A domain is a website address that has three parts, each separated by a dot: the subdomain (www), the mid-level domain (where you can display a business name), and the top-level domain (.com, for example). While domains can be purchased between $10 to $20 per year, some are free with a web hosting service.
If you even think that you need a domain name, we recommend that you get one immediately. Thousands of domains are registered every day, so the chances are that the great name you thought up yesterday will be purchased by someone else today. Get started right away with BlueHost, which lets you register a domain and host your website for just $2.95 per month.
Parts of a Domain With Examples
A domain name has three parts: the top-level domain, which is to the right of the dot; the mid-level domain, which is your business name; and the subdomain, which is to the left of the dot. For example, in www.fitsmallbusiness.com, “com” is the top-level domain, “fitsmallbusiness” is the mid-level domain, and “www” is the subdomain.
As this example shows, a domain name has three parts:
- Top-level domain is found to the right of the dot: In our case and most cases, it’s “.com.” Also called the parent domain, there are other top-level domains aside from the popular .com and usually gives visitors an idea about the owner. For example, .gov is used by government websites and .org for nonprofit organizations. Other top-level domains like .uk, .us, .ca, indicate the location where the website owner is from.
- Mid-level domain is found between the dots: This is most often the name of the domain owner’s business. In our case, it would be “fitsmallbusiness.”
- Subdomain is found to the left of the dot: The subdomain, most often “www,” is used to help group site content related to the mid-level domain, such as pics.yourbusiness.com, or associate a domain with the internet as a whole, as in the case of “www,” which stands for “World Wide Web.”
All three elements mentioned above—the top-level domain, the mid-level domain, and the subdomain—are necessary to create a web address accessible to the public. Because there are so many possible variations of these elements, it’s relatively easy to create a unique web address for your company.
How to Get a Domain in 6 Steps
Domain names are regulated by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). To get your own domain, register and pay for it through a domain registrar. The fee will range from a few dollars to $20-plus. If you want a free domain, you can secure one with web hosting plans like those offered by BlueHost. Once you have it purchased, connect it to your website and verify it’s live by typing it into a web browser.
Here’s how to register a domain in six steps:
- Choose your registrar or web hosting service: Remember to check their hosting policies and pricing. Read our guide of the best domain registrars for small businesses.
- Search for a domain name: Your chosen registrar should have an availability checker, such as the one from BlueHost, which you can use to determine if a domain name is available. The advantage of the availability checker is that it will give you suggestions for alternative domains if yours is already taken.
- Fill out the forms: Expect that you will be asked for your personal information and contact details to complete your profile for the public “WHOIS” database. Choose whether you want your profile to be public or private by opting in or out of domain privacy.
- Pay for your domain: Prices for the domain names will come up during the availability check but will generally range from free to $20. Depending on the web host or registrar, you may be able to get a domain for free by purchasing a web hosting plan.
- Link domain and website: Using the domain manager, connect your domain to your website; this will require entering host server information if you haven’t purchased your domain and web hosting from the same provider.
- Confirm your domain is live: Once you’ve logged into your content management system (CMS) and designed the beginnings of your website, be sure to confirm it is live under your purchased domain. To do so, open a browser window and type in your domain. To view it like your visitors do instead of the logged-in version, be sure to open an incognito window.
It is important to point out that some hosts and registrars will only register domain names with certain top-level domains, so you may need to check their options before signing up. Use the domain name search widget from BlueHost below to both find and register your domain. Be patient. You may have to go through several names that are already taken. Once you find the right one, you can purchase it right away, along with hosting for your website for just $2.95/month.
Advantages of Having a Registered Domain
Registering a domain has many advantages. This includes adding credibility to your brand, making your business easier to find online, and allowing you to create a professional email address using your brand name after the @ symbol.
Here are three advantages to registering a domain:
- Adds credibility: Having a registered domain name gives internet users an idea of what the business is all about and gives potential visitors to your website confidence in your brand.
- Makes your business easier to find: Use your domain name to introduce your business and make it easy for users to find you on the internet even if you change your web hosting site.
- Makes professional email possible: Registering a domain name usually gets you a professional email address as well. Customers are more likely to trust businesses whose staff members have professional business emails.
