Beginners Guide: What is a Website Domain Name?

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Whenever you make a website, at some point someone will ask you if you have already secured your domain name. If you are not quite sure what to say to that, this article is for you.

We’ll tell you what a domain name is, how you choose one that is right for your business, and where you register your domain. Some of the jargon around domains sounds very techy, but we’ll make sure to explain it all along the way. 

Quick guide to domains

Why do I need my own domain name?

A domain name has several benefits for your business website

  • Your website needs a simple, memorable address. That is your domain name. A good one is easy to communicate and easy to remember.
  • Your domain is part of your brand. The name and the extension you choose for your domain indicate what is important to your company. 
  • A custom domain looks professional. Claiming your own space on the internet for your business shows you mean… well, business.

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

What is a domain?

A domain name is a unique, custom address for your website. It’s built from two parts: the name and the extension. For example, with “jimdo.com” the name is “jimdo” and the extension is “.com”. 

Take this domain name: jimdo.com

name and tld of a domain name
A domain name is built from the name and the extension or TLD.

Name

The name is “jimdo” in our case. It made sense, since it’s our business name. 

If you choose your domain, it’s good to know that not all characters can be used. Some special characters, like “<”, “>” or “*” are off limits because they’re also used in code. Other characters are not available on all keyboards or in all languages, like “ß” or “ü”.  

Extension

The extension, or TLD (this stands for “Top Level Domain”), is “.com”. That’s the most used extension on the internet. That means most visitors are familiar with it, which is always a good thing in marketing. If you want to present your business as a national or local business, your own local extension is a better choice. That can be something like “.nl”, “.co.uk” or “.de”. More about domain extensions later.

 infographic domain name
This infographic shows the different parts in the address of any online page.

So, what are all the other parts I see in the browser? 

https

“http” stands for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”. That’s a way to send and receive information on the internet.

The “s” is a more recent addition. It indicates a secure connection to the server your website is on. We’ve got you covered there: if you have a Jimdo website, we make sure that connection is secure for your visitors. 

www.

“www.” is a subdomain. It indicates a different section within the same domain, that is used for different content. Free Dolphin websites each get their own subdomain on the domain  jimdosite.com, like “yogastudiosunshine.jimdosite.com”.

Page

“/blog/” indicates a specific page on a domain, in this case the page “Blog”. 

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

How does a domain name work?

When you clicked a link to this article, your browser looked the domain name up in the Domain Name System (DNS) to see where the content for this article is stored. The DNS provided the IP address that is connected to the domain name “jimdo.com”. Your browser then loaded the content from the server at that IP address. And that’s why you are able to read this right now.

Tech talk: Every website is stored on a server. On that server, the website has its own unique IP address: a series of numbers. Those numbers are hard to remember for humans, so the Domain Name System (DNS) was introduced. Instead of the IP address, the website can now be reached by typing the domain name in a browser.

how a domain name works
The Domain Name System (DNS) tells your browser which IP address is connected to a domain name.

What domain extension is the best?

You have many domain extensions to choose from, so let’s break them up into groups first. When you search for options, you will often find the term “TLD”. It stands for “Top Level Domain”. They mean the same thing. 

Generic top level domains or gTLDs

These are not connected to any specific area. They are, as the name implies, more generic. Examples are “.com”, “.net” or “.org”. 

Country code top level domains or ccTLDs

These domain extensions are connected to a country. The requirements to register one of these are set by that country. If you plan to make a local version of your website, it’s good to use the local domain extension. 

Sponsored top level domain

These are relatively new TLDs and their number grows. These domain extensions are proposed and sponsored by organizations. After approval by the ICANN these organizations can set the rules for registration and use. 

ICANN is the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is a non-profit organization that has many tasks when it comes to domain names. In the case of sponsored domain names, they need to process and approve new domain names before they become available for registration.

Sponsored TLDs can sometimes be more expensive and are often very specific. Several cities, provinces or institutions have their own sponsored TLD. Like the city of Amsterdam (.amsterdam), the aerospace industry (.aero) or the U.S. government (.gov). 

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

Difference between website vs domain name vs website hosting

You’ll hear people talk about websites, domains and hosting. Those terms are all different, but very closely connected. Let’s unpack this, shall we?

A website is a set of content, published on the internet. It is the collection of texts, images, designs etc. that you use to promote your business online. 

All that information is stored on a server. This storing is also called website hosting. So that’s where ‘website hosting’ comes in. If you build a Jimdo website, it is stored on servers run by Jimdo. 

If you register a domain name at a company, that company is called a domain host. So that’s where the terms often flow together: the word ‘host’ can mean different things in the context of websites. 

How to choose a domain name

Most businesses choose their business name as their domain name. And for most businesses that is a good choice. It’s what your customers expect, and it is likely the first thing that comes up when people search your business. 

But, for some businesses, people don’t search your name. They search your product or your service. In those cases, it can help your website appear higher in the search results to include that product or service. This is part of what’s known as search engine optimization, or SEO.

Example: 

Business name only: 

groot.com

Business name plus product: 

groot-potted-plants.com

Most important is having a domain name that is short, easy to spell and in line with your brand. 

