What You Need To Know About Domain Names

What You Need To Know About Domain Names

The internet has come a long way since its humble beginnings. There was once only one website dedicated to explaining the World Wide Web project. The computer it was hosted on was in CERN and it had a hand-written sticker on it saying “This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!!”

Like the internet, domain names have come a long way. Although similar concepts existed before our commercial internet, domain names didn’t always exist as such.

ARPANET

In the beginning of ARPANET, the internet’s precursor, there were no domain names. If you wanted to communicate with another machine, you needed to know its IP address.

The system worked while there were few machines connected to ARPANET. Once the number of computers grew higher, a new system was needed.

The system changed into pairing simple names with numerical addresses. With it, you had to remember a human-friendly word instead of a string of numbers. It was a more efficient system and more similar to the one we have today.

Imagine if you had to remember an IP address for every website you visit. Remembering addresses was difficult on ARPANET, but on today’s internet it is outright impossible.

Mind that this wasn’t the domain name system just yet. It had the same idea behind it, but back then everything was done manually. Somebody had to pair addresses and domain names one by one within a single TXT file.

It took many improvements to get to where it is today. Paul Mockapetris invented the current domain name system in 1983. In 1987, there were 100 registered domain names.

The DNS

There are currently over 333 million registered domain names, with about 5,000 new ones spawning every hour. Not bad for a 36-year-old system, right?

What are the domain names like today, then? What are they and why are there so many? We’ll take a moment to explain. After reading this, you’ll see why domain names exist in such numbers.

Let’s start with explaining what domain names are. The simplest explanation is that domain names are what you type into a browser to find a website. For instance, “facebook.com” is the domain name of the website called Facebook.

Note that a domain name is not the same as a website. A website doesn’t need a domain name to exist. Computers use IP addresses to communicate. You could type in the IP address and find any website on the internet. Yet, in all likelihood, you’ve never done this. Why would you? There are domain names, after all!

As we said, domain names are much easier for humans to remember than numerical addresses. That’s why the domain name system exists.

Let’s briefly explain how the domain name system, or DNS, works. The DNS translates domain names into IP addresses.

All domain names and their respective IP addresses are saved within the DNS. All domain names must be unique. One IP address, and therefore one website, can have multiple domain names, but one domain name can be associated with just one IP address.

So, when you type in the domain name of your favorite website, your computer requests the respective IP address from the DNS. It can then use the IP address to communicate with the server on which the website is hosted and retrieve web pages.

This is so much easier as practically all websites have domain names. Other than a server for hosting, a domain name is really the only must-have to run a website.

It’s so important that some quality hosting providers throw in a free domain name with their hosting package.

We can finish up with a few tips on how to choose a domain name.

How to choose a domain name

Choosing a domain name is not as simple as typing the first couple of words that come to your mind. The right domain name brings in more traffic, makes your website more memorable, and establishes your business identity on the Web. That’s why it’s worthwhile to put some thought into your domain name.

A few general guidelines on what makes a good domain name:

The first is to make your domain name short. Your domain name can have up to 253 characters, but you should limit it to 14. Shorter names are easier to remember and there are fewer chances of misspelling. This means users have an easier time finding and coming back to your website.

The second tip is to make your domain name simple. Avoid numbers and hyphens. Also, don’t use slang like “u” instead of “you” unless it’s a part of your existing brand name. It’s all about making your domain name memorable and easy to type.

Go for Dot-Com

The third tip is to choose the right extension. If you’re not sure which extension to pick, the rule of thumb is to go with dot-com. Over a third of all websites use dot-com so it’s the most familiar to internet users.

Not that other extensions should be off limits. If you target an audience in a specific country, you could use a country-code TLD like .uk or .es. Perhaps you should choose an extension relevant to your profession like .lawyer. This sends a message to the desired audience that your website is exactly for them.

There are over 1500 different extensions so there’s a lot to choose from. If you are not sure which one to pick, we repeat, dot-com is your best bet.

You can also do domain name and keyword research. Most domain name registrars like GoDaddy.com offer a search tool for finding available domain names. Here you can check if your desired domain name is available.

Keyword research is always useful. Find the keywords people use when searching for the type of content you would post on your website. You can then include one of the keywords into your domain name. Note that this doesn’t influence SEO anymore, but it is helpful as the domain name lets users know what your website is about.

Those are our tips on choosing the domain name that benefits your website. You now know what domain names are, how they came to be, how they work, and how to pick a good one. Good luck with picking a snappy and memorable domain name!

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Simon Dalley is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He is the founder and a director of GrowTraffic.

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