit organizations.

What’s an .edu domain and can I get one?

Only accredited educational institutions can get an .edu domain.

What about the “new” TLD’s I’ve heard about?

There are many new TLD’s coming online now, which is great, because we were running out! Generally, trademarked names have the first option to pre-register for these names before they’re offered to the general public. Awesome domains like .guru, .estate, .company, .enterprises, .trainer and many, many more are available. It will take the public a bit of time to get used to hearing and using them, but it’s a good

Sometimes, often in fact, businesses will have a domain name that describes what they do, rather than the name of their company. This used to be a big deal, but as search engines (like Google) have become more refined, spelling out what you do in your domain name has fallen out of favour and more often is the actual business name or close to it.
Domain Name

This is the name of your website. This is the name you see before the .com or .ca or .net or .whatever! You need to choose a domain name and register it with a domain registrar. An annual fee will apply to use that name. There are many registrars out there to choose from, so check out a few. Don’t be swayed by really cheap registration fees before you check out what the renewal will be and always ask what the transfer process is.

Don’t use the same domain registrar as your hosting company.

Keeping your domain name(s) with one company and your hosting with another is a prudent move. You might never change the registrar you are with, but there is a good chance you will change hosting companies. So although it might be tempting to sign up for everything at once together, trust me, it isn’t worth the ten bucks you’ll be saving down the road.

Your domain name is your address on the web.

This is how Google and the rest of the world finds you. Think of the hassles involved with moving a physical address. No matter how organized you are, it is disruptive at best and there is always something that that goes wrong.

NOTE: This was originally published in 2014 on a blog I no longer maintain but I didn’t want this post to disappear with it.


Author: Linda

I'm a VIP Support Engineer at Automattic Inc. and love helping people with WordPress. Based in Lumby BC, Canada, I enjoy playing outdoors and am a true left-coaster in my belief of keeping it green, real and fun.

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