Want to create your own blog to make money online? Cool!… You’ll need a domain name, a web host, and a content management system (CMS) like WordPress for building your site. If you’re new to creating websites and blogging, these terms may be confusing.
If you’re unsure about the difference between a website and a blog. Every blog is part of a website but every website might not have a blog. Learn more about blog websites in the post, “Blogging Basics: What Is A Blog? And How Blogs Work“.
In this post, we’ll cover what a domain name is and in the next, post we’ll cover how to choose a domain name for your website.
What Is a Domain Name?
Don’t know what a domain name is? No problem. There are always new terms when starting something new and we’re here to help. Everyone who’s started a blog or website was once where you are now.
So, what is a domain name? A domain name is an easy-to-remember name that corresponds to your website’s physical address. A common domain name that you should know would be Google.com.
Your blog will be housed on a computer at Bluehost or another web host of your choosing. This computer (webserver) at Bluehost is just one of the millions of networked computers that make up the Internet. These networked computers are assigned addresses called Internet Protocol addresses (IP addresses). A typical IP address would look like 126.96.36.199.
Thanks to something called the Domain Name System (DNS) our chosen domain names are translated to the IP addresses where our website is located. If you enter “Google.com” into your browser’s address bar or the IP address, “188.8.131.52”. You’ll go to the same location on the Internet, Google.com.
Without domain names, we would have to remember IP addresses to direct internet browsers to the right location on the Internet. I’d rather remember Google.com. What about you?
It’s much easier to remember a domain name than a series of numbers.
Domain Name vs. Website Address
I mention domain names and web addresses because these two are often confused.
The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is more simply termed a website address. You’ll see the term URL in web browser search bars along with web address and website.
The three browsers I use most often are Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. In the browser search bar, you can see the terms URL and web address used interchangeably.
(I use Google as my default search engine in the different web browsers on my computer. This is why Google shows in the browser address bar examples.)
Google Chrome Web Browser Address Bar
Mozilla Firefox Web Browser Address Bar
Apple Safari Web Browser Address Bar
Let’s look at how domain names and web addresses are related.
Website Address and Domain Name Structure
Your website address is comprised of multiple parts. Your domain name makes up some of these parts.
Let’s define each part and pay close attention to the multiple parts that make up the domain name structure.
The prefix would be http: (standard) or https: (secured). Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is the protocol used when sending data between your web browser and the website you’re accessing. With increasing concerns over web security, Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is quickly becoming the protocol of choice.
A domain name is made up of two main parts or levels, the top-level domain (TLD), and the second-level domain (SLD). Take our domain, for example, AHoodLife.com consists of the website’s name the (A Hood Life) and the domain name extension (.com). AHoodlife is the second-level domain and .com is the top-level domain.
If we need to further describe the domain, we can use a subdomain which is also called the third-level domain.
Let’s look at each part that makes up a domain name in a little more detail. Understanding each of these will help you make a more informed choice when picking the domain name for your blog.
A subdomain is a third-level in a domain name. It is quite common to use “www” to designate the web server, however, not all URLs use “www”. We don’t at A Hood Life. The browser can be directed to the appropriate IP address without the use of the “www” subdomain.
We don’t use any subdomains, though many of these third-level domains could be used if necessary. If you’re setting up a blog, you probably won’t use a subdomain unless you choose to use “www”.
Domains can be subdivided into many subdomains. You’ll see this to be the case if you’ve ever used a free web hosting service like Blogger (subdomain.blogspot.com). Many bloggers that use Blogger choose to blog under a custom subdomain instead of paying for their own domain name.
The third-level domain name is typically used to reference different servers under the one domain.
Subdomains are not chosen when registering a domain name. Only the name and extension that follow are chosen at the time of domain name registration. Subdomains are set up later.
The name is the second-level domain (SLD) of the website. When you register your domain name, this is the part you’ll choose to reference your business or website name. Our SLD is “ahoodlife” to correspond to our website’s name A Hood Life.
The domain name extension is the top-level domain (TLD). There are hundreds of available TLDs.
Domain name extensions are designed to reference categories:
Purpose categories are the original top-level domains (TLDs). Original in that they were the first available extensions. Additional extensions have since been added.
Popular top-level domains (TLDs) by purpose:
- .com – commercial purposes
- .net – organizations involved in networking technologies
- .org – non-profit organizations
- .edu – educational institutions
- .gov – United States federal government
- .mil – United States Department of Defense
Though generally adhered to, the intended purpose of the original TLDs .com, .net, and .org are vastly ignored and unenforced while .edu, .gov, and .mil are strictly enforced.
Regional categories are country code top-level domains (ccTLDs).
Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) examples:
- .us – United States of America
- .ca – Canada
- .uk – United Kingdom
- .au – Australia
- .de – Germany
- .fi – Finland
- .fr – France
- .nl – Netherlands
- .nz – New Zealand
- .ru – Russian Federation
- .eu – European Union
Topic categories are topic-specific generic top-level domains (gTLDs). These extensions are newer and slowly gaining in popularity.
Topic-specific generic top-level domains (gTLDs) examples:
- .info – informational purposes
- .photography – photography websites
- .business – business websites
- .shop – shopping purposes
- .website – generic website use
- .blog – blogging use
- .news – news service
- .tech – technology topics
- .review – review websites
Geographic TLDs or GeoLTDs are generic top-level domains related to geographical location, geopolitical factors, ethnic backgrounds, linguistic connection, or cultural connection.
Geographic generic top-level domains (GeoTLDs) examples:
- .nyc – New York City, New York, United States
- .london – London, England
- .boston – Boston, Massachusetts, United States
- .paris – Paris, France
- .sydney – Sydney, Australia
- .qubec – Quebec, Canada
The path specifies a specific page, post, or file on the webserver.
The SLD and the TLD are combined to form the domain name in its entirety. For our website, it is our SLD, ahoodlife, and the .com TLD.
When you choose a domain name, you’ll have to decide on both your name and from one of the hundreds of domain name extensions. It may sound difficult but there are some simple guidelines to follow.
Our next post, “How To Choose A Domain Name When Starting A Blog“, will cover everything you need to know about picking a domain name for your website.
Want to check on domain name availability? Look it up with this handy domain name search.