The address for your Web site is called its domain name, or URL. It’s what visitors type into a web browser to find your Web site.
When you register a domain name, you create an address for yourself on the World Wide Web. For example, this Web site has the domain name DigitalFamily.com.
The www part of any domain is optional — if you set up the domain and hosting properly, you can make your address work with or without the URL. You can even create variations, such as http://maps.google.com/ which make it easy to find your physical location at a special URL, using a variation on the Google.com domain name.
One you register a domain name, you can keep it for life (with few exceptions) as long as you pay the annual fee, usually about $10 per year.
Whether you build a custom site with a Web Design program such as Adobe Dreamweaver or you create a blog with WordPress, or you use an online service such as wix or weebly, you can aways register (or transfer) your domain name to another register and change the web hosting to any web server.
You can host your site at the same place you register the domain, and any companies offer both, but domain registration and web hosting are different services.
Here’s a metaphor that may help you understand the difference — hosting and domain transfers and stuff confuse a lot of people.
Think of a hosting company like an apartment you rent, a place where your web site can live. Think of the domain name like your phone number, one that you can transfer (or forward) to a new apartment if you ever needed to do so.
Web hosting varies the way apartments do. When you sign up with a hosting company you can choose to get a cheap apartment (with their low-end service), or you can opt for a higher end service, one you might need to furnish yourself a little more.
When you pay for the top level of service at a company like Rackspace.com, you can get the penthouse apartment of web hosting, but you pay for the view (or in this case, the faster, more reliable service).
Most web hosting services let you upload your own web site to their web server or install a wordpress blog, much like you would furnish your own apartment and hang art on the walls.
And, much like an apartment, you can move from one web hosting service to another.
If you transfer your site to a new server, then you have to essentially transfer your domain name, or URL, from your domain registrar to your web host. It’s kind of like keeping the same phone number when you move to a new apartment.
In the case of a domain, however, it’s usually called changing DNS. If you ever want to change the company where you registered your domain, that’s kind of like changing phone companies while keeping the same phone number and it’s a bit more complicated, but if you start by contacting the place you registered your domain name, you can usually track it down.
Create your own Web address
The process is simple, relatively painless, and costs less than $10 per year. Once you have a domain name registered, you can even create email addresses to go with it.
If you don’t register a domain name, your Web site’s address will probably be an extension of the domain that your service provider registered and will look something like this:
http://www.yourname.blogger.com or if you use a Web hosting service, it might be www.serviceprovider.com/users/yournamehere
If you register a domain name, your address should look more like this:
No matter how or where you create a Web site, you forward your name wherever your Web site or online photo album is hosted (even if you use one of the free sites). You can even register more than one name and point them both at the same site. For example, both JCWarner.com and JanineWarner.com go to the same Web site. Registering more than one domain name, and including common mispellings and variations of your domain, can help ensure everyone can find you (even those who don’t know how to spell your name).
How can you find out if a domain name is taken?
Searching to see if the domain name you want is already registered is easy — and free. Just visit any domain registration service, such as the two listed below, enter the name you’re looking for in the search box on the front page, and you’ll find out right away if it’s already taken. (If the name is available, these sites walk you through the process of registering the name.)
The most popular (cheapest) domain registration services
www.1and1.com,which claims to be the largest domain registrar in the world
GoDaddy.com,which claims to be the largest domain registrar in the U.S.
Web hosting vs. Domain Registration
Here are a few other web hosting services to consider
Basic Web Hosting Services:
HostGater, BlueHost, AnHosting, Dreamhost
Premium Server Service:
What do to if the name you want to register is already taken
If your first choice is taken, don’t give up; most registrars will offer you a list of alternatives and with a little creativity you can probably find a variation that will work just fine. For example, www.reynolds.com may be long gone, but www.TheReynoldsFamily.com or www.CaliforniaReynolds.com may still be available.
And here’s an advanced tip: capital letters don’t matter in the main part of a Web address. I can type www.DigitalFamily.com or www.digitalfamily.com into any browser and get to the same site. However, everything that comes after the .com part is case sensitive. So, for example, if you want to go directly to the bookstore on this site, you can type in www.DigitalFamily.com/books, but if you type in www.DigitalFamily.com/Books and use a capital B for books, you will get an error message that the page does not exist.
Registering Domain Names
You can register any domain name that hasn’t already been taken by someone else. To check to see whether a domain name is already registered, do a simple search at any domain registration Web site, such as GoDaddy.com.
