For business owners without a technical background, it can sometimes seem daunting, the number of new terms involved in getting a website up and running. One of the first you’ll likely think about is domain names.
What is a domain name?
It’s pretty common advice these day, to check if the domain name is available, before settling on what to name your business. It’s a part of your web address, how people will find your company online, and many companies include it on their business cards, too. But if you’re not technical, it may not be 100% clear what is & isn’t a domain name. For example, look at these 3 URLs (website addresses):
- https://wordpress.com – the domain is wordpress.com
- http://example.wordpress.com – the domain is wordpress.com, the subdomain is “example”. It is also common to call the full string “example.wordpress.com” a subdomain of wordpress.com
- https://www.facebook.com/WordPress/?fref=ts – the domain is facebook.com, “WordPress” in this URL is just part of the full URL path (it is also called a directory in this context)
If those examples seemed a bit tedious, I apologize, but I wanted to give quick rundown so that I can point out that there are ways to get a website with your company’s name in it, that do not require buying a domain name or hosting.
So a working website must have a URL, but it is not 100% necessary to purchase your own domain.
It is entirely possible that your business will be sufficiently served by a subdomain on a free service, or even a Facebook page, at least at first. However, I do agree with the general consensus that if you are just starting out, you should try to pick a company name which is also available as a domain name.
Why do I need a domain name?
The biggest reason is that I assume your hope is for a successful business.
If your business becomes successful and you do not own the domain name, it is virtually guaranteed that someone else will purchase it, waiting for the day when you want it, so that they can charge a premium to sell it to you.
Even worse, if you never checked, and someone else was using that website before you, or started using it while you were growing (because they hadn’t heard of you & saw the domain available), they will have good reasons to ask you to cease and desist using that name, and even if your business is far more successful than theirs, they may be in the right.
How much will a domain name cost?
Many domain names are inexpensive, often under $10/year. If the domain name you want has common words, you are likely to be quoted a much higher price, due to the “waiting for a premium” behavior I mentioned above. For example, I searched for “cat.com” today, and it was not available, but “cat.pet” was offered as an alternative, for over $3,000!
The easiest way to check if the domain name you want is available is to go to a service which sells them. The company you’ve probably heard of due to their Super Bowl commercials is GoDaddy.com, another one that I’ve used is Name.com. Here are the results of my “cat.com” search on each of their sites, today.
Please note, buying a domain name from either of these services will not create a website at all, it just means you own the rights to create that website, so no one else can make it / use it as long as you own the domain.