What is a domain?

Shownotes:

When starting a new business there are multiple metaphoric plates to spin and key decisions to make. One of those decisions is intrinsically linked to your online presence i.e. your website. The domain name you select will be with you and your business for as long as you have that business (unless you decide for a complete overhaul but I’m guessing you won’t be doing that very often!) so you must choose wisely.

In this episode I talk about what a domain name actually is and why it is so important to get right for your business. I’m even going to walk you through the process of getting your website to use your chosen domain name AND some pointers on what to expect through the buying process. There is a lot to discuss when it comes to domains so it is certainly worth your while to take note. You can thank me later!

Transcript:

INTRO: Hello – you are listening to the Help! My Website Sucks podcast with me, your host, Amy Gumbrell. I’m a freelance web designer and I love talking about all things websites, websites, websites. Thank you so much for joining me and if you would like to listen to future episodes, hit that follow button now. Please feel free to share and do come and say hi over on social media – I’m @twocowsweb. I’d like to share some of my own experiences as a web designer and some of the common questions and issues that pop up again and again. This episode is all about domains. I’ll be talking about what they are, why you need to know about them and how to choose the right one for your business website so let’s get stuck in.

MUSIC FADES

This should be a short episode because we all know that a domain is basically a website right? Kind of but not really. There is a bit more to domains than meets the eye and it’s important to get your head around them in order to do your website and your business justice. A domain has two parts – the website name and the domain name extension. For my business,  the website name is twocowsweb and the domain name extension is .co.uk. You can choose almost anything for the website name  – you can have any combination of letters, numbers and even hyphens (ooh hyphens!) -as long as it’s available of course BUT the same cannot be said for the domain name extension. There are a set number to choose from  and you’ll probably be quite familiar with them already such as .co.uk or .com and .org. As a rule of thumb businesses tend to go for .co.uk or .com / charities and other not for profit organisations use .org or .org.uk and for those in the creative industries, you might go for something like .design or .studio. I’ve even seen .beer before! Not sure why🙂 Some of the less common ones, sometimes have extra criteria or bits of information you need to provide about your business. For example .scot is intended for people who live and work in Scotland and for Scottish people around the world. Generally they are a lot more expensive –  it’s down to the economies of scale – there are simply fewer customers buying these domains.

How do you choose the right domain? It will depends on a number for things but essentially you want your customers to find your website. Therefore your domain name will have to be simple, easy to remember and ideally connected to your business name.  Personally the simpler the better – get too creative and you may find that people can’t find your site. If it’s too long or the words are difficult to spell, you’ll make it trickier to remember. Oh and take care when running more than a couple of words together people – you don’t get  any spaces in the website part of your domain name so make sure that when two words meet they don’t create any unexpected words – unless you like to entertain folk, it’s probably not the best choice! You may also want to check what similar businesses have called their websites too – remember once you have bought your domain name, you’ll be using it over and again so it’s an important decision and one not to be taken lightly.

So we’ve established what a domain actually is but where does when acquire such a thing – the domain supermarket perhaps? Well, it’s not really that far from the truth. However, you can’t physically go into the domain supermarket as yep, you’ve guessed it, they are all online. Spoiler alert -they aren’t actually called domain supermarkets – you’ll hear them go by the name of domain name registrars. There are tons to choose from and a quick Google search (other search engines are available) will bring up reams and reams of choices. I’m not going to recommend one here but I am going to help you with what you should look out for when deciding where to buy it.

As I’ve already said before as long as it is available, it’s yours for the taking! Just remember that each and every domain registrar will have some sort of introductory discount for the 1st year or two so do read the small print carefully to see how much you’ll be paying next year! Registrars offer a wide variety of registration duration – 1yr, 2yr, 3yr etc – I’d recommend going for a year at a time but it can be more cost effective to buy it for a couple or even 3 years – it all depends on your budget and cashflow.  Word of warning – the price shown usually excludes VAT prior to heading to the checkout to buy it. When you go to buy the domain, don’t be surprised that if you are in the U.K. or any other country that pays VAT that the final cost will go higher than expected!

Also many domain name registrars offer additional services such as email hosting, website builder, website hosting and more. Keep an eye on what you are actually paying for as sometimes, I’ve seen it where everything is added on to the final bill and it is your responsibility to remove services you don’t want – sneaky sneaky sales tactics! One thing that you may actually want to purchase (or if you’re lucky it may even be free!) is domain privacy protection. When you buy a domain your details are held on a publicly accessible database called WHOIS. With the privacy service, you can hide your data. If you decide to save a few pennies or forget to buy this, anyone who searches the database will have access to your name, address, phone number and any other details you may have provided. Personally I know what I would do! If you bought a domain without realising this was an option – you can buy one and add it on. Better late than never!

So you’ve chosen your domain, you’ve bought your domain and now you’ve actually got to make sure that your shiny new website has that domain name. This I’m afraid where things get a bit more technical. I do like to try and stick to my goal of making web design as accessible as possible but there is no getting away from it with this one. My suggestion may seem very biased but if you feel in any way shape or form, overwhelmed or flummoxed with this doing this – get a professional web designer/developer to help. It will save you time and it will save you stress. Above all it will mean you have piece of mind that what you just bought from the domain name registrar points to the right place i.e. your website. If you like a challenge or feel that perhaps it is something you can handle, it will depend on which website platform you have built your website with. In general you will need to locate your DNS settings and add in the ‘nameservers’ from where your website is hosted. Essentially the nameservers define your domain’s current DNS provider. It is a lot simpler than perhaps I’ve made it sound but I guess like anything – it’s only easy if you know how!

Right so now we’ve got out new domain pointing to the right place for our website, that’s it? Not quite although we’re nearly there. You see it takes time – up to 72 hours – for the whole of the Internet to update their records. Your domain was dormant, asleep not even real and now it’s living breathing and wants to be noticed. This time period is known as ‘propagation’ time – how long it takes for your domain to spread across the internet. And voila your website is live with your beautiful domain chosen by you!

Buying a domain is entirely dependent on how you decide to build your website. For those using drag and drop, you’ll be able to choose between buying your domain within that platform or purchasing elsewhere. For content management systems like Drupal and WordPress and custom coded websites, you will need to go find yourself a domain name registrar. One final thing to say on the topic of domains – you can buy more than one, you don’t have to use them straight away and you can even forward multiple domains to your website so that you can simply create one site  and then redirect visitors who type one of your other domain names to that one website. See I told you domains were full of surprises!


OUTRO : And that is a wrap! Domains  – easy sounding but they definitely have their moments. Luckily there is lots of support out there if you need it so don’t be afraid to ask. You may have the most beautiful website, full of amazing features and set up for conversion but if no one can find it, it’s pointless. Try not to get bogged down with them and have fun choosing and selecting the right domain for you and your business. Thanks so much listening – I really appreciate it and I hope you got lots out of this episode. If you have any questions, find me on social media or you can email me podcast@twocowsweb.co.uk. To listen to future episodes, don’t forget to hit follow on your podcast app and until next time, bye for now!

For more information visit twocowsweb.co.uk/podcast. Help! My Website Sucks is a Vibrant Sound Media production.

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