What is a domain name? FAQs: All about domain name registration

DomainsCategory
18 min read
Boris Lee

As you may already know, domain name registration is one of the most important steps in setting up your online presence. Why?

It's how you make sure that you can use the domain name that you want, and it's also how you reserve your spot on the internet!

Whether you want to start a blog or an online store, you must first have a domain name. And domain registration is the process of reserving that domain name for yourself before someone else does.

We know that for many, it can be confusing at first, but don't worry! We're here to help with a list of frequently asked questions about domain name registration.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the address of your website. It's how people will find you online and what appears in your web browser's URL bar.

Imagine if your website is your house, then your domain name is basically like the physical address to your house.

For example, a domain name could be "blog.yourbrand.com".

It's safe to say that domain names are an important part of online branding and marketing.

Not only does your domain name help customers remember your website and business name, it also plays a role in your website's SEO. That's why it's important to consider all aspects of domain name registration before making your purchase.

On the other hand, a Domain Name System (DNS) is like the phone book of the internet. It is a system that maps alphabetic and human readable names like URLs to numeric Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Every time a user enters a URL in a browser to load a website, the URL must be converted into an IP address required to locate the website. An IP address is a string of numerics that looks like this: 192.4.2.1.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit organization that takes care of the domain names system.

ICANN then permits domain name registrars to sell domain names to end users. Domain name registrars, like GoDaddy, will make changes to domain names registry on users' behalf.

Ready to start searching for your dream domain? Go ahead, give it a try:

How is a domain name different from web hosting?

Both a domain name and a web hosting plan are essential in getting your website up and running. While a domain name is the web address of your website, web hosting is a service that allows your content to be displayed on the Internet. It is the home where your website lives, and your website's files are stored in web servers.

A web hosting provider provides such technology and services. While you are able purchase a domain and hosting service from separately companies, most people would purchase them from the same one for convenience. Many top domain registrars offering web hosting services too, and most hosting companies require that you own your domain in order to host with them.

In fact, if you are just starting out and need help building your web page, you can seek out a suitable website builder to help you get started.

Editor's Note: As a one-stop shop to help any aspiring entrepreneur or content creator build their online presence, GoDaddy offers more than just domain name registration. Looking to build an E-Commerce website instead? Check out GoDaddy's E-Store and see how you can easily build your first web store!

Components of a domain name: top level domain (TLDs) vs second-level domains (SLDs)

Every domain name comprises of two different levels: top-level domain (TLD) and a second-level domain (SLD).

The top-level domain (TLD) is the last part of the domain name. Also known as domain suffixes or domain extensions, the TLD is meant to communicate the location or purpose of your small business website.

TLDs are made available by ICANN, which controls the registries as mentioned above.

Second-level domain (SLD), also known as 2LD, refers to the section before the TLD.

 The SLD is the heart of a domain name’s identity, hence making it the most valuable portion of the domain name.

For example, for our domain www.godaddy.com, “GoDaddy” is the SLD. And in this case, “GoDaddy” is also the most valuable part of the entire domain name. SLD usually reinforces the identity of your brand or business website. While the maximum length of an SLD is 63 characters, most people would go for a domain name that can be easily remembered.

What are the types of TLDs / domain name extensions available?

Here are a few common types of TLDs recognized by ICANN:

  • Generic top-level domain (gTLD): This is the most common type of TLD used by a web address. Besides .com, other examples include .net, .org and .edu. These TLDs communicate the objective of each website. Commercial companies mostly use .com, while educational institutes would use .edu.
  • Country-code top-level domain (ccTLD): This is one to take note if you are running a local business, targeting customers of a specific locale or country. A ccTLD is an option for your business domain name to indicate the country within which your website is registered. Having a ccTLD in your domain name is a huge step to help your users understand where your business is based at, and would generally appeal better people searching locally. For example, .sg is the ccTLD for Singapore, and .my is the TLD for Malaysia.
  • Sponsored top-level domain (sTLD): This is a category of TLDs that has a sponsor representing a specific community served by the domain extension. For example, .edu for education-related organizations, .gov for the United States government, .mil for the United States military, and more.

Learn more about common domain name extensions here! Do you know that there are many other types of TLDs you can use for your domain name registration on top of these recognizable TLDs?

Editor's Note: Check out this article to learn about interesting TLDs & domain extensions that you can consider for your website!

How do I choose a domain name?

woman by laptop thinking

Domain names can help to promote your brand by being:

  • easy to remember
  • short and sweet
  • something that's relevant to your business or industry
  • an extension of your brand identity
  • unique and different from your competition

With so many options available, we know that choosing the right domain can be challenging. But here are a few ideas that can help you out.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is choosing a domain name that represents your brand. This is your chance to be creative but also be relevant.

You also want to ensure that your domain name is easy to remember and spell. If it's too complicated, people might not be able to find your website.

