People used to only shop in stores, but those days are long gone. Because of the internet, many stores do most of their business online, and companies that don’t use eCommerce are scrambling to get online.
By the end of the year, American eCommerce sales are expected to be more than $500 billion. About three out of four Americans make at least one purchase online yearly. E-commerce will continue growing for a while.
As more businesses move online, it’s only natural that there will be more competition for domain names. Let’s learn more about domain names so you can choose the best one for your online business. A domain name is like a brand name for your online business.
Different Kinds Of Domain Names
So, if you are building a website, choosing the right domain name is one of the hardest and most important decisions you must make.
Choosing the right name for your business online—one that is available, fits your budget, is SEO-friendly, and helps build your brand—can make or break how well your business does online.
Did you know there are different kinds of domain names? Before you try to find a domain name and domain name extension that are available and fit your brand, you should learn about all the different kinds and how they are used.
What are Domains?
So, let’s begin by talking about what a domain name is. A domain name is part of a URL or web address that goes between the protocol sign (HTTP://) and the first slash.
The domain name for the URL https://www.domain.com/hosting/ would be domain.com. This domain is a stand-in for the computer’s or website’s IP address.
An IP address is given to every device that uses the internet. This IP address is a unique identifier for the device that can’t be used simultaneously by another device.
Computer scientists made the Internet Protocol Address System act as a simple virtual address book.
They gave each computer and website a unique string of 32 or 128 bits of numbers called an IP Address. This made it possible to tell them apart from each other.
Even though this first system did work, it was still hard for even computer scientists to talk to each other well, let alone someone who needed to learn more about computers.
Then, computer scientists made the domain name system, allowing website owners to sign up for a unique name for the IP address.
Domain names: How They Work
Domain names are just an easier way to remember complicated IP addresses. If you didn’t have a domain name, you’d have to type the full IP address into your browser’s address bar.
So, instead of typing “hostgator.com,” you’d have to type a string of numbers like 22.214.171.124. Talk about a mess! Having names will help that are easy to remember, and people use a search engine to find your website faster.
But you can’t just type a long string of numbers into your browser and expect to go to a website because it only points to the server where all the site is stored. Also, the server needs to be set up in a certain way.
This is too hard for most internet users and takes too much time. Domain names make this process very easy because they act as a middleman.
ICANN runs the Domain Name System
ICANN is the group in charge of running domain names, also known as Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
This group will list the available domain names and domain name extensions. They also keep a huge list of all the places that domain names point to.
The domain name system (DNS) connects your domain name to the server where your website is located. If you’ve ever switched web hosts, you may have had to change your domain’s DNS records.
Overall, the DNS system makes the web more accessible and valuable.
Web Hosts and Domains Work Together
A domain name and a web server are needed to visit a website. The web server stores all your website’s files, databases, media, and other parts.
You are doing this when you rent space from a web hosting company. Choosing a good web host will improve your website’s performance, search engine rankings, and much more.
Your success chances will increase depending on who you choose and find as your web host.
People will type your domain name into their web browsers to get to your site; when someone types it into their web browser, the browser talks to the server where your website’s files are stored and shown to them.
Three Things That Domain Names Do
1. Make an excellent first impression: A domain name is the first thing a potential customer will see when they visit your site. It’s also the first time they’ll interact with your brand.
A domain name that is unique or easy to remember will tell them what they want and stick in their minds. On the other hand, a domain that doesn’t fit the business can turn off potential customers.
2. Define Your Brand: You can use a domain name to describe your brand, who you are, and what you sell. A relevant domain name can help customers figure out what you’re selling, or a unique domain name can link your name to your product.
3. Optimise SEO: Keywords are used in search engine optimization to help your SEO rankings. You don’t have to use an exact match domain, but it helps to use a close one.
What are TLDs?
A top-level domain, or TLD, is part of a domain name that comes right after the last dot. TLDs, also called “domain extensions,” are used to tell what a website is about, who owns it, and where it is located.
