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What is a Domain Name and How does it Work?

Domain names, internet protocol, control panels, URL, FTP, DNS… if your mind just turned into a glazed donut at the mention of these arcane terms, we don’t blame you. Understanding internet jargon can be overwhelming, but it is useful to understand what domain names are and how they work if you have a website so that you can know how to handle your resources. At FirstPage Marketing, we specialize in web design and strategy that produces results, so we are always happy to talk about the geeky stuff, like domain names, or the fun stuff, like glazed donuts. Mmmmmm. Donuts.

Domain Names Explained

Domain names are the address indicators of the internet. In more tangible terms, imagine that a website is a building. The domain name is the street address of that building. A computer’s internet browser is like a GPS, and when somebody puts the address of a website into their computer’s GPS, it takes them to that website. Does that kind of make computers like cars and mobile phones like motorcycles that allow you to travel the roadways of the internet? Maybe this metaphor is falling apart a bit.

If you look at the top of your internet browser, there is a line of text that sometimes seems to go on forever. This text is the URL for whatever page you are on. Within that URL, there is a bit of (usually) recognizable text at the beginning that consists of something like www.somewordsgohere.com. This section of text is the website’s domain name (in the case of the website you are currently visiting, the domain name is www.firstpagemarketing.com). The domain name of typically permeates throughout the pages of the website, and the string of words, letters, numbers, and punctuation that follows are the individual page URLs.

What is a Domain Registrar?

How do Domain Names Work?

Every device connected to the Internet is equipped with an IP address, which is a series of numbers that computers can understand. Websites exist on servers that have IP addresses, and a computer needs to communicate through a server’s IP in order to access a website on that server. Unfortunately, IP addresses just look like a confusing jumble of numbers to most people, so domain names were invented to bridge the gap between machine and man.

It is important to try to have a domain name that is recognizable as being associated with your business because it will allow people to remember your website’s address and go there directly, rather than need to be routed through a search engine like Google.

When a domain name is entered into a web browser, a request is sent through a series of servers that make up a network called the domain name system (or DNS). The domain name that was requested is matched to the correct IP address by the DNS and, voila, the browser is granted access to the information on the corresponding website. Domain names are registered with and purchased through a domain registrar like GoDaddy.

What is the Difference Between Domain Hosting and Web Hosting?

It is easy to get confused about the different kinds of hosting. If we revert back to the metaphor where websites are buildings and domain names are addresses, it makes things a bit easier to explain. Your website hosting is the server that the data of the website rests on, kind of like how a building needs a plot of land to sit on but, in this case, the building can be moved from property to property. The domain hosting is kind of like a phone book listing. When a browser needs to go to a website, it looks up the address in the phone book and then acts accordingly.

Can a Domain Name Affect Your SEO?

There are loads of strategies that can be used to help you pick the right domain name, and how the domain ranks with SEO should come into play. Although it does not boost your website rankings to put keywords into your domain name, domain names that have been used previously can have positive or negative associations based on their previous use. This can be a ranking factor (albeit one of many) when determining a website’s overall SEO value; however, it is more important to prioritize having a domain name that is easily recognized and associated with a business’ name.

If this all still seems like wizardry to you, let us know! We would love to talk to you in person to help you figure out the best way forward with digital marketing for your business. Call us or fill out our contact form and we can help you sort through how domain names work.

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