Business Basics: Everything You Need To Know About Domain Names
When you're setting up your first website, it's easy to get confused by an overload of information. What's a domain name and how do you get one? Is that the same as web hosting? And what's domain mapping?
All good questions. And all things most people need to know when they’re starting out with a new website.
In today’s Business Basics, we'll cover all this! Read on...
Does everyone need a domain name?
Yes. If you are setting up a business website of your own, you do.
A domain name is the same as your URL, for example mine: www.lilanigoonesena.com
Some platforms will give you a free domain name. For example, with Squarespace, you can get a free .com domain name of your choice (if it’s available). With a Wordpress.com plan, you can get a domain name easily too.
When would I need to set up my own domain name?
You need to set up your own domain name if you...
- Want a domain name that isn’t available through your platform
- Want a country-specific suffix like .com.au or .net.au
- Are using wordpress.org or building a site from scratch with coding
How do I choose a good domain name?
Simply put, your domain name or URL should be the same as your business name. Or as close as it can be.
If your business is called Red Hippo Designs, then your ideal domain name may be www.redhippodesigns.com.
Alternatively, you can use your own name, like me: www.lilanigoonesena.com. This is a popular choice for freelancers.
However, t’s harder if your name is more common, such as Emma Smith. Then you'll need to think more creatively around your domain name, such as adding your middle name, or your profession, eg: www.emmasmithwriter.com.
How do I search for my ideal domain name?
Hop onto your web platform of choice - Squarespace or Wordpress for example - and do a search for the domain name you want. You may have to be flexible on this but you should figure something out.
DON'T do this search on a domain name company site. Avoid the “check your domain name here” space UNTIL you’re ready to go ahead and make a purchase. It’s apparently a bit of a newbie con that they then put the price up!
What if I want a .au URL?
If you want a specific country URL, eg an Australian .com.au or .net.au, you’ll need to register it with an Australian domain name or web hosting company (more below).
You’ll also need your ABN so you have to have a registered business in Australia. It typically costs about $A13/year and a minimum 2 year contract is typical.
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How do I buy my domain name?
You need to buy your domain name at a domain registration company. There are a few stand alone companies, such as HostGator and GoDaddy.
But more commonly companies combine domain name registrations with website hosting.
A bit about website hosting
What is website hosting?
Web hosting essentially connects your website to the internet, via a hosting company.
A web hosting company will often combine a domain name and hosting in one package. They can gives you a load of other things to help you manage your website, such as:
- Unlimited or a generous data transfer allowance
- 24/7 customer service (usually via online chat)
- Website builder
- Wordpress hosting
- E-commerce functionality
It pays to ask questions and shop around.
Why would I need website hosting?
You only need web hosting if you are using Wordpress.org or building a site from scratch (ie, with coding).
If you’re using a website platform like Squarespace, Shopify, Wix, or Weebly, for example, you don’t need to worry about web hosting. (Yay - one less thing). These platforms will host your website for you.
What is SSL certification and do I need it?
SSL certification is a data key that allows secure transactions on your website, such as collecting personal information and credit card payments.
SSL certification is now standard for all websites, and Google is penalising sites that don't have it.
Most domain name or hosting companies charge an extra fee for this. But Squarespace provides free SSL certification to all its sites so you won’t need to purchase it separately.
I’ve registered my domain name. Now what?
Now you need to “map” it to your website. Mapping is like an imaginary line between your domain company and your website, harnessing the two together.
Mapping your domain is a completely free process but can be a little fiddly. It takes about an hour to set up and the connection should be working within 24 hours.
The easiest way to map your domain is to give your domain company login details to your web designer and have them do it for you! Don’t forget to change your password after they’ve finished.
Or, if you’re taking the DIY route, not to worry. Both your domain name provider and your website platform will have instructions. It’s pretty much the same process, regardless of which company you choose. Here’s how to map a domain with Squarespace.
RELATED POST: The Best Squarespace Template For Your Business Website
And you’re done! Your new domain name and website should be all connected and ready to go.
About the author: Lilani Goonesena is an Australian freelance writer, SEO copywriter and Squarespace web designer based in Vientiane, Laos. She loves boosting freelancers and small businesses with web design, SEO content and digital marketing strategy. She writes an awesome weekly newsletter on digital marketing, social media, blogging, web design and "all that online stuff". Lilani also blogs at the delectable Eat Drink Laos, just for fun.