Choosing Your Domain Name

Part 1 of 2 of Choosing Your Domain Name

A domain name is an important part of your website's online presence. It's how potential visitors will remember you.

What is a Domain Name?

The internet is a network of computers which are connected and capable of communicating with each other using a network protocol called TCP/IP. In order for the machines to identify themselves, they are assigned a numeric value called an IP address (ex: 123.12.123.12). As it is not possible to remember all those numbers for all the different sites, the concept of domain names was introduced. A domain name is a human readable and memorable representation of an IP address. When someone types in a domain name like HostGator.com, the browser communicates with a root domain name server that acts as a dictionary and provides the appropriate IP.

What's in a Domain Name?

A domain name consists of two parts: a top-level domain (TLD) and a second-level domain (SLD). In the domain name HostGator.com, the TLD is ".com" and the SLD is "HostGator." The "http" and "www" are not part of the domain name; rather, they are part of the entire web address, called a URL. So, when you choose your domain name, you are only concerned with the TLD and SLD.

.com is just one of many TLDs from which you can choose. Your choices include variations such as .net, .org, .biz, .us and many more you may have never seen. The major deciding factor when selecting a TLD is availability. For example, mystore.com may be taken while mystore.net may still be available. The second factor affecting your TLD choice may be price. A .cc domain is typically more expensive than a .com domain.

The SLD is where your creativity and originality comes in. You may choose any name you like, as long as it does not infringe upon someone else's trademark. You may only use alphanumeric characters and hyphens, though hyphens can not be used adjacently. Symbols and blank spaces are also not permitted in domain names.

Acceptable Domain Names:

  • mystore.com
  • my-store-4-u.com
  • MY-STORE.com
  • m-y-s-t-o-r-e.com

Unacceptable Domain Names:

  • my_store.com
  • my--store.com
  • my store.com
  • www.mystore.com

Note: In the list of acceptable domain names, one of the domains contains capital letters; this is still acceptable since domain names are not case sensitive. In other words, when you register "mystore.com" you also get "MYSTORE.COM," "MyStore.Com," "mySTore.coM" and any other variation where lowercase and uppercase letters are interchanged.

How to Choose a Domain Name

When selecting your domain name, you should ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of my website?
    • If this is a hobby site or a special interest site, you probably want your domain name to be related to the hobby or interest.
    • If your answer is "to make money," then the subsequent question is "doing what exactly?" You might consider including the name of the service or product you are selling in your domain name; this will help you get better traffic, especially from search engines. Although you may like mystore.com, it doesn't tell a potential visitor what you're selling. A name like rare-electronics-and-lamps.com is identifiable and contains keywords visitors will Google to find you.

For more help on choosing a domain name, please read:

How to Register a Domain Name

Once you've chosen your domain name, it's time to register it on the world wide web:

  1. Visit HostGator Domains and type your desired SLD in the search box.
  2. Choose your desired TLD from the adjacent drop down menu
  3. Click the Search button.
  4. If your domain is available, select a term and click Add To Cart. You may purchase domains with alternate TLDs or register another domain name by using the search box at the bottom of the page.
  5. Once you've chosen all the domains you wish to register, click Express Checkout to provide your personal information and complete your order.
If you do not see the TLD you want, or if you cannot pay with a credit card, please create a ticket.

Getting the domain name you want can be frustrating if you realize what you wanted is already taken. If this happens, you may want to try submitting the same name with a different TLD. For example, if mystore.com is taken, you may want to check to see if mystore.biz is available.

You can also try changing the name slightly by altering your spelling or arrangement of words or by finding synonyms. For example, if mystoreforyou.com is taken, you might try yourstorebyme.com, mystore4you.com or myshopforyou.com.

Good luck! Hopefully you'll create a name your visitors won't forget!

Continue to Part 2: Advanced Tips on Picking a Domain Name