Domain Names Explained

A Domain Name or Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the text that appears at the top of the browser when you visit a website.  It is the name of the site and is very much like signs which appear above shops.   You can divide a domain name into three parts: The Domain Name; the Domain Names Extension (or Top Level Domains-TLDs); and the Domain Prefix (or MX Record).

Domain Name:

This is the name you pick for your site and/or company. For example our domain name is web-ethical.co.uk.  A domain name will link the name of your company or website to the computer it is hosted on (Read our blog on Hosting for more info). – think names and addresses in the phone book.

If you haven’t done so already, you should pick your domain name with care.  Although it is nice to have a vanity domain name, such as web-ethical.co.uk, for your business cards and letterheads, a keyword rich one could give you an advantage with the search engines.  A keyword rich domain would be something like bristol-website-designer.co.uk, which holds primary keywords. Some companies use both a vanity domain and a keyword rich domain; for instance, we use web-ethical.co.uk and bristolwebsitedesigner.co.uk

To pick a keyword rich domain name, we recommend using the google keyword tool, set to [exact]. Put in some phrases that are related to your business and see what comes up. When making a decision, you need to balance up: what domain names are available; the competition level; and the number of monthly searches. In an ideal world, you want a top level domain, with lots of monthly searches and low competition.

You can register domain names with many companies at varying prices. We currently use 123reg.co.uk as they charge a reasonable price and seem reliable (to date). The registrar of your domain will also share your address with other domain registration companies and internet service providers (ISP) so everyone knows where your website lives, although they usually won’t automatically inform the search engines.

So that people don’t just go crazy and register lots of random and duplicate domains, each top level domain (TLD) is managed by a licensing body, for example Nominet look after all .uk domains. This is very much like the post office and post codes.

Domain Names Extension:

.com and .co.uk are the two major (UK) top level domains. All domains have their own meaning and suggested usage. Although the recommended usage is currently not enforced it can make a difference to how your site appears in search rankings and should therefore be considered.  Some examples are:

  • .co.uk are companies based in the UK but .com and .co.fr would normally be American and French companies respectively;
  • .sch.uk are for schools and .ac.uk for universities in the UK;
  • .org and .org.uk would be for organisations and charities;
  • .eu, .br, and lots of other country specific domains are appearing all the time, which are often only available inside the appropriate territory.

If in doubt about what domain name to choose for your company then contact us for some free impartial advice.

Domain Prefix:

Your domain name will get used for a number of things and the MX record part decides how a request to your domain should be handled.   A www.yourdomain.co.uk request would be directed to your main site (or shop front).  Anything @yourdomain.co.uk is an email address and handled as such.   ftp.yourdomain.co.uk is a special URL which allows you upload files via an FTP (file transfer protocol) client and this is how you can move files from one computer to your webserver. You can also set up subdomains e.g.  widgets.yourdomain.co.uk which is a simple way to have smaller mini-sites or departments.  This is very useful when your business has a number of clearly defined areas.  Typically there will be a default setting for a request made to yourdomain.co.uk which could either be to your main site or the ftp server.   We recommend forwarding yourdomain.co.uk to your main site as the use of www is becoming old-fashioned and unnecessary.

Now that we’re done explaining what domain names are, you might like to know about hosting.

About CDB 361 Articles
Self-Employed Software Developer, Spark, Property Management, Hobby Forestry, Ex-Teacher, Engineering - Wood, Metal, Electrics & Computers. Outdoors - Walk, Cycle, Kitesurf,