GUIDE TO DOMAINS
What is a domain?
Glance up to the top of your web browser and, no matter which web page you are looking at, you will see a domain name. It’ll be in there, somewhere at the beginning of the page’s URL address. In the case of this page, the domain is “novanym.com”, and the full URL is “https://novanym.com/pages/guide-to-domains”.
Usually, a domain name on its own will send browsers to a website’s homepage. And there’s reason for this: domain names tell web browsers where websites actually are. Each business domain name is linked to a specific, physical point on the internet—the IP address at which the site is hosted. Multiple websites, of course, can be hosted on the same server, so domain names tell browsers which website to display.
While that’s what domains mean on a technical level, most of that happens behind the scenes. To web users, domain names are much more important in building and establishing a website’s identity and purpose. If we’re doing online shopping on eBay, we want to see eBay’s domain name in our address bar. In almost all cases, users expect a company’s domain to include its brand name. If it doesn’t, some may even doubt a website’s legitimacy.
There are usually three distinct sections, or “levels”, to a domain. The top-level domain (TLD), also known as the extension, indicates a website’s purpose. For example, “.com” means “commercial”, and “.gov” indicates the site is owned by the government. The second-level domain defines the website’s identity. In the cases of “ebay.com” and “novanym.com”, it’s identical to the organisation’s brand name, though it could be anything. Finally there is the third-level domain, though this isn’t always required. Most websites have “www”, indicating the name of the website’s host server at its IP address. (This level is really just for web browsers, like Chrome.)
Why you should choose a .com extension
Choosing an extension is one of the most important parts of setting up a new website, for reasons both technical and psychological. And in today’s market, there are dozens to choose from. Many TLDs are intended to give users an insight into what the company that owns a particular website does.
These have become increasingly specific over time. The “.museum” TLD, for example, quite clearly suggests that the website in question belongs to a museum, while “.accountant” removes doubt as to the website owner’s profession. Some TLDs are brand-specific, with “.americanexpress” and “.lamborghini” now both registered. Then there are geographical domain extensions: “.co.uk”, “.de” and “.fr” for instance, which denote websites based in the UK, Germany and France. Follow this link for a list of every domain extension registered with ICANN (the non-profit responsible for organising TLDs).
While all of these specialised options serve a purpose, none of them hold a candle to “.com”, the original commercial domain extension. The reason for this is twofold. Firstly, “.com” performs better in search engine results. In the age of SEO, it’s important to make sure your website is fully optimised for Google search, right down to the domain name. Secondly, web users (who are potential customers) know and trust a “.com” extension. Its historic presence suggests an authority on the website’s part. Newer, more specific domain extensions can look gimmicky, sometimes amateurish, while “.com” can make your business domain look professional.
How to choose your company domain name
Settling on a first-choice company domain name should be easy: just choose “[yourbrand].com”. If that domain is already taken, you’ll have to have a rethink. It might be fairly painless to add something to do with your business to the end of your second-level domain—we could have chosen “novanymnames.com”, for example, if our first choice was already in use by another brand. Some publications add “magazine” to the end of their second-level domain in order to keep the “.com” extension.
Simply adding to your domain name may not be enough to solve this problem, though. If “[yourbrand].com” is already in use, it’s likely that another business shares your brand name. Depending on their renown and area of operation, you may find this competition to be an issue for one of two reasons. Firstly, users searching via brand name could find your namesake’s website rather than your own. Secondly, in severe circumstances your namesake could sue you for copyright infringement.
There is one surefire way to avoid these complications, and to guarantee a “.com” TLD. As you are launching a new website, it might be worth taking the opportunity to rebrand your company. To ensure you can register the optimum web address, it’s advisable to work from the domain name first. This is where we can come in. Our vast database of brandable domain names includes names for all kinds of businesses, all with perfect “.com” domains and branding included. If you are open to a ground-up rebrand, and dead set on securing the advantages of a “.com” TLD, browse our domain name list and see what we can offer you today.
How to buy a domain
Once you’ve settled on a domain name, it’s time to make a purchase. Most domain names are available through brokers and registrars like GoDaddy and 123 Reg. When you make a purchase, make sure you are able to control all DNS settings in order to configure your website with other features like email. Usually you will be able to lease a domain name for a set period at a price determined by the seller. Longer leases often lead to discounts, but make sure you read all the small-print carefully before you sign one, as sometimes prices can rise over multiple years.
If you’re thinking about a rebrand, it’s best to buy your domain name (and business name and branding) from us at Novanym. Our extensive list of domain names suit businesses of all kinds, so you should easily find what you are looking for.
Renewing your domain name and expired domains
When your initial lease is up, your domain will expire. This means the associated URL will no longer lead to your website, and instead deliver a result along the lines of: “This server can’t be reached. [yourdomain].com’s server IP address could not be found.” It goes without saying that this will be a disaster for your business. Not only will you lose out on potential online sales, but your reputation could be tarnished in the process.
Renewing an expired domain is, usually, a simple process. You will most likely be able to return to the domain registrar, which you used to purchase the original lease, and proceed with the renewal. If you have a particularly in-demand domain name, and you leave it unleased for too long, it’s possible that someone else will buy it before you get a chance to renew. If this happened to a billion dollar company like Google, they would likely have the funds available to buy the domain back from whoever purchased it. For smaller businesses and startups, this is unlikely to be an option, so make sure you do all to can to renew your domain as soon as it expires.
The best way to avoid domain renewal woes is to lease a site on a rolling contract with auto-renewal. This way, there will be no period of embarrassment, and no risk of someone else leasing the expired domain before you renew it.
Commonly asked questions
What makes a good domain name?
The best domain names include a company’s brand name and make use of the “.com” extension. These will perform best in search engines, give your brand the most authority, and help potential customers identify who the site belongs to.
What if my chosen domain name is already taken?
If your desired domain is unavailable, you have several options. Using a different domain extension is one solution, such as a localised extension like “.co.uk” for UK-based companies. However, the “.com” address will always be likely to perform better than company-specific TLDs like the aforementioned “.museum”, and similar business names could cause confusion. A better solution, where possible, is to rebrand your company starting with a brandable domain name.
How do I buy a domain name?
Buying a domain name is simple. If you’re purchasing one of our packages, you’ll get a perfect “.com” extension, a brand name, and three logo designs in one transaction. If you choose a different route, heading to a domain registrar is your best bet. Make sure you check the terms and conditions, and set your lease to auto-renew to avoid unwanted expiry.
What if I want to change my domain name?
To change your domain name, you’ll first need to lease another one. Once you’ve done that, remove your website’s current domain name through your account with a domain registrar (see GoDaddy’s process here) or via your website’s CMS, and replace it with the new one.