Article by Jerry Low
Geek dad, SEO data junkie, investor, and founder of Web Hosting Secret Revealed. Jerry has been building Internet assets and making money online since 2004. He loves mindless doodling and trying new food.
When starting up a website there is a couple of basics that you cannot avoid, picking up and registering a domain name for example, is a must-do for every website owners. While it seems straight forward to select and purchase a domain name, there are quite a few fundamentals that you must know before making any decision.
In this article, I’m going to share with you a few frequent asked questions about domain names and I hope it will helps you to make better judgment.
Domain Name vs Web Hosting
A domain name is not a web hosting. Newbies often mix things up between domain names and hosting, these are two different things. A web hosting is where you get to store your data online; whereas a domain name is the ‘address’ of these data.
Domain Name vs Top Level Domain
All domain names end with a Top Level Domain (TLD), which consists of short set of letters. Take this website for example (WebHostingSecretRevealed.com), WebHostingSecretRevealed is the domain name whereas the ‘.com’ is the TLD. .net, .info, .org, .edu, and .biz are some of the common seen Top Level Domain.
Besides these generic TLDs, there is also another type of Top Level Domain that is normally known as the Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD). ccTLDs are meant to indicate a website’s location; for example website ends with .co.jp indicates that the site is based in Japan. Registration of ccTLDs is restricted for the citizens of the corresponding country; and the activities with such domains website are ruled by local regulations and cyber laws.
Subdomain vs Addon Domain
An addon domain refers to the additional domain name to be hosted in a hosting account; on the other hand, a subdomain refers to the secondary domain that is created on top of a ‘parent domain’.
Example: uk.yahoo.com, uk is the subdomain (with yahoo.com as the parent); if flickr.com and yahoo.com is hosted on the same hosting account, then flickr.com is the addon domain. Note that creating a subdomain is totally free of charge, while for addon domain you’ll need to pay just like when you are registering your primary domain.
When the user requests a connection to your domain, Domain Name System (DNS) servers will ‘communicate’ with the corresponding registry for the requested domain; the registry then responds by informing which name servers (address of your web host) this domain is registered with; the request then goes to the name servers to obtain the actual IP address of the requested domain; the user then establishes connection (via web browser) with the said IP address.
Long story short, a domain name, with the help of DNS, tells the location of your website.
A domain name registrar is the party that provides domain registration services to the public. A domain name registrar has to be accredited by ICANN; and when it is a matter of ccTLD, the registrar needs approval by the national ccTLD authority.
It is impossible for an end-user to register a domain name directly to ICANN – a designated registrar must be chosen. Each accredited registrar must pay a fixed fee of $4000 to ICANN as well as dividing a fee of $3.8 million among all registrars.
Some website owners (mostly bloggers) host their website or blog on a free platform and run it on a third level domain (like http://www.myblog.blogspot.com and http://www.myblog.wordpress.com). The question often raised is: Should you have your own domain name.
My answer is yes, absolutely.
Having your own domain name makes it easier to market your website. Furthermore there is less restriction with your own domain name (for example WordPress.com normally does not allow advertisements) and the cost of owning a domain is just $10/year.
A good domain name plays a vital role in your web marketing effort.
Generally, you want something sticky (easy to remember), meaningful (related to your website content), and keyword-rich (not a must, but important if SEO is a major part of your web marketing strategy). Avoid long URLs and overuse of hyphens. Write your selected domain name on a piece of paper and check carefully if there’s any spelling mistake or unwanted pun. Remember the example of www.dicksonweb.com – a temperature instruments manufacturer’s website. The boss, Dickson, wasn’t aware that www.DicksonWeb.com can be read as www.DicksOnWeb.com. This created much PR tensions for the company and they had to change their site name to www.DicksonData.com (which doesn’t look very good too).
Do keep in mind that although your domain name is important, there are also another 99 things that make up a good website. It makes no sense to sweat too much in selecting the ‘best name’ for your website as eventually what users need is the quality of your web content or service.
Some believe that search engine optimization (SEO) is nothing but stuffing keywords in the Meta tags and content. Well that’s the story for year 1998. Nowadays you need to do a lot more than that in order to win the search engine wars. Domain names, for instance, plays an important factor when it comes to SEO nowadays.
A domain name should be easy to memorize and related to the theme of the website. It is often highly recommend to have your primary targeted keywords included in your domain name as one, it tells your first time visitors what this site is about; and two, it allows search engines to group your website in the right category (and thus giving better opportunity to rank in related search result pages).
There are no clear-written guidelines or rules that an old domain will improve search engine rankings. As you can see from the video (April 2009) below, Matt Cutt (representing Google) did talk about the relationship between domain age, years of domain registration, and search engine rankings; and asked webmaster not to worry too much about site age.
HOWEVER, SEOs generally are convinced that search engines value older websites than the newer one. From my experience, search engines (namely Google) simply put more weight to an aged domain and tend to rank them better.
So to answer the question, yes, an aged-domain does help improve search engine rankings.
Basically, this article covers pretty much everything a normal webmaster needs to know about domain names. In case you think there are other points I had left out, feel free to ask questions or share your opinions in the comment section.