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Domain Names 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Buying, Managing, and Understanding Domain Names

In today’s digital era, your domain name is your online identity.

It’s the address you can own and where internet users can access your website.

For example, the domain of this website is

Choosing the right domain name is crucial for establishing a strong online presence.

This guide will navigate you through the basics of domain names, and how they can affect your business.

Understanding Domain Names

A domain name is more than just an address for your website; it’s a critical component of your online brand and business workflow.

Acting as the gateway to your website, it plays a significant role in marketing, branding, lead-generation and search engine optimization (SEO).

Understanding domain names starts with recognizing their structure, which typically includes a top-level domain (TLD) like .com or .org and a second-level domain (SLD) that represents the name of your website or business.

The Anatomy of a Domain Name

Domain names consist of two main parts: the Second-Level Domain (SLD) and the Top-Level Domain (TLD).

The SLD is the unique part of the domain that reflects your brand’s name or the purpose of your website (using our example above, bernadot, is the SLD).

The TLD, on the other hand, is the extension that follows the SLD, such as .com, .net, or .info.

Understanding this structure is fundamental in choosing a domain name that’s both memorable and effective in reaching your target audience.

Choosing the Right Domain Name

Selecting the right domain name is pivotal.

Ideally, it should be easy to spell, short in length, memorable, reflective of your brand or the services you offer, and not include any other company’s trademarked brand names.

Incorporating relevant keywords (and even geographic keywords, e.g. can also improve your SEO, making your website more visible in search engine results.

However, it’s essential to strike a balance between SEO and your branding goals, as well as simplicity, to ensure your domain name stands out while remaining user-friendly and memorable.

Quick example of a domain name mistake I made years ago:

I had a WordPress plugin named W P – R e a l t o r, and was politely contacted by R e a l t o r . c o m’ s legal team informing me the the word R e a l t o r is their registered trademark, and that I could not legally use that word in my domain name and product name. Nonetheless, I had to rebrand everything, and migrate the website to a new domain, costing me much time and hassle. Avoid this mistake.

Does the Domain Extension Matter?

Domain extensions can influence perception, memorability, and potentially SEO.

While .com domains are widely recognized and trusted for businesses (I always recommend getting a .com if possible for service-based businesses), and .org domains are generally recommended for nonprofits and organizations, 100s of niche extensions like .co, .shop or .design can offer new and unique branding opportunities.

While Google claims that domain extensions do not affect search rankings (so a .com does not automatically rank higher), I do not see a lot of generic TLDs in most organic search results (likely because most businesses use .com).

That said, there are other reasons to stay clear of generic LTDs. 

Namely, many of the generic TLDs are flooded with disreputable, spam-ridden websites and therefore lack the initial trust level of a .com domain. This can negatively affect your click-through rate, and send users to your competitor’s .com website.

The Domain Registration Process

Registering a domain name involves selecting a unique name and registering it through a domain registrar.

I use for all of my domain registrations because I started with them 20+ years ago, and the pricing if fair. It also allows for fast intra-account transfers that take minutes versus days to complete. I no longer use GoDaddy hosting  services (another story), but I do use their domain registration services.

This process includes searching for a domain name that’s not only reflective of your brand but also available for registration.

This process can be very discouraging as many, many, many domain names are already taken, and you’ll likely need to make adjustments to get close to your ideal name.

The adjustments might include adding or removing words or even letters (e.g. Flickr or Fiverr), as well as appending a corporate status, such as co, inc or llc (e.g., or  considering alternative domain name extensions (generic TLDs, e.g. ,net, .io, .biz, .shop, .ai, etc.).

Once you’ve chosen your domain, you’ll proceed to purchase and register it for a set period, typically ranging from one to ten years, with the option to renew.

I personally renew every year for all of my clients, as there are no refunds.


When creating an account at a domain registrar, make sure you use an email that you will monitor for years to come, as this email will be used for renewal notices and important communications regarding your domain.


TIP: Avoid using a school email, an ISP email (e.g. or a work email of a business you do not own. I recommend using an email of an alternate domain you own or where email services are core to the business offering them (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, etc.).


Failing to renew your domain on time can result in losing ownership, so it’s essential to use an email account that you regularly check and plan to maintain for the long term. 

Domain Name System (DNS) Management

You can choose to either manage your DNS within your registrar, or with your hosting provider.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is the internet’s phonebook, translating domain names to IP addresses so browsers can load internet resources.

Effective DNS management is crucial for ensuring your website, and optional subdomains, are accessible and that your email service is set up properly so that message you send do not end up in a spam folder.

This includes configuring DNS settings to point to your website’s hosting server (A record), managing subdomains and CNAMEs, TXT records (SPF, DKIM and DMARC to name a few) and email server settings (MX records) associated with your domain.

The Impact of Owning a Domain Without a Website

There is no direct SEO benefit for owning a domain name that doesn’t have a website built upon it (it will not appear at all in Google’s organic results), however, owning a domain name without an active website can still have value and impact.

Here are some ways a non-active domain name can benefit you:

  • Protect your brand identity (e.g. I own and
  • Prevent competitors from owning and using it (e.g I own
  • Retain a valuable domain name for future use or resale (e.g. I own a 4 letter domain name, of which many are highly sought after)
  • Use to redirect traffic to social media or a specific service page
  • Offer an alternative for shorter email addresses (I have a client with a very long domain name, but their email addresses use an abbreviated derivation of their domain name

So, while it may not directly improve SEO rankings, it plays a strategic role in your overall online branding and marketing strategy.

I hope you found this guide helpful. Feel free to contact me with any questions.