After you've carefully gone through the brainstorming with these tips, you can easily buy a domain name in 3 simple steps.

When it comes to purchasing your dream domain name, there are a few things you need to consider:

1. Availability

The most critical factor in picking your domain name is to ensure that it is not already taken. To check on availability, you can use WHOIS or simply head onto GoDaddy to get started!

2. Domain name extensions

The most common and widely recognised domain extension is definitely ".com". However, given the proliferation of websites on the internet, it is becoming challenging to get a specific domain name with a '.com' extension. Therefore, if you want to find the best domain name for your website, it doesn't hurt to consider using a different TLD. Who knows, with so many .com types of domains out there, your domain name with a different extension might stand out!

 

For example, there are a few top-level domain extensions you never knew about that are becoming increasingly popular. The possibilities to register a creative and memorable domain name are endless.

Just head over to GoDaddy's Domain Extensions, and you can claim your niche today!

3. Cost of domain name

With the increasing adoption of the internet economy in Southeast Asia, buying a domain name has become not only increasingly accessible but also really affordable. In fact, website costs for small business is lower than you think.

No matter the problem you want to solve, we have a domain for you.

4. The length of the domain name

Your domain name is your online identity. A long or complicated domain name can be difficult for customers to remember, and they may end up going to your competitor's site (and we don't want that).

Now is the time to be creative! If you're finding it difficult to develop a short domain name, don't worry! We can give you 10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name.

The length of your domain name plays a role in both SEO and branding. A shorter domain name is easier to remember and can help with branding, while a longer domain name can provide more SEO benefits. 

5. SEO

SEO has probably come up in a couple of your team meetings when discussing domain names registration. That's because the words in your domain name can help improve your website's ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

In other words, if you're trying to rank for a certain keyword, it can be helpful to include that keyword in your domain name.

For example, if you're a travel company specializing in eco-tourism, you might want to include keywords like "travel" or "eco-friendly" in your domain name.

When choosing a domain name, it is important to consider SEO. A good domain name will include relevant keywords, making it easier for potential customers to find your website and giving it a significant SEO boost.

In addition, a catchy or memorable domain name is more likely to be shared by users, leading to more traffic and higher SEO rankings. 

6. Bonus: Tips on choosing a domain name for a local business

Getting the proper business domain name for your local business is critical to helping potential customers find you on the internet and establishing your online presence. With so much competition out there, choosing the right domain name can make all the difference.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Use your brand name
  • Use relevant keywords in your domain name to help potential customers find your website.
  • Keep it short

You can also use a country-code TLD to target a specific country. For example, if you want to target customers in Malaysia, you can use the '.my' domain name or '.sg' if you want to target customers in Singapore.

Here is a table of information regarding ccTLDs in Asia:

RegionccTLDInformation on registering ccTLD
Singapore.com.sg,
.sg
SGNIC, About.sg domains
Malaysia.com.my,
.my
MYNIC
Hong Kong.com.hk, .hkHKDNR
Philippines.com.ph,
.ph
dotPH, About.ph domains
Taiwan.com.tw,
.tw
TWNIC, About.tw domains
Korea.com.kr,
.kr
KRNIC, About.kr domains
Japan.com.jp,
.jp
JPRS, About.jp domains

Editor's Note: Feeling stuck? No worries. Try GoDaddy's Domain Name Generator to help you find the perfect name for your website. Just type in a few words describing your brand, and we'll do the rest.

What if my dream domain name is already taken?

Domain registration-woman looking at files

If your dream domain name is already taken, don't despair! Not everything is lost. There are still a few options available to you.

First, you can try contacting the domain owner and see if they're interested in selling it. How? Just use a domain lookup tool to check domain name availability and find out who owns a website.

Even if it is already taken, GoDaddy’s suggestion tool will list new ideas with different extensions or variations that you can review.

Can I buy an existing domain?

If that doesn't work, you can try to add an adjective or a word in front of or after your desired domain name to make it unique.

For example, if you want the domain name 'books.com' but it's already been taken, you can try 'bestbooks.com' or 'books365.com'.

You can also try different domain extensions like .net, .biz or .info.

And if all else fails, you can always create a brand new domain name.

Of course, there's still a chance to buy a domain that someone else already owns.

Domain Registration FAQs

When is the best time to register my domain name?

The best time to register your domain name is now! Domain names are registered on a first-come, first-served basis. So, if you delay in registering your domain name, someone else might beat you to it.

Moreover, once a domain name is registered, it cannot be registered by someone else for at least 60 days.

Wondering if you need a website to register your domain name?

The answer: No. You can register your domain name without having a website!

So, what are you waiting for? Register your domain name now! Even if you don't have a business ready yet, reserving a domain name is definitely a smart thing you can do if you are planning to build a website for it.

Should I use a free domain name?

Short answer: No.

The free domains are great because... well, because they're free.

