How to Pick a Great Domain
What’s in a name? Choosing a domain name is one of the first tasks to tackle when creating a website. If you’re new to the world of websites, it may seem daunting… Where to start? What makes a good domain name? How do I know what options are even available? What if the domain I want is taken? How much do they cost?
Parts of a Domain Name
First, let’s learn a little. There are three main parts to a domain name:
We are going to look at each part, working from right to left:
- Top-Level Domain – “.ca”
- Second-Level Domain – “effortlessweb”
- Sub Domain – “www”
Then, just to cover the whole picture, we will talk about some other parts that usually go along with a domain name, like the Protocol (e.g. https://) and URL components.
Top-Level Domains (TLDs) are something like file extensions for your Word Doc (.docx), JPEG photo (.jpeg or .jpg), or Text file (.txt). They help to give a description of the domain name, but not much in terms of specifics about what the domain is about.
Some Top-Level Domain examples:
- .com – commercial, although it’s kind of the “default” and can be for any type of site
- .org – organization, originally intended for non-profits but anyone can register
- .gov – restricted to US national and state government agencies
- .ca – Canadian sites – requires proof of residence in Canada for registration
Unlike file extensions, most domain extensions have no requirements or restrictions – anyone can purchase them for any kind of website. (e.g. you can’t put a .jpeg extension on your Word Doc, but you can put a .org on a for-profit company’s website.)
There are tons of TLD extensions (according to Wikipedia, as of April 2018, the root domain contains 1543 top-level domains). Many of these are country-specific, like .ca for Canadian sites, or .nl for the Netherlands. Others are related to specific industries, like .auto, .film, or .vacations.
Take a look at the List of Internet top-level domains on Wikipedia.
What TLDs should I consider?
Some people say you have to get a .com. Others say the newer TLDs offer more variety because the “better” second-domain names aren’t as picked over (e.g. you might be able to get *YourCompanyName*.now, even though *YourCompanyName*.com is already taken).
Our opinion – there is no “one size fits all” answer. A .com is nice to have, because some people assume that all websites are .com, so they might type your name in with a .com if they can’t remember the proper TLD. But, they just as likely to type your name in Google, in which case, they probably won’t even notice your TLD, or your domain at all, for that matter.
Let us help you explore what options are out there for TLDs for your business – we’d be happy to help!
The Second-Level Domain is the main part of your domain. It’s the “Google” in www.google.com, the “YouTube” in youtube.com, and the “EffortlessWeb” in effortlessweb.ca. It’s the primary thing you’re looking for when searching for a domain name.
Some Recommendations on choosing a Second-Level Domain
- If at all possible, avoid special characters like hyphens. Some aren’t even allowed in domain names, but even if they are, we recommend not using them. They can cause too much confusion, both in getting your visitors to remember your domain, and in communicating it verbally.
- Consider how easy your domain name will be to read when printed. If it’s multiple words, and you type it out in all lowercase, is it still distinguishable?
- Consider how easy your domain name will be to describe verbally. You will inevitably be sharing your domain name with a contact over the phone or in person – make sure it is easy to share!
- Consider how easy your domain is to type. Is it awkwardly long? Does it contain words that are often misspelled? (Definitely shy away from misspelled words or words with multiple spellings, unless you can purchase domains for all possible spellings or misspellings.)
What if the domain I want is already taken?
Don’t worry! There are lots of ways to tweak your ideal domain and find one that will work for you. Often something as simple as adding your business type to the end of the domain will work well.
If you’re having trouble deciding on a domain name, drop us a line! We’d be happy to walk you through the process and find a domain name that is perfect for you.
A subdomain is not really something you need to consider when purchasing a domain name, but they can be very beneficial. Subdomains allow you to separate your domain name into many separate sites, or redirect traffic easily to different parts of your website.
For example, many sites use something like blog.example.com to separate their blog from their website (maybe at www.example.com). Or, they want to have an easy way to log into their corporate email, so they set up mail.example.com to direct their staff to their webmail client.
In these cases, “blog” and “mail” are subdomains of example.com.
Did you know?
Actually, www before any website name, is just a subdomain of their domain. You could set up two completely different websites, and put one at www.yourdomain.com, and the other at yourdomain.com! This would be inadvisable in most cases, because most people expect those two forms of a domain name to go to the same place. But it’s possible!
Need a subdomain?
Once you have a domain set up, if you think you need a subdomain for a specific instance, we can help with that!
Other Domain-Related Parts
HTTP stands for Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol. That’s a fancy, techy way of describing the method the computers use to send data back and forth to each other. When visiting a website, the server (computer) that the website is hosted on is sending the website’s images and text to your computer, so they can show up on your screen.
What about HTTPS?
HTTPS refers to Secure data transfer, which is one way to know that the information you enter on a website is being securely transfered (think sending your valuables in an armoured truck vs. asking a bike courier to deliver them for you).
There was a time when HTTPS was reserved for sending bank or credit card information (e.g. online shopping), or transferring other personal information. Nowadays, HTTPS is expected for all websites, since we are moving to a more secure internet. Web browsers (e.g. Chrome) and Search Engines (e.g. Google) are penalizing non-HTTPS sites and giving priority to those with HTTPS enabled.
Note: Enabling HTTPS (also called SSL or TLS) is something you do with your web host, not something you need to do when purchasing your domain name. So, don’t worry about this too much yet! But if you have a website, and it doesn’t use HTTPS, you are almost certainly missing out on some possible visitors!
A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) serves to give a complete location of a web resource (e.g. web page) and the mechanism for retrieving it. It is a combination of:
- a Protocol (e.g. https://, http://, ftp://),
- a Host Name (which could be a domain name like effortlessweb.ca, or an IP address like 220.127.116.11)
- a File Name or Path (e.g. index.html or /path/to/my/file.pdf)
- optionally, a Query String (e.g. ?id=123 or ?SESSION_ID=crazylong123lineOfTextAndUnreadable456Characters or #abc)
When you combine all of those parts together, you get a URL that tells a computer exactly how to find a web page or other resource across the entire Internet. Pretty amazing!
How Can We Help?
Domains can be confusing, frustrating, or mystifying.
Let us work with you to research the best possible options for your site’s domain name, and then set us to work creating a website to go with it!