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The Basics of Domain Names

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Domain names are one of the lowest cost elements of web design but are also one of the most valuable; they are the "www.yourwebsite.com" website address that enables people all over the world to quickly find you amongst millions of sites online. Getting a memorable one can make or break a business especially if you're based entirely on the Internet. Which is why knowing the basics of domain names can be so important.

The Basics of Domain Names: What They Do

All domain names come from a central registrar that ensures there are no duplicates. Once you buy the rights to a domain name the register lists your details and your admin contact (usually your web designer), and it also "points" to your web hosting space so surfers can easily find you with a memorable address rather than a series of numbers that the computer system uses.

How to buy them

Most web designers will happily buy your domain for you for a small fee (expect £10-20 as a general guide) or you can buy them yourself easily with a quick online search for "domain names", this can save you a little money especially if you want to buy several domains. Some companies charge up to £100 for new domain names so do make sure you shop around for fair prices.

You can also find domain name auctions and re-sales, where people sell particularly memorable or attractive domains for hundreds or even thousands of pounds; that's what happens to all the really superb domain names like "plumber.com". There are always good ones out there that people have missed though, take your time, be prepared to think laterally and you will find something ideal.

Choosing them; think short and snappy

For most businesses, the rule is simply to think short and snappy so people can easily remember you; smithsplumbing.com or atkinsroofing.co.uk are the classic examples, place name domains like londonroofing.com are strong as well and they all make for memorable email addresses too. Web-only businesses with a real opportunity to have a national impact can think more creatively. A current interesting one in the UK is moonpig.com, which says nothing about the business but sticks in your head; the key is to create something memorable, especially in light of some recent events. Google just updated their search system to pay slightly less attention to the words in a domain name for SEO, so londonplumbing.com isn’t quite as useful as it used to be for search engine positioning, but it’s still a very easy domain name to remember.

Keep them going

Never let a good domain name expire! Domain names are really important because that's how people and search engines remember your website. If you rank high on Google then change your domain name you could lose your ranking entirely for days, weeks or even months, and the older a domain name is the more search engines will trust it. Also remember if lots of your customers have found you online they probably saved you to their favourites for future reference, change your domain and those favourites won't work anymore, you could have lost those customers and their repeat business.

So take your time picking a name, push it hard on your business cards, leaflets and promotions and if you got the right one then cling to it like glue!