Web Technology

Beginner’s Guide to Domain Names

A domain name is a unique web address where people can find your website. For instance, this domain name is skool.house.

Domain extensions indicate to search engines, such as Google or Bing, whether your website should be showing up on search results for a local region or globally.

Sometimes, finding the right domain name can be a painful process due to the limited availability of quality names. I hope this guide helps you make this process a little less daunting.

Domain Categories

Domains are divided into three groups.

Globe v4

gTLD

Generic Top-Level Domains

If your website is on this type of domain extension, your website can be searched (Google, Bing or other search engines) and found by anyone across the globe.

.com
.net
.org
.studio
.house

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ccTLD

Country Code Generic Top-Level Domains

Uses two letters and the domains are tied to a specific country or region. These are ideal for local businesses offering goods and services within a specific country or region and not looking for a global audience.

.ca – Canada
.us
– United States
.cz
– Czech Republic
.ru
– Russia
.br
– Brazil

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gccTLD

Generic Country Code Generic Top-Level Domains

These extensions were originally Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD). However, people started using these extensions as a way to communicate the type of website rather than a reference to a particular country.

For example, .tv was originally ccTLD for the country Tuvalu, but now it is used for websites that feature video content. Because of such usage, Google and other search engines started treating them as generic domain names which can be found by a global audience.

.ca – Canada
.co
– Columbia
.io
– Indian Ocean
.la
– Laos
.tv
– Tuvalu

Which One Should You Go With?

As a general rule, go with a gTLD extension such as .com, .net, .studio, or .house.

1

The main advantage to owning a gTLD domain is the ability to attract visitors to the website from across the world.

2

Or you have the option to geo-target the website to attract the audience from a specific country only.

If you build a website on ccTLD domains and wish to attract traffic outside the assigned country, it will be very challenging.

Example of Search Results

This website’s (skool.house) domain extension is .house which is a gTLD. As of this moment, the content published on this website is about technology, WordPress, and graphic resources.

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If someone in Australia is searching for keywords such as “free graphics” or “generatepress” in Google, there is a chance this website will show up in the search results.

Because my domain extension is a gTLD and my content is fairly broad, Google and other search engines will understand I am looking to draw in traffic from all over the globe.

On the other hand, let’s assume this website happened to be on a ccTLD domain, such as skoolhouse.ca with .ca being an extension for Canada. If someone in Australia was searching for the same keywords (“free graphics” or “generatepress”), there is a high probability Google and other search engines will not show this website on the search results.

Even though the content was intended for a global audience, my website will be restricted to an audience from Canada only because of the .ca extension.

It Doesn’t Have To Be .com

In the pursuit of finding the right gTLD, if you do a quick search you’ll notice most of the .com domains are already taken. Either it’s being used or someone has purchased it previously and wants to resell it for tens of thousands of dollars.

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Why Is .com Popular?

Of all the available extensions, .com is still considered the king.

Why? Well, there is no real explanation aside from the fact that .com has been used by all the big-name companies since the early days of the web. This helped popularize the extension and made it universally accepted as the default.

If you cannot find a .com, don’t worry as there are plenty of other gTLD extensions to choose from.

Are you working on a creative project? Any of the following extensions would be a great option.

.studio
.photos
.pics

.love
.cool
.art

.school
.how
.page

Is it food related? These extensions will work just as well.

.kitchen
.beer
.cafe

.coffee
.pizza
.pub

.recipes
.fish
.farm

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Did You Know?

SEO experts Moz originally started off as seomoz.org, and only after they built a solid company they moved their site over to moz.com.

Similarly, rideshare company Lyft initially started off with lyft.me and eventually moved over to lyft.com.

A domain extensions most likely will not determine the success or failure of the website. So don’t get caught up in the hype of owning a .com extension.

According to Google, whether your domain ends with a .com or .net, it does not impact your ranking in the search results.

The only downside is people naturally assume a domain name ends with a .com. When they are searching for your domain, they might type in .com without thinking.

Consider Treehouse (teamtreehouse.com), which teaches web technology and coding. Surely treehouse.com benefits from all the traffic generated by users accidentally typing in treehouse.com (an enterprise software company) thinking it is taking them to Treehouse’s official website.

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Strategies for Picking a Domain Name

If you have already started searching for domain names, you would know how painful it can be to find a good domain name.

All or most one-word (real word) domain names are already taken, and it may feel as if any word or combination of words you can think of is already taken as well.

So here are a few ideas to get you started on the right track.

1

What is your website about? What does it do? What is the goal? How does it work?

Answering these questions will allow you to come up with a list of relevant words you can use to find a new domain name. Brainstorm a bunch of words that are relevant to what you are trying to accomplish.

For this website, the original concept was to explain concepts and ideas in simple terms. So the focus was around exploring and learning. Here are some of the words I used before settling on Skool House.

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2

Change the spelling of the words to create variations of the same word that sound similar.

