If you want to create a new website, you first need a domain. This is the name under which the website can be found on the Internet. What do you have to consider when choosing this name? Are there things that should be avoided here at all costs?
What actually is a domain?
Simply put, the domain is the address of your website on the Internet. Just as you have a postal address, your website needs a fixed address where people or computers can find it. The domain is what you type into the address bar of your browser.
The actual name, e.g., start-the-loop.com, hides an IP address, which consists of a series of numbers that defines exactly where and on which server your website is located:
Please note: In shared hosting, which most of the people with smaller websites use, many domains are located on the same server. So it is completely normal that many domains share one IP address. All domains that we have registered can be found via the IP displayed above.
The complete name of a domain is the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN).
The Top Level Domain (TLD) is the highest level of the domain hierarchy, that is what we see as the extensions of the domains. These can be country codes such as .de, .ch or .at or also endings such as .com, .net, .org. In recent years, many more have been added, for example names of cities, such as .hamburg or .cologne. Compared to the “simple” .de domain (8 to 12 €/year) these are relatively expensive (> 50 € / year).
The Second Level Domain (SLD) describes the part of your domain that you choose for your business. In our case, this is “Start-the-Loop”.
Occasionally you still see that the domain name is preceded by “www.”. This is unnecessary, because “www.” is just a subdomain of your domain and usually redirects to the actual domain.
Why should I register a domain?
There is often the possibility to use a free third-level domain of the hosting company or a website builder, for example, your-name.WordPress.com. With free packages, this sometimes comes with some disadvantages, for example, the provider may place advertisements on your website.
Having your own domain name therefore brings some advantages: Your website looks more professional when you use your own domain. Visitors to your website might recognize what your company is about just by seeing the domain. Or they already know you and can find you more easily on the Internet using your domain.
You also have the option to set up email addresses with your domain name. These have a more official look and feel than addresses at GMX, web.de or Gmail. Often people can remember them more easily as well.
Choosing a good domain name
Of course, there are some formalities to be observed first: Just as in other areas of business, trademark rights must be met, and an “accidentally” similar domain name such as the name of a prominent person or a very well-known brand can also cause trouble. If in doubt, do some research to find out whether there is any potential for conflict.
Selection criteria for the domain name
Basically, your domain name should be rather short and concise. If it is easy to remember, all the better.
Has your company existed for a long time? Then the company name would be a good option, provided that the domain is still available.
What I would not recommend: If a company with the same name uses for example Your-Name.com I would not register Your-Name.de. Experience shows that people don’t really notice the suffix, i.e., the top-level domain (e.g., .com or .de). This only leads to frustration, because your customers will always arrive at the wrong website.
Then it’s better to take a step back and possibly include a keyword in the domain name.
Service or place as part of the domain name
For example, an optician could always use optician-YourName.de or Glasses-YourName.de. If it is a local company, it would also be conceivable to include the city in the domain name. optician-yourName-yourLocation.de gets somewhat long and “bulky”. It also quickly looks a bit dubious if too many terms are strung together with hyphens.
Ideally, I would always register at least the appropriate country code extension for your business (i.e., .de, .ch, .at etc.) and the corresponding .com domain. Which one you end up using for the website depends on your business:
If your business is predominantly active in one country, the corresponding country extension probably fits best. If you see yourself rather internationally, this would speak for the use of the .com domain. All unused domains can refer to the “main domain”.
Your name as part of the domain name
The decision is more difficult if there is no established brand name. For sole proprietors, the question then arises whether the domain should contain their own name. In many cases, this is a good solution. The sole proprietor is the direct contact person for the customers. So it is only logical that the domain contains his / her name.
But sometimes even that is a dead end: My name for example (Elisabeth Hölzl) is very widespread in southern Germany, Austria and even South Tyrol. Some of my name cousins 😉 are very active online, the large top-level domains are already taken. I would probably have little chance to be found under that name.
In that case, one option would be to include the name and the service in the domain.
Registering a Domain
Now we can go ahead and register our domain(s).
It makes sense to register the domain where you plan to host the website. Otherwise, you will incur additional fees. Plus, the permanent forwarding of the domain from one provider to another can be prone to errors.
Often, the price of the hosting package also includes the domain registration fee for at least one domain.
Of course, you can always transfer the domain from one provider to another.
The common TLDs (.de, .com, etc.) can be registered with all major hosting companies, although pricing may vary somewhat.
For some more specific TLDs, you have to fulfill conditions. For .it, for example:
- VAT no./personal ID must be provided.
- The specified registrant / administrative manager of the domain must have his residence / company headquarters in a country of the European Union.
So you choose a domain from the hosting company of your choice. Now you have to enter the registration information. For most common domains, name, address, and contact details are sufficient.
A domain is registered for one year. Your hosting company usually renews the domain registration automatically. This makes a lot of sense, because losing the domain unintentionally is no fun. Therefore, I always make sure that automatic renewal is provided by the hosting company.
Once everything is settled, and you are the proud owner of your domain, you can start building your website. Or, if the website is already finished, point the domain to the website.