But they can hurt your business in the long run. Free domains may hurt your SEO because they're often seen as less legit by search engines and can also affect the credibility of your business.

If you're trying to establish yourself as a professional, it may be worth investing in a paid domain and investing in your business's future success.

How do I register my domain name?

Domain name registration couldn't be easier with GoDaddy. Once you find the one that suits your business or brand the best and make sure it's available, you only have to add it to your cart and purchase it.

We put together a helpful guide on how to buy a domain in 3 steps.

Can I buy a domain name permanently?

Domain registration-woman looking at files

You've bought a domain name. Now what? Well, "buying" might not be the right term in this scenario. Let's get a bit specific. You can't actually buy a domain name forever.

Instead, you are "renting" it for a set period of time. When you register a domain name, you acquire the rights to manage it, and you can continually renew that registration.

Domain names are registered for a set period of time (usually one to ten years) and can be renewed by the domain name owner as long as they remain the legal registrant of record.

What is the maximum amount of time someone can register a .com domain name?

A domain can be registered for a maximum of ten years. If you want to keep using the domain name and any of the services associated with it (like a website or email service) you need to renew the domain name registration prior to its expiration.

How do I renew my domain name?

You can renew your domain name by logging into your GoDaddy account and following the instructions there.

If you have a domain name that you really want to keep, make sure to set up renewals and reminders, so you don't accidentally let it expire.

Need help? Consult your customer care representative for more information.

What about auto-renewals?

Auto-renewal is the simplest way to keep your domain name active and avoid expiration. With auto-renew enabled, you can make sure your domain name is always available and prevent someone else from registering it.

Remember to have a valid credit card on file to ensure a successful auto-renewal transaction.

How do auto-renewals work?

For the first 25 days, a couple of auto-renewal attempts occur. If auto-renew is on, but payment fails, you'll get a series of email notifications. if no valid credit card is found, you won't be able to renew your domain name, and it will eventually expire.

On day 26, if the domain name has been unsuccessful in its renewal attempts, it will enter what's called an auction.

An auction is a process where the domain name is put up for sale to the highest bidder. At this point, you have until day 30 to redeem your expired domain.

To avoid this, make sure your domain name is set to auto-renew.

When does a domain expire?

It all depends on when you first registered and the term length you paid for. For example, If you registered 'Mybusiness.pro' on Aug. 25, 2022, and paid for domain registration of three years, then your domain will be valid until Aug. 25, 2025.

What happens to my domain name once its registration expires?

After the registration period for your domain name expires, you have a time window to renew it (if you want).

If you don't renew it during that time, the domain name will stay 'on hold' and eventually become available to the public for anyone to register.

Keep in mind that other services associated with the domain, such as email or website hosting, will also be suspended.

Check out this help guide to understand the timeline and details of what happens once your domain name expires.

What if I still want the domain?

Yes, you can still get it back!

If you've let your domain name expire and it's now in the auction period, you can still redeem it.

First, you need to get in touch with customer support to check the status of your domain. If you are early on, you might redeem your domain name. If it's already in the auction period, you will need to place a bid or purchase a backorder.

However, the best way to avoid this situation is to renew your domain name as soon as you get the renewal notice. This way, you can avoid losing control of your domain name and having to go through the redemption process.

What if I don't want the domain?

If you don't want the domain, you can simply let it expire and drop it. This usually happens 45 days after the expiration date. Once it expires and drops, it's available to the public again, and anyone can register it.

Can someone steal my domain name?

The short answer is yes. Domain names can be stolen. That's why choosing a registrar with security features is important to help protect your domain name after domain name registration.

Hackers can target your domain name and try to gain control of it by changing the DNS settings, for example. Pointing your domain to a different server can redirect your traffic and steal your customers.

To protect against this, choose a registrar with Domain Lock. Domain Lock protects your domain name by preventing unauthorised changes to the DNS settings. This way, you can rest assured knowing that your domain name is safe and secure.

At GoDaddy, we have domain privacy protection that prevents unauthorized changes to your domain settings. This adds an extra layer of security and peace of mind.

Domain privacy protection is an important security feature that you should look for when choosing a registrar.

Learning how domain names work and finding your dream domain

We covered quite a few things today about registering a domain name, from choosing the right registrar, and buying an existing domain, to the best practices for choosing the right domain name for your business.

GoDaddy can help you find a domain name that best suits your brand so you can easily promote your website.

Go ahead, give it a try:

We’ve covered everything you need to know in this extensive guide about what is a domain name and why they are important.

if there’s anything we can help with or if you have any questions about registering a domain name, our team of GoDaddy Guides is here to answer them for you.

So, now that you know how important it is to snag your dream domain name and all the things you need to do before you can start using it, what are you waiting for?

Get started by heading to GoDaddy and picking up your perfect domain.

We hope this article has helped answer some of your questions.