Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over a Domain Name

don't beat yourself up over a domain name

Every website is identified by a unique, one-of-a-kind name—a domain name. Please don’t beat yourself up over a domain name. Unless it’s awful, other than that, don’t sweat it. Grab your piece of the web.

Objectives

  1. Learn how the domain name system works to understand better how your domain’s name fits in.
  2. Show you how to purchase a shiny new domain name when ready.

Business Implications

A domain name is essential to your business ecosystem. It is required of every website on the planet. So, to launch a blog or an e-commerce website, you’ll need to acquire a unique domain name.

What is a Domain?

A domain is a unique, one-of-a-kind destination on the web. Comprised of a name/number combination, no two domains on the web share the same domain name. For example, LAB90 resides at ‘lab90.com.’ If you were to attempt to use lab90.com for your website, you’d be out of luck. Why? That domain name, lab90.com, is already owned (leased, really) by another party—LAB90.

You’re in good shape if you already have a domain name for your e-commerce website. However, we do encourage you to read on. This section not only covers domain names but we also explore other internet-related concepts that can be of help to you and your team.

A vital component for most e-commerce businesses is the website domain. As the name implies, a domain name specifies a specific location or property on the web.

With a domain name’s purchase (lease, really), you now own a piece of the web. And for many e-commerce businesses, a domain name will be used to establish a primary sales channel—a website. And unlike other sales channels, a website allows you to create a customized, highly managed digital commerce experience for consumers.

Have Domain Name, Will Website

Again, you can’t create that custom e-commerce experience without having your place on the web to build it. This is where domains come in.

As mentioned above, a domain is identified by a unique name and a unique number, each “pointing” to the other. The LAB90 domain name is lab90.com. If you were to type this domain name into your browser’s address bar, it would take you to our home page (provided you have internet connectivity). And, if you were to type in LAB90’s primary Internet Protocol or I.P. address, a string of unique numbers, like 192.168.1.1, into that same address bar, you would also arrive at the LAB90 home page. So, what gives?

From a technical perspective, your domain’s I.P. number is what all web servers use to identify each other. But, for us humans, it’s generally easier to remember a name (lab90.com) than a long string of numbers (192.64.119.171). Thankfully, the original computer networking architects were intelligent enough to resolve human-readable names to those long messy numbers on our behalf.

Additionally, a domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers, and it can be combined with various domain name extensions, such as .com, .net, and more. For example, the domain name “google.com” represents about a dozen I.P. addresses.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is responsible for approving, distributing, and managing all top-level domain names.

icann hompage
ICANN

DNS and the Internet Protocol Address

The Domain Name System, or DNS, translates a domain’s more memorizable domain name to its less memorable numerical Internet Protocol or I.P. address.

An Internet Protocol Address or I.P. address is assigned to every device connected to a public (Internet) or private (intranet) network. For our purposes, your domain registrar initially assigns an I.P. address. If you move your domain to a new registrar or host, you may be assigned a new I.P. address. Additionally, domains are hosted using network-connected servers and software that serves up web pages, known as web servers. The process is referred to as web hosting.

The Domain Registrar

ICANN approves domain registrars to issue (sell) specific Top-Level Domains or TLDs. A TLD “sits” at the top of the Domain Name System described earlier. Common TLDs include “.com,” “.net,” “.org,” “.gov,” “.co,” and “.io,” to name a few of the now hundreds of options.

Show NameCheap Website

After purchasing your domain name (you’re renting it for a specific term) from a registrar for a set number of years, you’ll eventually need to manage its settings. Standard domain management functions include:

  • Moving or pointing your domain new a new web host (your registrar hosts your domain until you choose to move it)
  • Configure DNS for services like email
  • Domain verification actions to prove you are, in fact, the owner of a domain you claim to own

Although most domain owners will eventually point their domains to a different web host, changing registrars is generally unnecessary unless you need to.

