All the information you need to understand the what, why and how behind domain registration is often broken up or incomplete. For beginners to the world of website creation, the act of familiarizing oneself of what is required can often get a bit confusing. What do you need to have on hand? How much does it cost? Where do I start?
Don’t jump from resource to resource, or waste time typing in different questions into various search engines, we’ve got everything you need to know about domain registration right here.
What is a domain name?
Let’s start with the basics. It’s tough to know how the whole process starts if you aren’t 100% what a domain name actually is. Is it the whole website address? Is it the middle part, or just the end? Domain names are controlled under the Domain Name System (DNS) where addresses are assigned to websites. A domain name is essentially your address on the world wide web, and helps people find and remember you online.
A domain name is everything you see after the ‘www’, for example, 1-grid.com. This is then split up into top level domains (TLDs) and second level domains (SLDs).
Top level domains are your .com, .co.za, .org etc, and are known as generalised descriptors. They indicate the nature of your business, the industry your website associates with as well as the region you work in. While .com is the most generic and relevant to global-scale business, .co.za is ideal for South African based businesses. Second level domains are the middle part of your address, the description of your business. In our case it’s ‘1-grid’.
In short, a domain name is part of your complete website URL, that helps search engines and browsers find you online.
Choose a domain name
Now that you know what a domain name is, the next step is very simple. It’s time to choose your own domain name. Before you start remember the following rules:
- Spaces are not allowed, but dashes can be used
- Special characters (!, ?, &, #, @) are not accepted
- Your SLD must be between 2 and 63 characters long
- Lower case must be used but spelling errors in searches will not make a difference
It’s most common to use your business name as your domain name. This will help browsers who already know your brand to find you online and help Google understand the nature of your website.
That being said, it’s alway useful to do some keyword research before you settle on a name. Inserting a keyword that is often used by your target market into your domain name will help your website’s SEO efforts. If it’s relevant to your business name and fits into your domain, go for it.
Consider the domain name, whatsonincapetown.com. A number of people search for events and activities in Cape Town using ‘what’s on in Cape Town’ and the website is a directory for all things happening in the mother city and surrounds. It’s the perfect match! But this isn’t always the case, so remember not to force a keyword in if it doesn’t look natural. Simple is most often better for brand awareness and user experience.
Read more: How to choose a domain name for your blog
Register a domain name
The last and final step is to register your domain. Pretty simple so far right? Luckily this last step is pretty easy too. You will need to find a domain registrar (luckily you’ve already found 1-grid) and take a look at their pricing and packages. There are a few features to look out for when deciding on a package, including:
- Quick setup
- High-performance servers
- Online security
- Simple payment solutions
- Local technical support
- Automatic notifications and renewals
Once you have found your provider, consider getting web hosting from the same provider. Web hosting allows your website to go live, and be accessible at all times and if your domain and hosting is all with one company, you manage your website essentials all in one place.
From there you enter your desired domain name into the search bar to see if it’s available. If it is, great! You can then create an account with the service provider online, and purchase it along with the top level domain of your choice.
If your ideal domain name isn’t available, you will be provided with a list of similar names to choose from.
Domain registration is an annual subscription and you will be notified to renew it when the time comes.
Also, consider purchasing multiple domain names. If you want a .co.za domain, consider adding a .com, .capetown or .store (some of South Africa’s most popular top level domains) to drive more localised users to your website. Plus, you own more space on the web without fraudsters finding you first and registering your name with a different top level domain.
Now that all the basics are covered, you should be set to find and secure your dream domain name and get your small business online.