What are Domain names, and how do i chose one?

What are domain names? alex wells looks at this question in his latest blog post

Domain names are vital to how the web works and we use them each and every time we visit websites, but what are they and how do you choose one?

To understand what a domain name is and why they are important we need to look at how the world wide web works, a simple website is made up of a set of files (text, images, sound etc) that are stored on a web server which is a computer connected to the internet with the specific job of hosting websites. Each web server has a specific address called an IP address, these are unique to each server on the internet and let users connect to a specific web server.

These IP addresses are like post codes each one is a way of refering to a unique web server on the internet, take this website for example the ip address of google.co.uk is if you type this IP address into your browser it will load the website (give it a try and see). The problem with IP addresses is they are not very friendly, easy to remember or descriptive of the content that’s on the website, the solution to this problem is domain names. A domain name is a user friendly way of referring to the web servers IP address by giving it a name.

When a user types in a domain name it will be used to look up the IP address of the web server so that the user can connect to the website, there are some limitations to the content of domain names but all in all they are allot more user friendly then IP addresses.

How to select a domain name

Now we know what a URL is next we will look at how to chose one, domain names should be easy to read and remember so it’s best to go with something short and recognizable such as your name (eg. Alex-Wells.co.uk) or something that describes who you are what you do or your product (eg. AirportTaxis.com or BirthdayCards.net)

It will Benefit your SEO strategy if you choose a domain name with some keywords in it as google will give you points for it, for example the domain name usedcars.com will get extra points for the search term ‘used cars’ (pop over to this site for more info) but it’s a balancing act stuffing lots of words into your domain name will make it hard to read & understand and on top of that google will detect you are trying to stuff lots of keywords into your site and you will lose any SEO points.

Once you have chosen the domain name you want you will need to select an extension, this is the bit at the end for example the .com or the .co.uk

Which one you choose is upto you (check out the possibilities and their intended uses here) but if you are a UK company a .co.uk would be best followed by a .com as these are the two that people are used to seeing and using, if they are already taken you could opt for having a .net but failing that I would suggest thinking of something new.

There are several websites that will let you search for domain names and register them for you, I use www.123-reg.co.uk to register domains but prefer Heart Internet’s domain search

If both the .com and the .co.uk domains are available I would suggest registering both to ensure no one else can.