What Is A Domain Name And How Does It Work?

A Beginner’s Guide To Domain Names – All You (Really) Need To Know.

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What is a domain name?

A domain name is your website name. A domain name is an address where Internet users can access your website.

A domain name can be any combination of letters and numbers. Domains are available for various domain name extensions, such as .co.uk, .com, .org and many more.

Each domain name must be registered before you can use it. Every domain name is unique. No two websites can have the same domain name. If someone types in www.yourdomain.com, it will go to your website and no one else’s.


A domain name is an address where Internet users can access your website. It is used to identify entities on the Internet rather than complex IP addresses. All websites need a domain name, they can also be used for email.


How do domain names work?

A domain name is used for finding and identifying computers on the Internet. Computers use IP addresses, which are a series of number something like this However, it is difficult for humans to remember strings of numbers like this so domain names were developed. They are used instead to identify ‘stuff’ on the Internet rather than using IP addresses.

How much do domain names cost?

The price of a domain name typically ranges from between £10-20 per year.

Many domain registrars offer free domain names in conjunction with other services such as website hosting. There are also tempting ‘introductory offers’ by domain resellers such as FREE for the first year or BOGOF deals.

Some domain names are highly sought after and can be bought and sold for hundreds of thousands, even millions of pounds!

The most expensive domain names

Getting your hands on the perfect domain can get very expensive. The average price of a domain name sold in the secondary market — buying a domain from someone who already owns it — is in the thousands of dollars.

It was announced on the 18th June 2019 that voice.com was sold for $30 million — “the biggest publicly reported all-cash domain sale of all time,” Ron Jackson wrote in DNJournal.com. Likewise, Elliot Silver of  DomainInvesting.com called the Voice.com purchase “easily the largest domain name sale of the year and one of the largest pure domain name sales of all time.”

Domain name registration and how to buy a domain name

In order to get a domain name for your website or email, you’ll need to register one with a domain provider such as 123Reg or GoDaddy.

Many companies offer cheap domain names but choose carefully as other services and even some hidden charges can soon add up.

A lot of people new to the web go for cheap domain registration which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but in the long run, it often means that it ends up costing you more.

I always recommend my clients register their domains with a company called 123Reg.co.uk as they are very reasonable in terms of cost and the user control panel is easy to use. They also offer good support in case any issues come up.

The importance of owning a domain name

The importance of owning your own domain name and having full control over its use is something often overlooked (and not very well understood).

As a business owner, you should always register your own domain names to ensure you have all the domain info and access you need when it comes to website or email setup.

How to check domain name availability

Before you register your domain name, you need to check domain name availability. This can be done on all the domain registration websites such as 123reg, GoDaddy, HostGator etc.

Type in your preferred name and see which extensions (.co.uk, .com) are available.

domain name availability

Top 3 Tips for choosing the best domain name

When choosing website domain names try to observe the following THREE tips:

  1. Make it service, product or location-specific
  2. Avoid numbers and special characters like hyphens
  3. Keep it short and easy to remember, say out-loud and type

Keeping your domain name specific and simple really helps search engines to figure out what you’re all about. Quirky and cool names sound great but from a search engine point of view, they offer no clues as to what your website is about.

B&Q = diy.com – Retail giant B&Q is a great example of this. You might assume that their domain is simply bandq.com or similar but it’s actually diy.com which is genius!

If you are a UK based business then the best domain extension is .co.uk followed by .com but you should capture both if possible. More on this further down.

What if I already have a domain but I don’t know who owns it?

If you haven’t registered your own domain then it’s essential to find out who has. This is simple and easy to do with domain lookup tools such as MXToolBox and Mac Terminal.

If you know the person who registered the domain then you can request a domain transfer from their account to your own. This service is often free but requires a small amount of admin on both sides.

If you don’t know who or where your domain has been registered, then a WHOIS Lookup will give you some domain info which you can then use to narrow your search.

How to use the WHOIS Domain Lookup Tool

There are two key things to check when trying to identify where a domain has been registered and is controlled:

Registrar – In the below lookup example you can see this is 123-Reg Limited
Name servers – These can be the same as the registrar (ns.123-reg.co.uk) but maybe different, for example doug.ns.cloudflare.com

domain lookup

If the name servers are different from the registrar this means that the settings for your domain are being controlled outside of where the domain is actually registered (purchased). This is common when working with external suppliers such as web developers or IT support companies. They will often take over control of domains by switching the Name servers to their own provider.

Reclaim your domain name

If you don’t have access to your domain and can’t get in contact with the person or company that registered it for you, use the WHOIS lookup, contact the domain registrar and ask them what the process is for ‘Reclaiming your domain name‘.

Read my post for further advice on this and tips on how to reclaim a lost domain name.

What’s the difference between a domain and a website

Web hosting is the space on a server where the files and database (in some instances) for your website are stored. You could think of it almost like a filing cabinet and your domain name would be the key which allows you to access those files.
There is often confusion over the domain and hosting which means people do end up losing track of where their domain name is registered and who owns it. The key thing to remember with both these things is they are separate and as such you do not have to have both services with the same provider.
I recommend 123Reg.co.uk for registering domains but I don’t host any websites with them and nor do I use their mailboxes. Ideally, you should keep services separate so that you can shop around for the best deals and switch independently from one provider to another if required.

Which domain name is better .com or .co.uk?

Domain extensions are the bits that follow the name of your business/organisation etc and they mean different things. It’s important to choose the most appropriate extension to suit your requirements.

What are the five most common domain extensions and what do they stand for?
  1. .com – Commercial
  2. .net –  NETwork
  3. .org – Organisation
  4. .co – Company
  5. .co.uk – Company United Kingdom
The two most well-known ones are of course .com and .co.uk so which is better? The main difference between .com and .co.uk domains is regional in the sense that .com domains signify predominantly that a user or business is based in the United States or is a global player (but not always true as there are many successful and thriving UK companies based on .com domains like lastminute.com).
If you are a UK based company not selling overseas then .co.uk is the best domain for you. If you plan to expand into overseas markets then .com would be better but in an ideal world, you would own both. This then affords you the freedom to choose and switch later down the road as your business develops.
Having your own business domain name gives your company credibility and brand consistency so it is important to secure your domains at the earliest opportunity. Having professional emails, @domain.co.uk, can also help you boost your credibility and build your brand.

If like me, you have multiple domain extensions but only use one of them for your actual website then you can use domain forwarding to point the others at your primary domain. This means that they are in use and in case anyone types in the wrong extension, they will still arrive at your site.

Need help with choosing a domain name or registrar?

Get in touch with CEB Creative, I can advise on the best domain name for your business, check if it’s available and recommend a registrar.

Contact me