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3

Domain name hack is using a word or phrase in conjunction with a gTLD or gccTLD to create a unique domain name. Similar to my approach for selecting the domain name skool.house.

If artstudio.com is taken, you can use artstud.io instead which is considered a gccTLD and isn’t tied to a country.

4

It’s not the end of the world if you use a hyphen in the domain name. However, hyphens are not easy to remember, especially when there is more than one in a domain name.

Also, the use of hyphens has been linked to spam sites, which can affect the credibility of the site.

Sites such as buy-authentic-gucci-wallets.com, which are made for spamming purposes.

Conversely, design-milk.com built a huge following with a hyphen in the domain name.

It is best to avoid the use of hyphens altogether or limit it to one hyphen, if you must use it.

4

I cannot emphasize this enough. Do not register domain names that are trademarked!

For instance, Apple is notorious for product secrecy and brand protection. Take a look at this article where Apple seizes 16 domains that contained their trademarked names (i.e. iPod, iPad, Mac, etc). Similarly, Microsoft sued a Russian businessman over in Windows.ru domain.

Similarly, Uzi Nissan, the owner of nissan.com, has been fighting a legal battle with Nissan Motor Company for the right to the domain for the better part of 2 decades. Do a quick Google search and there are many articles providing details about the case (makes for an interesting read).

These large corporations have deep pockets, and unless you are willing to challenge them in court, avoid registering copyrighted or trademarked names.

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Where to Buy a Domain?

A domain registrar is a company that’s approved by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to sell domains. Not all domain registrars are provided with the license to sell every type of domain extension. Domain extensions such as .io, .is, or .tv are offered by select few registrars only.

Domain Registration vs Web Hosting

Do not confuse domain registration with web hosting. These are two different services but you need both to publish a website.

Domain Registration

Refers to purchasing the rights to a specific domain name, such as www.skool.house for a limited period (1-10 years).

Web Hosting

Refers to a service that provides storage space to place all the files necessary to publish a website.

Some domain registrars, such as GoDaddy, offer both domain purchases and hosting services. While other companies like Porkbun only offer domain registration and you would have to purchase hosting services from another company.

For this website, the domain was purchased through NameCheap and hosting was provided by MDDHosting. Even though NameCheap does offer hosting services, I found MDDHosting to provide higher-performance hosting services.

As of now, there are over 900 hundred registrars to choose from so it can be challenging to find the right one. When selecting a registrar, you should consider the following.

1

A good registrar should be able to assist with any domain-related issues promptly. Issues registering, transferring, or something technical in nature should be addressed in a timely manner.

2

Look at domain registrars that offer privacy protection for a low cost or even free.

Some domain registrars charge a premium for their privacy service when there isn’t any added benefit. Others offer a cheap introductory offer and hike up the yearly rate along with the added cost for privacy protection.

Pricing & Sales

Domain prices can vary drastically in prices depending on the extension. Below are some of the standard pricing for domains.

.com – $10-$15 per year
.co – $25-$30 per year
.io – $40-$45 per year
.ai – $75-$80 per year
.inc – $2000+ per year

Domains often go on sale and you can grab one for fraction of the price. At the time of publishing this article, Porkbun has .com domains listed for $4.75 for the first year.

Watch Out For Introductory Rates

Some of the popular registrars like GoDaddy will give an introductory price of $0.99 for the first year, but when it comes time for the renewal, you will be expected to pay $25 per year going forward.

If you are planning on keeping a domain name for many years to come, it would be beneficial to go with a registrar like Namecheap who will provide a low introductory fee and a yearly renewal fee.

Additional Fee For Privacy Protection

When you purchase a domain, your personal information such as full name, address, and contact details are collected and made available on a publicly searchable database of domain registration information.

Generally, people do not want their personal information publicly available for anyone to access. To prevent it, you can get the Whois Privacy Protection which redacts all your personal information.

With some registrars such as NameCheap, Whois Privacy Protection is free with all domain purchases or there could be a small fee of $2.99 per year. Other companies such as Bluehost will charge an additional $15 per year for the same protection.

Domaintools is one of the websites that allows you to look up the Whois information of the person that owns the domain. It allows you to see their name, address, telephone, email, domain registrar details, age of the domains, and the hosting server details.

I looked up Amazon.ca and I’m able to see the following.

Domain Privacy Amazon v1

When I looked at my own website (skool.house), most of the information is redacted because of the Whois Privacy Protection.

Domain Privacy Skool House v1
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Recommendation

I would highly recommend Namecheap for purchasing domains. I have been using them for over 8 years and they have provided great customer service at affordable pricing.

Alternatively, take a look at Porkbun. I have been only using their service for less than a year, but it has been a positive experience so far.

Credits

SVG Icons
Bootstrap Icons – Multiple SVG Icons

Math

Designer, photographer, and all-around tech enthusiast. He enjoys sharing what he learns with others and you can find him creating helpful resources, articles, and how-to guides for Skool House.

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