Before you can create a website you’ll need a domain. The domain name you choose will be your website’s address on the internet. In this post we’ll look at what a domain is, how they work and how to register a domain name.
What is a Domain?
Your domain name is the foundation of your website. This is the address that visitors can type into their browser’s URL bar to reach your site.
Domain names use a set of words and letters to represent a site’s Internet Protocol or IP address. An IP address is a string of numbers that allows computers to communicate with each other over the internet (for example 220.127.116.11). Numbers like this are difficult to remember and type correctly, so a domain name provides an alias for the actual IP address that servers use to point to a site.
Using a well thought up domain name will allow your website visitors to identify and remember you.
How Do Domain Names Work?
When you type a domain name into your browser, it sends a request to a network of servers called the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS servers then look for the name servers associated with the domain you enter and sends a request to them.
Name servers are managed by the website’s hosting provider. They forward the request to the web server where the website is stored. The web server fetches the web page and all the files associated with it and returns the data to your browser so you can see the website.
Choosing a Domain Name for Your Website
When you register a domain name it’s important to remember that your domain name will be an important branding element. This means that you need to ensure that the domain name will continue to work for you in the long term.
Tips for choosing a domain name
- Check the competition. Look at the domain names of your competitors and note any keywords they include.
- Choose a domain name that’s easy to type and remember. It’s important to have a name that can be relayed by word of mouth. Domains with odd spellings of words, hyphens and numbers are difficult to remember.
- Shorter is better. A good domain name is easy to remember so keeping it short will help.
- Always have a few back-up names just in case your first choice is already in use.
Different Types of Domain Names
All domain names are made up of a website name and a top level domain (TLD) called the domain extension.
The most common TLD or domain extension is .com, but there are many other TLD’s available. If you’re doing business in South Africa the .co.za extension is widely recognised and understood by most users who will type this by default.
Some other TLD’s available:-
You can check with your domain registrar for other TLD’s they support.
How Much Does it Cost to Register a Domain?
The cost for registering a domain name in South Africa will depend on the TLD you choose. A domain with the .co.za TLD will cost around R90 per year. Most hosting providers also offer free .co.za domain registration for the first year when you sign up for one of their hosting packages.
If you choose a .com TLD you will pay around R220 per year. Special TLD’s like .joburg and .capetown will cost R260 and more per year.
When should I register my Domain Name?
Once you’ve found your perfect domain name and checked if it’s available it’s time to register it with a domain registrar. You should do this even if you aren’t ready with your website.
It’s important to make sure that nobody else can register your domain name and to secure it for when you are ready to launch. The domain name will remain yours for as long as you pay the annual domain renewal fees.
Register Yourself as the Owner of the Domain Name
Many first time website owners are tempted to leave everything to a designer or web agency. If you do follow this route always make sure that the domain is registered in your name. It’s important for you to be the registered domain owner and administrative contact.
This may not seem important right now, but it may come as a shock if you want to change hosting providers in the future and find that you do not own the domain name.
Owning your domain name will allow your website address and email to remain the same even if you change your website hosting provider.
How to Register a Domain
Since you need a domain and hosting for any website you can do both at the same time through a website hosting provider by signing up for one of their packages. Read more on website hosting.
To get started simply visit your preferred hosting provider’s website and select a hosting package. You will then have the opportunity check availability and choose your domain name.
Once you’ve completed the process and made the necessary payments you’ll receive a confirmation e-mail from your host and that’s it – your domain is registered.