A domain name is simply an address on the internet. Without a domain name, visitors will be unable to find you. Just as a mailbox provides the United States Postal Service with a location to deliver your mail to, a domain name provides internet service providers with a location to point your visitors to. Domain names used to be quite the pricey commodity, but these days you can get a domain name for about the same amount of money you would spend on a coffee and muffin at your local Starbucks.
Getting a domain name begins with deciding what type of name you’d like to use. You can use any combination of letters (not case-sensitive), numbers, and hyphens, and you can choose from dozens of Top Level Domains, or TLDs. A TLD refers to the extension at the end of a domain name, such as .COM or .ORG. Traditionally .COMs are used by companies, while .NETs and .ORGs are used by non-profit and private organizations. But these days, companies and individuals alike use .COMs, .NETs, .ORGs, and other TLDs. Of course, if you want to make absolutely sure that nobody piggybacks off of your internet success, it would be a smart choice to register your domain name in the top three TLDs – .COM, .NET, and .ORG. You can use domain forwarding to automatically forward traffic to just one of your TLDs (the .COM is most often recommended for your “primary” domain name).
Domain name registrations must be paid for in advance, for a minimum of one year. You can add multiple years at the time of registration or renewal – up to ten or more! Some domain name registrars offer valuable discounts if you register your domain name for more than one year at a time. Others may offer different types of incentives, such as free forwarding or parking, or even a free or reduced-cost hosting account, if you register a domain name for more than a one year term.
Having a domain name will help you to build a reputation. As an individual, a domain name will cast a positive light on you as someone who is professional. As a company, a domain name will help to certify that you are reputable and authentic, and worth doing business with.