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What is a domain name and why do you need one for your website?

If you’re starting a website for your brand or business, one of the first things you’ll need to do is register a domain name. But what is a domain name, and why is it so important? In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know about domain names and how to choose the best one for your business.

Woman with Roses, Wearing a Hat

Does the Shakespearean adage “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” hold true when choosing domain names?

What’s in a name?

Long, long ago, the only way to access locations on a network was via an internet protocol (IP) address. An IP address is a string of 12 (or more) numbers that identifies a device (like a server) on an internal or external network. Since remembering long strings of numbers is neither easy nor practical, the Domain Name System or DNS was implemented in 1983 as the internet grew beyond the bounds of defense and research networks.

Domain names are simply unique web addresses that identify a website, like or, which are much much easier to remember than or

The Original Top Level Domains


for commercial organizations


originally for non-profits, but open to everyone today


originally for networks of sites or distributed computer networks, but open to everyone today

.edu, .int, .gov & .mil

are tightly governed and only available to specific organizations

The Parts of a Domain

Domain names are generally composed of two or three parts.

1. The Top Level Domain

The last part of the domain name, commonly .com or .org, is the Top Level Domain (TLD). Originally there were only seven TLDs, but today there are many more—from .academy to .zone. (our favorites? .ninja, .wtf and .yachts)

We recommend sticking with .com if you can unless you have a strong strategic plan in place for getting off the ground.

2. The Second-Level Domain

The second-level domain (SLD) is the part you usually think of when you think of buying a domain. For example, this site’s SLD domain is getdirigible.

3. Subdomains or Third-Level Domains

The most common third-level or subdomain is www, but you can use a subdomain for lots of other things too. We use for our knowledgebase site, and for website builder dashboard.

Tips for choosing a domain name

What factors should you consider when choosing a domain name for your business or website?

Your domain name is your online identity, so it’s important to choose one that:

  • accurately represents your business
  • is memorable
  • is easy to spell
  • doesn’t contain symbols or numbers
  • doesn’t violate copyright or intellectual property laws

Need a hand finding a domain name?

If you’re having trouble coming up with a domain name, check out This site allows you to see if the domain you want is available, or you can plugin in keywords and ideas to generate a unique name. If you need expert help, your marketing agency should be able to assist you in finding that perfect domain.

Where can you buy domain names?

Every domain name must be registered with a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions. There are a ton of options, but our favorite, hands down Their customer service is great, as is their interface and documentation, which we can’t say for all of their competitors. At Dirigible, we’ve used them for a decade or more.

How much does a domain name cost?

Most domain names cost around $9-15 per year to register. However, using a specialized TLD will cost you more. Buying a premium domain name at auction from someone who already owns it could cost several hundred to millions of dollars.

If you can afford to purchase your domain name for a long period of time, you’ll save money and reap SEO rewards.

Tips for managing and protecting your domain name.

When you register your domain name, make sure that you:

  1. Provide different domain contacts for the Registrant, Administrative, Technical and Billing Roles. This means that if someone drops the ball, or doesn’t receive a renewal notice, you’ll have built some redundancy into your system.
  2. The Registrant or Owner role, should be filled by you or your business—not your web designer or host or anyone else. Trust me, you want to have the keys to your castle.
  3. If you move, make sure to update this information
  4. DNS scams are rampant. Do not respond to any emails, text messages, letters or phone calls about your domain. If you want to check and see if you need to take any action on your domain, log into your registrar and complete any renewal or security actions there.

Next steps

Now that you know the basics, it’s time to buy a domain and start building your website. This is a simple process, but it’s an essential one if you want to establish an online presence for your business or brand. Use our tips to make sure you get the most out of your purchase, and then get started on creating a site that will help you reach your target audience. Are you ready to take the next step? Buy a domain and start building your website today!