For example, the a.edu top-level domain lets users know right away that a site belongs to a college or university.
ARPANET came up with TLDs in the 1960s to make it easier to remember IP addresses. Only in the early 1980s were the first top-level domains created, and it was in the mid-1990s that domain names started to be organized in a structured way.
Each top-level domain has its registry, which a specific organization runs with help from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
In 1985, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) made six top-level domain names public. These top-level domains (TLD) are the highest in the Domain Name System hierarchy.
They are also called domain name extensions. among them are:
➜ .com, which stands for “commercial,” was the first common top-level domain. Even though.com was made for businesses, there were not many rules about how they could use it.
By the middle of the 1990s, .com was the most popular top-level domain for companies, websites, and email.
➜ .net is an abbreviation for “network.” It was made just for organizations that used network technologies, like an Internet service provider or a company that builds infrastructure.
Like.com,.net was supposed only to be used for networking, but those rules were never enforced. As a result, it became one of the most popular top-level domains, and many people see it as a close second to.com.
➜ .edu is an abbreviation for “education,” and it was made for schools. Even though it was meant for universities worldwide, TLD.edu came to be associated only with schools in the United States.
Schools in other countries will use.edu along with their country-level domain, which we will discuss in the next section.
➜ .org is an abbreviation for “organization.” It was made for nonprofits. As we’ve seen with these other top-level domains, these goals aren’t always kept or enforced.
Today, nonprofits, for-profit businesses, schools, and communities all use.org as their top-level domain.
➜ .mil is short for “military.” It was made for the US military branches only. Unlike other types of top-level domains, this one still has restrictions.
Now, it’s pretty standard for.mil to use second-and third-level domains along with the.mil TLD.
➜ .gov is an abbreviation for “government,” like.mil.gov could only be used by American federal government agencies and their employees.
Government agencies, programs, cities, states, towns, counties, and Native American tribes use.gov.
What Are Several Kinds Of Top-Level Domains?
The ICANN puts top-level domains into different groups based on what the site is for, who owns it, and where it is located.
Five types of TLDs are legal:
1️⃣ Generic Top-level Domains (gTLD)
2️⃣ Sponsored Top-level Domains (sTLD)
3️⃣ Country Code Top-level Domains (ccTLD)
4️⃣ Top-Level Infrastructure Domain (ARPA)
5️⃣ Test Top-Level Domains (tTLD)
Generic Top-level Domains (gTLD)
Generic top-level domains, called gTLD, are the most common and well-known domain extensions. They have at least three characters; anyone can sign up for them.
The word “generic” comes from the 1980s, when TLDs were divided into groups: those related to a site’s location and those that weren’t, hence the word “generic.”
Over time, using some generic top-level domains became harder because they needed to meet specific standards.
This led to the creation of a new category called sponsored top-level domains. Only .org,.com, and.net, out of the first seven gTLDs, can still be registered without restrictions.
The most common uses of generic top-level domains are: .com for commercial sites; .org for organizations; .net for networks;.info for information platforms; and .biz for businesses.
Midway through 2011, ICANN changed the domain name system, increasing the number of original gTLDs from 22 to more than 1,200.
With these new options, which are called “New gTLDs,” domain extensions like “.berlin,” “.contact,” and “.wow” became official. On IANA’s database, you can see the complete list of top-level domains (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, a subdivision of ICANN).
Sponsored Top-level Domains (sTLD)
Sponsored TLDs are suggested and operated independently by non-governmental organizations, as their name implies.
These groups can be businesses, government agencies, or other organized groups. They have the final say on whether or not an applicant can use a specific top-level domain based on community themes that have already been set.
Unlike the list of gTLDs, the list of sponsored top-level domains only has a few choices. Some, like .edu,.gov, and .mil, have been around since the beginning of domain extensions in the 1980s, while others are newer.