Find more tips in our article about How to Find the Best Domain for Your Website.

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

Is your domain available?

Before you start to communicate your perfect domain name, check if the domain is available. Our supporters speak to people about domains daily. And sometimes they hear stories of people putting up posters or printing business cards showing their domain, only to then find out that this domain name is already being used by someone else. 

This situation is easy to avoid: check if your domain is available, register the domain, connect it to your website. Then start distributing it through all your marketing channels.

How does domain registration work?

The steps are easy enough: 

  • enter the domain you want to use
  • enter your own information
  • pay the registration costs

A domain registration generally lasts for one year. At the end of that year, you can renew or cancel the registration.

Should you cancel (or forget to renew) your domain is held for a short time. During this grace period, you can still get your domain back. If you decide not to renew your domain registration, the domain name will be released for registration by anyone. 

Domain requirements

Every domain extension has some requirements for the registration. An Italian .it domain requires an Italian VAT number. A Dutch .nl domain requires an address in the Netherlands. To register an .aero or .edu domain, you need to prove you work in the aerospace industry or education. Generally, these registration requirements are easy to find and usually easy to comply with. 

WHOIS and privacy

When you register a domain, you are listed as the domain owner. This list of domain owners and contacts is called the WHOIS. Having your information in this public list is mandatory: in case anyone needs to contact you about your site, this is where they must be able to find you. 

Obviously, not everyone wants to have their contact information published on the internet. So at Jimdo you have the option to use a privacy service. It means instead of your information, the WHOIS mentions you can be reached via your provider.   

How much does a domain cost?

You can register a domain at a hosting company, but most website builders include domains in their website plans. Buying a domain through your website builder means you save on additional costs, and you get to skip a number of technical steps to connect the domain to your website. 

At Jimdo a domain is included in all premium plans, starting from the Jimdo Start plan at € 9 per month. 

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

Where to buy a domain name

You can get your own domain name at a domain hoster. These companies have been granted permission to register domains for clients. Jimdo works with such a company to provide the domains for Jimdo customers. 

Tech talk: “Buying a domain” is a strange expression. When you register a domain, you will be listed as the owner. However, most registrations run for one year. At the end of that year, you need to extend the registration. So practically, it’s more like “renting a domain”.

Normally, you can only buy a domain if it is available. However, sometimes the owner of a domain is not using it. That’s where you sometimes hear stories of companies offering to buy a domain name from its current owner. 

If the owner agrees, the name and contact details for the registration are changed to the new owner, who can then connect the domain to their business website. This is usually a more expensive option than registering a new domain.

How to use domains with Jimdo

A domain is included in every Jimdo premium plan. So after your upgrade, you can register your domain name straight away. 

Register your domain first: This is an important first step! Sometimes, people make the mistake of printing business cards with a domain name they haven’t registered yet. And then they find out the domain is not available… That’s an unfortunate situation you can easily avoid, by claiming your domain as soon as you can.

This is how you register a domain name at Jimdo:

  • upgrade your website to a premium plan
  • go to the dashboard of your Dolphin website and open the domains section
  • click Add your included domain and follow the steps 

Do you have your own domain name already? No worries, you can transfer your existing domain to Jimdo

Alternatively you can adjust your DNS settings at your domain hoster, to connect your domain to your Jimdo website. That’s called a redirect. There are several kinds of redirects and this article will show you exactly how to choose and set up the fitting redirect for your situation. 

Redirects sound very technical (because they are), but to your domain hoster this is everyday work. So, no need to worry: they can help you set it up.

Next step: Build your website!

Your domain is safe, the technical part is done, and now you can start building your website. This is the fun part! 

Step by step you’ll bring your website to life, showing the world the story of your business!

Bring your business online with Jimdo.

Domain FAQ

What is a domain in simple terms?

A domain is the unique address of a website. If you tell someone where to find your website, you usually tell them your domain name, like smithsbakery.com. Your domain has a name (smithsbakery) and an extension (.com).

How to choose a TLD?

Your TLD can show visitors where your business is active. If you operate nationally, your country code TLD (ccTLD) is usually a good choice. Internationally, a generic TLD (gTLD) is often better.

Is email always connected to a domain?

Your own custom email address is optional once you own a domain. It is not automatically included if you register a domain name. If you decide to create your own email address the part before the ‘@’ can be chosen freely. Your domain name always comes after the ‘@’.

What if a domain is not available?

If the domain name you want (teddybears.com) is not available, you can change the name (teddys.com) or the extension (teddybears.shop). Alternatively, you can ask the current owner if you can buy the domain name from them.

How to buy a domain?

Start by choosing a fitting domain name that is currently available. Then register it directly or via your website builder. Fill in your information, confirm the registration and connect the domain to your site. Domain registrations generally run for one year.

Bring your business online with a custom domain.

Frank van Oosterhout
Frank is a copywriter for Jimdo with special interests in SEO and entrepeneurship. When he's not working, he bakes bread, grows herbs on his balcony, or goes running.
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