Cost of a Domain Name
On average, domain name costs are $0-$20, depending on a number of factors. These include the choice of top-level domain (.com vs. .org, for example), the words used in your mid-level domain, any add-ons you choose like domain privacy, contract length and terms, and any discounts the domain registrar offers.
Here are six factors that determine the cost of your domain:
- Your choice of top-level domain: Certain top-level domains are more expensive than others. For example, .com domains are often more expensive than .site or .space domains, which range between $2 and $4. However, .net and .org domains are usually in the same price range as .com domains.
- The length and use of certain words or word combinations: Using popular keywords or phrases will sometimes make domain names more expensive.
- The term length of domain name registration: On average, registering a domain name for one year costs between $2 and $20. However, registering for a longer time period will reduce monthly costs. If possible when registering your domain, try to register for two to three years instead of one year to save money.
- Add-ons: Along with domain name registration, subscribers can opt for add-ons such as domain privacy and web hosting. These come with additional fees.
- Buying a domain name that is already owned: It is possible to buy a domain that is currently owned by someone else in a bidding process, but this usually costs more than registering a new domain.
- Domain registrar discounts: At times, domain registrars offer discounts. A .com domain name that would usually cost around $10 to $13 per year can go down to as low as $2 or $3 per year during special discounts. Keep an eye out for these.
If you need an easy way to save money while ensuring you have top-notch web hosting, email, and a domain name, consider signing up for BlueHost. It offers robust, full-featured plans for less than $3 per month. Try it out today.
Website vs Domain Name
A website is a collection of web pages grouped together for a single purpose. A domain name is the website address that a website owner needs to register before customers can access the site. This is what visitors will have to type in the address bar of their browser to get to your website. For instance, users must type the domain www.fitsmallbusiness.com in their browser to visit our site.
If you don’t have a website, read our step-by-step guide to building a small business website. You can use an all-in-one site builder, host, and domain registrar like Squarespace to make site building easy, or you can opt for a more customizable site builder-only solution like WordPress coupled with domain registration and web hosting from a provider like BlueHost.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I purchase a domain name directly from a website builder?
Many website builders offer a free domain name when you sign up for one of their web hosting plans. Squarespace, for example, offers plans starting at $12 per month. When you sign up, you get unlimited storage, an SSL certificate for website security, website analytics, and a free custom domain. Other web builders that offer similar plans include Wix and Weebly.
Can I transfer my domain name if I change website builders?
You can transfer a custom domain (like www.yoursite.com) from one web builder to another. However, if you use a subdomain from a web builder (yoursite.weebly.com), you cannot transfer it. For greatest transfer flexibility, register a domain with a hosting provider like Bluehost, then you can point the domain to a website you’ve created, regardless of the web builder you used to create it.
Should I purchase a domain name through a registrar or a website builder and host platform?
While many website builders and hosting providers offer a domain with paid hosting plans, their domains average about $12 per month on their own. In contrast, many registrars also offer web hosting plans and a free domain starting at less than $3 per month. Some of these plans, like DreamHost’s shared hosting plan, for example, offer unlimited storage as well.
Are domain names with .com always preferable?
Unless you own a nonprofit organization, a .com domain is best for creating a memorable and credible website. When people search for a business web address, many automatically add .com to the business name. This also lends an air of credibility to a business’s online presence while a lesser-known extension like .guru may have a spammy connotation that deters clicks. Finally, many mobile keyboards have a .com button, making it easier for people to visit your site.
Bottom Line: What Is a Domain Name?
A domain is a website address used by people to access your website. It has three customizable parts: the top-level domain, like .com, which categories a business into categories like “commercial” or “organization”; the mid-level domain, traditionally used to display a business name; and the subdomain, used to group content or business locations as part of the main domain. All of these elements are necessary to create a viable web address.
While most domains cost $10 to $20 per year, businesses can get a better deal by buying their domain in a web hosting plan. For example, you can purchase a shared hosting plan from BlueHost for $2.95 per month and receive a free domain, 50GB of storage, an SSL certificate for website security, and five custom email addresses. Click here to get your own low-cost hosting.