Some of the most well-known sTLDs are:.edu is for colleges and universities, .gov is for US government agencies,.cat is for the Catalan language and culture,.museum is for museum organizations; and .travel is for businesses in the travel industry.
Country Code Top-level Domains (ccTLD)
There are 312 country code top-level domains, each identified by a two-letter string and set up for a specific country or territory.
Managers ensure that each ccTLD is run according to local rules and meets the area’s cultural, linguistic, and legal standards.
ccTLDs are used by small businesses, individuals, and large companies with regional sites that run independently. In these situations, the domain extension is the same as a subdomain.
If you want to use a country code top-level domain on your site, consider this when looking for the best domain registrar since not all platforms allow you to register ccTLDs.
In 2012, the ICANN said that the first ccTLDs with non-Latin characters would be added to the root zone of the domain name system.
Many languages besides Latin and Greek have their domain name extensions; these are called internationalized domain names (IDN ccTLD) and include Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, and Cyrillic.
Some of the most well-known ccTLDs are .us, which stands for the United States; .es, which stands for Spain; .fr, which stands for France; .it, which stands for Italy; and .br, which stands for Brazil.
Infrastructure Top-Level Domain (ARPA)
The Address and Routing Parameter Area is the only TLD in this particular group (ARPA).
The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) is in charge of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is in charge of the .arpa domain extension.
The .arpa domain extension is only used for technical infrastructure.
Test Top-Level Domains (tTLD)
Test top-level domains are only used for documentation and testing locally. They can’t be installed in the domain name system’s root zone.
According to the IETF, reserving these particular domain extensions reduces the possibility of confusion and dispute.
Four tTLDs exist:
.example is used to hold a spot;.invalid is used for invalid domain names;.localhost is used in local networks; and .test is used for testing.
Does it matter to Google what TLD you use? Does the TLD change SEO?
No, the TLD you choose does not affect SEO. Matt Cutts says that Google looks for the best content, no matter the TLD.
Even so, the TLD you choose might affect SEO in some indirect ways. For example, if you select a strange, unknown TLD, visitors might need help remembering your site, which could lead to fewer inbound links.
Also, if you use an unfamiliar TLD, people might think your site is spam and be less likely to click on it in the search results. This could lower your CTR rate.
Seventy percent of respondents to one survey, for instance, said they did not trust lesser-known TLDs as much as they did more established ones like.co.uk.
So, you need a good reason to choose a less-known TLD to stick with one of the more popular ones.
How to Look for Your Domain Extensions?
Before you register your domain name and extension, you’ll need to ensure it’s available (unassigned). Assigned names are the domain names that an organization or business has been given.
For example, say you want to sign up for an a.com domain. In that case, you can only register a name that someone else hasn’t already taken.
Domain registrars are one place where you can buy a domain name and extension. Comparing prices and features is important to find the best deal on a registrar. Some registrars offer discounts to new customers so that you can take advantage of any available deals.
A company’s reputation is also essential to think about. You want to avoid giving this valuable digital asset to a company you know very little about or trust.
When did this registrar start doing business? Do good things get said about them?
The location of a domain registrar is also crucial because of political and privacy laws.
For example, many countries don’t let people use specific domain keywords in other countries (China, Russia).
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some registrars have also started to ban users from registering domains related to viruses.
You can choose when it comes to types of domains from many different types of domains, and there’s a lot more to a domain name than meets the eye. It is essential to choose the right kind of domain for your new website.
Your part is what people see on your website, which you’ll use to build your brand. If you pick the wrong domain, you’ll have to switch or give up on your project later.
Are you ready to pick a domain? The information above should have given you enough information to help you choose the right domain for your site and increase your chances of success.
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Co-Founder of Burban Branding. With 5 years of expertise in Naming, Branding, and Strategy, I’ve empowered 200+ clients worldwide. Let’s embark on a transformative journey together, unleashing your brand’s true potential. Join me in creating a remarkable brand identity that captivates and inspires.