How a Domain Name ‘Becomes’ a Website

For your domain name to turn into your dream ecommerce website, it must first go through a process. And although your CMS and hosting service will perform most of the heavy lifting for you, we thought it would be helpful to give a top-level overview of how this works.

Websites are connected to a Web Server — a Computer that Serves up Web Pages.

  1. Purchase a domain from a domain registrar. This could be from a dedicated third-party registrar, or your e-commerce content management system may also act as a domain registrar and offer you the option of bundling your CMS and domain registration services.
  2. “Point” or “move” your domain from your current host (the registrar) to the new web host of your choosing. If you’re using a third-party registrar: This process is so standard that registrars and hosts have detailed, step-by-step instructions on completing this process. However, if you use an integrated CMS/registrar, the CMS has likely been configured on your behalf.
  3. Add pages, folders, images, videos, scripts, and other assets to your web server directory. This is also known as building a website! Since you’ll likely be using a CMS to build your website (as we highly recommend for most cases), the difficulty of building your website is significantly reduced. A website is essentially made up of pages and other files located inside a web server directory and subfolders. The main web server folder is referred to as the “root.” This is where your home page file is located. Each page has a unique path or URL and can be accessed by manually entering its URL into a browser address bar or through hyperlinks.
  4. You now have a working website! There is more to do from here, like website security, design, and optimization, but this should provide you with a foundational understanding of how this domain-to-website process works.
Squarespace.com
Squarespace purchased Google Domains in September 2023, making it one of the largest domain registrars.

Choosing a Domain

Before registering a domain name, you must choose a preferred one. Your name will be based on several conditions, such as availability and price. Also, be aware of branding issues. Choose a domain name that doesn’t mislead or confuse consumers or cause conflicts with competitors or other brands.

Beyond that, working yourself up over not being able to acquire your preferred domain is often a waste of energy. Most visitors will access your site via a link (search, social, email, text). Therefore, if the name fits somehow, don’t beat yourself up over a domain name!

The most important aspect of a website is the content!

Anyway, if the name you want is suitable and available, that’s great. But ultimately, if the domain name you want is unavailable at the time (a common thing), you do have a few options:

  1. Choose another domain name. During your domain name search, you should already have a few options from which to choose; this could be a variation of your preferred name or a new name entirely.
  2. Try using a different TLD. If you can’t get the “dot com” version of your domain name, try a different TLD like “.xyz” or “.co,” for example.
  3. If it’s available for sale at a premium, purchase it. Some domain names have a higher perceived value than others. Therefore, some domain owners and registrars list premium domains for sale at higher prices. Depending on your registrar, you may see domains listed as available for a premium over other domains within the same TLD.
  4. If it isn’t listed for sale, make an offer to buy it. If there is a domain name that you want, you may need to reach out to the domain owner and make an offer to purchase (lease, really) it. The owner isn’t obligated to sell (transfer, the lease), but it may be worth the inquiry.
The largest online escrow service is Escrow.com. They offer services in all 50 states and partner with big online brands like eBay and GoDaddy.

Get Your E-commerce Domain Name Today!

By now, you have gained plenty of domain-based knowledge. So, if you’re ready to purchase your domain name, let’s go. Although having the perfect domain name isn’t as important as it once was (or perceived to be), choose your name wisely. Select a name that best represents your business, line of work, or business category, whenever possible.

Choosing a Domain Name — Preferred vs. Acceptable

If you are having trouble finding or choosing a domain name, use the following as a bit of a helper:

Fictitious Business Name: The Bakery Palace of New Jersey TLD: Your choice (.com, .us, .co, .io, .net, .school, .app, .xyz, .funny, etc.)

Naming Option #1: “bpofnj”

Our thoughts: Acceptable. It sounds like a gas station, no? But guess what? It’s easy to remember! Initial-heavy domain names structured like option #1 tend to have higher availability rates without the premiums.

