A domain is your the address of your website on the web, similar to how your street address is the address of your house, apartment or condo. In technical terms, your site’s domain simply defines your area of control on the Internet.
Domains, or domain names, are the combination of the Top Level Domain (TLD) and the Secondary Level Domain (SLD) that are part of the Domain Name System, or DNS. Combined with your transfer protocol (“https://”) and your prefix (“www.”), the SLD and TLD make up your URL.
[ADD DIAGRAM OF URL]
The distinction here is that combination of your SLD and TLD are completely unique and are where your website and any files will be found on the web.
The History of the Domain Name
In the world of computer and internet technology, domains are not that old.
In fact, the very first domain ever registered belonged to a company called Symbolics Inc. Symbolics.com was registered on March 15, 1985. If you visit that site today, you’ll find a helpful link to visit the The Big Internet Museum, which allows you to visit various wings and learn the history of internet ephemera.
For the next 10 years, domain name registration was completely FREE. In 1995, the National Science Foundation awarded a company called Network Solutions the ability to start charging for domain names, which unintentionally launched an entire marketplace.
In 1997, all three letter “.com” domains were bought up.
In 2013, the internet ends up running out of four letter “.com” domains
In 2014, in an effort to create more manageable domains, Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) were released that included “.app,” “.xyz,” “.online,” and more.
How Registering a Domain Works
The process of domain registration is how a website owner claims ownership over a domain and gets it registered as a location on the internet. By being able to register a word, phrase, or character set as a domain, it allows us to have human-friendly web addresses as opposed to IP address which are essentially indecipherable to most people.
When you register a domain with a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Google Domains, you’re essentially leasing a web address through a domain registrar from the from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The registrar acts as a check to prevent duplicate domain names and routes all traffic from the Top Level Domain (the “.com”) which is managed by ICANN to your specific domain.
In most cases, you can register a domain for around $5 – $20/year, however if you have a common word or popular brand, the cost can go up astronomically.
Registered domains can also be sold to the highest bidder. In a sense, there is an entire web address real estate market that buys and sells highly sought after domains. To date, the most expensive domain sale was for CarInsurance.com in 2010 for $49.7 million dollars.
Recently, Cars.com was valued at a whopping $872 million!
Choosing the Right TLD
When it was announced that there would be new TLD’s available on the market, website owners were faced with the decision to go with a traditional “.com” TLD or try something more descriptive like “.store” or “.shop”.
Despite the fact that these new TLDs have been available since 2014, most of the market is still accustomed to more familiar “.com,” “.net,” and “.co” domains.
Choose your TLD wisely. You can never go wrong with a .com, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can go with a new TLD. After all, when Google rebranded to Alphabet, they registered ther new domain as “abc.xyz.”
How a Domain Affects Your Site’s SEO
Your domain certainly has an impact on your website’s SEO.
One of the primary ranking factors for search engines like Google is a domain’s age. If you have a long-running domain, Google is going to assign more authority, thus pushing you up higher on the page in organic results.
If you’re registering a new domain to use, you might be wondering if it’s better to utilize a branded domain or a domain that has one of your target keywords in the URL.
From an SEO perspective, utilizing a keyword domain over a brand domain is going to offer you very little in the way of advantages. A Google algorithm update in 2011 removed any benefit of having a keyword in your domain in an effort to eliminate “parked” domains from getting traffic despite poor user experiences.
How to Properly Select Your Domain for Ecommerce
Since there’s no inherent SEO benefit between a branded and keyword domain, your choice in domain name really comes down to your branding strategy. If you have (or plan on having) a very strong brand, it might make sense to go with that as your domain. However, if you’re not as brand-focused, including a keyword in your domain will very quickly communicate to your customers what you sell without having to rely on killer brand recognition.
A good rule of thumb here is that if your competition are typically smaller companies and don’t have a lot of SEO going on, a keyword targeted domain could help you compete quickly. However, if there’s a high level of competition around your product niche, you may want to go with a branded domain to help differentiate you from the competition.
Your domain is one of the very first interactions a customer will have with your site, so you need to make sure it’s in line with the type of products you offer and the type of company you want to be.