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What is a domain name?
A domain name is the location of your website on the Internet. Your domain name will be what you become known by online so it's important to get it right.
Each website on the Internet is labelled with something called an IP address which is the actual address of the website online. A typical IP address looks like this: 22.214.171.124. Remembering a string of numbers like that is difficult so a domain name translates all those numbers into something like www.amazon.com. This is far easier to remember.
#1 Dot what?
Each domain has what's called an extension. The most well known of these extensions is .com. This, however, is not the only type of domain extension available. There is also:
If you can't find your preferred .com domain name you could always choose the same domain with a .net extension. It might not have the same ring as a .com but is still as just useful as a .com.
These domain extensions were orginally designed for educational and more formal websites. Anybody can register a .org however so you have more options for domain selection.
A more recent introduction to the domain name game are .info domains. Many of the valuable .info domains were bought up overnight but there's still a huge range of good .info domains available. With a little creativity you could really make a .info work for you e.g. www.moviereview.info.
Bear in mind that most web surfers tend to remember .com more easily than anything else.
#2 Branding vs Business Name
There is an age old debate on the whether or not you should establish a brand name online or use a domain that more actually reflects your real business. Let's look at Amazon as an example. Amazon sells books online. Most people setting up a business would have chosen say www.booksonline.com instead of www.amazon.com. Amazon has since established itself as a brand name of global recognition - proving the value of building a brand name.
You'll need to choose between the two. Brand name or your own business name. Consider how your domain sounds, how it might look on a business card and how well it relates to your business.
There's no one right answer to this question. You need to choose what makes most sense for you, your website and your business in general.
#3 Hyphenated or Not?
This is another area of debate. Should your domain be one single word or should the words be separated by hyphens? There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Single word domain names can be easier to explain, use on header paper and lend themselves to brand names very well.
Single word domains are in very, very short supply.
Hyphenated domains names can be slighltly more difficult to explain, may not look as well on headed paper and possibly harder to establish as a brand name. There's no shortage of multiple word domains.
The single biggest advantage a hyphenated domain has is that searche engines can "read" the domain more easily. For example in a domain like www.foreignholidaysonline.com the search engine can only read the first word "foreign" and that's it. It can't tell anything else about the website domain name.
If you hyphenated that to www.foreign-holidays-online.com the search engine can read "foreign", "holidays" and "online" as separate words and therefore knows that this website is about foreign holidays.
A well chosen hyphenated domain name can be just as effective as a single word domain name.
#4 Your Domain Registrar
These are the people you pay to register the domain for you. There are dozens if not hundreds of these companies out there so which one do you choose? This takes some research but things worth checking are:
Do you retain sole ownership of the domain or do the registrar keep some level of control over it?
Search Google for any horror stories relating to the registrar
Does the registrar allow you to transfer the domain to another registrar?
Is there an online control panel for domain administration?
How easy is it to change the domain Name servers?
Shop around for domain registrars. What you really want to find is a previously satisfied customer to ask questions before you buy.
#5 Cheap Domain Names
You can save a lot of money on the domain names you purchase. A typical .com domain costs about $15 to register from most registrars. However you can get the same domain for as little as $7.95 from other, very reliable, companies.
Oddly enough some of the cheaper domain registrars are more reliable, have fewer horror stories and offer equally good customer service as their more expensive competitors.
Are there any disadvantages in using a discount domain registrar? Will it affect your website in any way? The answer to both is a definite No.