Naming Option #2: “bakerypalace”

Our thoughts: Preferred. A vanity domain name (the name of the business or slogan) that is probably not available for .com, .co., .net. You’ll pay a premium to get it, if available. Alternatives: “thebakerypalace,” “bakerpalacenj,” “bakerpalaceofnj,” “thebakecakepalace.”

Naming Option #3: “webakecakes”

Our thoughts: Preferred. Another great and memorable domain name that is business-aligned and action-based. Alternatives: “webakecakesnj,” “webakenjcakes,” “cakes2bake.”

Naming Option #4: “bakedgoods”

Our thoughts: Very acceptable. Another great domain name. Not” action” or vanity-based, but a search engine’s delight! You would pay a hefty premium for this domain. Alternatives: “njbakedgoods,” “bakedgoodsofnj,” “bakedgood4u.”

Note: The name you decide upon will also become your email’s domain name—for example, “jon@bpofnj” vs. “jon@webakecakes” vs. “jon@thebakerypalace,” and so on.

Making the Purchase (Lease, Really)

  1. Choose a domain registrar and access their website.
  2. Search for your preferred domain name(s) from the registrar’s website.
  3. Once you’ve decided on a domain name, create an account (if necessary) and purchase the domain name.
    1. Choose the duration of the domain purchase (lease, really) —1, 2, 5, 10 years, etc.
    2. Verify that the domain name is shown as expected before the final purchase.
    3. Make sure you are using account information that is accurate and verifiable.
    4. Make sure that you’re only purchasing the domain name. Some (most) registrars will attempt to up-sell services (website builders, website hosting, etc.). The only exception here would be domain privacy if you don’t want your personal information appearing in public WHOIS database queries of your domain name.
  4. Document and file all vital information such as registrar, domain name, I.P. address, expiry dates, and additional services.

Resource: Domain Registrars

Here is a list of the most popular domain registrars in the United States. Your options will likely differ outside of the U.S.

Note: Most domain registrars have “make an offer” type services for domains listed as “taken” or “unavailable.” Additionally, you may be able to use a WHOIS service to identify domain owners (lessees, really) directly. But for privacy/security, accessing information regarding actual domain holders is becoming less common.

Namecheap

Google Domains

Hover

GoDaddy

Name.com

Register.com

BuyDomains

Not surprisingly, Google Domains is a big player in the registrar space. What is a surprise? They’re a distant 4th in overall registered domains, according to HostingAdvice.com.

Common Domain-Based Terms

Here is a collection of commonly used terms used when discussing domains:

Domain Name

A domain name is a unique name identifying a website or internet resource, typically consisting of a name and a top-level domain (e.g., “example.com”).

Top-Level Domain (TLD)

The part of the domain name that comes after the “dot” (e.g., “.com,” “.org,” “.net”). There are generic TLDs like “.com,” country-specific TLDs like “.uk” or “.us,” and specialty TLDs like “.info” or “.edu.”

Domain Registrar

A company authorized by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) or a national country code top-level domain (ccTLD) authority to register domain names.

Domain Hosting

A service provided by hosting companies where they store your website’s files and make them accessible via the World Wide Web. Sometimes, domain hosting and domain registration are offered by the same company.

DNS (Domain Name System)

DNS is a system that translates domain names, which are human-friendly, into I.P. addresses, which are machine-friendly.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)

ICANN is the non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.

WHOIS Database

A searchable global directory containing information about the domain name registrant (the domain lessee), including contact details. There are regulations around keeping this information accurate and up to date.

Privacy Protection

A service offered by most domain registrars where your contact information is hidden from the public WHOIS database to protect your personal information.

Domain Transfer

The transfer of a domain name from one domain registrar to another. This may be done for various reasons, such as better customer service or lower prices.

Domain Expiration

Domains are registered for a finite period. If not renewed before the end of this period, the domain will “expire” and become available for others to register. An expired domain may go through a grace period, a redemption period, and an auction before being rereleased to the public.

Remember: Don’t beat yourself up over a domain name.