Finding out whether a name is already in use is easy — and free. All domain name services connect to the same master databases that track all the domain names on the Web, but they charge different amounts for domain registration and offer different services to go along with them. Many domain services offer Web site hosting, email, and more, but you can also register a domain name at one service and host your Web site somewhere else (including any of the free services online).
All domain registration services work about the same when it comes to searching for a name to see if it’s available. Here’s how it works.
Search to see if the name you want is available
1. Use a Web browser to visit a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy.com.
2. In the search area on the registrar’s site, type the name you want to register.
3. Click to begin your search.
Most registration services immediately confirm if a name is available and provide a list of recommended alternatives if the name you want is taken.
4. If the name you want is not available and you don’t like the alternatives offered, you can try another name.
Once you find a name you like, registration takes only a few minutes.
Registration is easy once you choose a name
You can register any domain name that hasn’t already been taken by someone else. Once you search a site like GoDaddy.com, and find a name you want, just follow the links to complete the registration process.
You’ll have to pay the annual registration fee up front, (prices vary, but you shouldn’t pay more than $10 a year). You can use a credit card, debit card, or PayPal at most registrars and you can start using the name for your Web iste as soon as the registration is complete (verifying and creating a new registration can take 24 to 48 hours).
Most domain registrars send you a bill ever year and give you the option to renew, and some offer discounts if you purchase multiple years in advance.
Domain name tips and tricks
The best domain names are easy to remember, easy to spell, and easy to convey (can be said in one simple sentence).
- Domain names cannot include spaces, periods, apostrophes, or other punctuation, but you can use the hyphen and the underscore. For example, you can use our-family.com with a hyphen or our_family.com with an underscore.
- Although you may use a hyphen or an underscore in your name, often the best choice is one word or a combination of words run together. For example, you could register www.the-sunshine-family.com, but that’s harder to convey verbally because you have to explain the hyphens. If you simply use www.sunshinefamily.com, you can say, “My address is SunshineFamily dot com, all one word.”
Distinguish yourself to avoid confusion
Before you register a domain name, you may want to do a Google search and see if anyone else is using a similar name. It’s easy to choose a name that’s similar to someone else’s and later find out that person has a site you’d be embarrassed to be associated with.
Also beware of the .net, .com, .org variations. You may get GreatName.net, but if the site at GreatName.com is something you don’t want to be associated with, you’re running a big risk that your visitors will be confused and go to the .com site by accident. Domain names with .net are fine as long as you’re careful to give people your full name and comfortable with where they may land by accident.
Domain Name Key:
.com = Commercial (and can be registered by anyone)
.net = Network (but can be registered by anyone)
.org = Organization (designed for nonprofit groups but can be registered by anyone)
.edu = Educational, .gov = government, .mil = military (these are reserved for official organizations and cannot be registered by the general public)
There are many more variations, including country domains like .au = Australia, .uk = England, and .mx = Mexico
What if someone else has the domain name you want
Anyone can buy or sell a domain name once it’s registered. Some people make a business of it. If you search for a name at a registration service such as GoDaddy.com,and find that the name is already taken, try typing the name into a browser to see where it goes. Maybe it’s being used by a well-established site, or maybe the person who owns it is hoping to sell it.
Sometimes when you type a domain name into a browser, you’ll get to a page that says, “buy this name.” Some domain names are for sale by companies and others by individuals hoping to sell it for more than they paid when they officially registered it. If it’s a good name, it’s probably going to cost more than $10. Over the years, domain names have gone for as much as $1 million, but most sell for a lot, lot less.
Buying and selling domain names is a little like buying and selling used cars — prices vary widely and depend a lot on how popular the name is and who’s selling it. Remember, you can always make an offer or negotiate to try to get the name you really want.
Capital Letters Make Domains Easier to Remember
Domain names are not case sensitive. For example, you can get to my Web site by entering www.digitalfamily.com or www.DigitalFamily.com. Because people are accustomed to seeing capital letters in a person’s name, I prefer tocapitalize the J and W when I print my domain name on my business cards and other marketing materials. I find most people understand it better than way and have an easier time remembering it and spelling it.
Just don’t forget that anything that comes after a domain name (after the dot-com part of the address) is case sensitive. For example, www.DigitalFamily.com/books takes you directly to the page on my site where I list my books. You can’t get there if you capitalize the B in books.
After you find the best domain name for your site, don’t neglect to register all of the variations and mispellings you can think of — you don’t want to keep people from finding your website just because they can’t spell or don’t know about that clever abbreviation you use. (Learn more about registering more than one domain name.)