As a small business owner, don’t underestimate the importance of having an online presence. Your website is often the first point of contact between you and your potential customers, so making a good impression is a must.

One of the essential elements of your website is your domain name. Simply put, this is the address your customers will type into their browser to find your ecommerce website.

This article will give you a crash course in all things domain-related. You’ll learn what a domain is, why you need one, and how to choose the perfect domain name for your business website.

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What Is a Domain Name?

First, let’s answer this important question: what does domain mean?

A domain is a unique reference that identifies a website. Simply put, it is the location of your website, or an address people type into their browsers to find your website online.

You can think of a domain name like your website’s street address. Just as your business has a physical address that customers use to visit you, your online store has a domain that helps your customers access it.

For example, our domain name is ecwid.com. If you type it in your browser, you’ll be taken to our website.

The actual address of a website is a complex numerical IP address. For example, the IP address of google.com is 172.217.3.196. Such strings of numbers are great for computers but are not very human-friendly. That’s where domain names come in — they connect to numeric IP addresses, making it easier for us to find the website we need.

The Difference Between a Domain Name and an URL

To avoid confusion, it’s essential to understand the difference between a domain name and an URL.

A domain name is the location of your website. A URL (uniform resource locator, also known as a web address) is a specific page on your website that someone is visiting.

For example, our domain name is ecwid.com. The URL of this blog post is https://www.ecwid.com/blog/what-is-domain.html

ecwid.com is a domain name

A URL consists of the protocol, the domain name, and the path. Though you’re now familiar with the definition of a domain name, you might be wondering: “What does a protocol and path mean?”

A protocol is a method by which data is sent from one computer to another on the internet. A path refers to the exact location of a page, post, or file.

For example, in the URL https://www.ecwid.com/blog, “ecwid.com” is the domain name, “https” is the protocol, and “/blog” is the path to a blog on the website.

Learn more: Guide to URL: Design URL Structure For the Best SEO Results

Understanding Types of Domains

Now that you know the domain definition and the difference between domains and URLs, let’s dive into the different types of domains.

The basic form of a domain name consists of two elements:

  • The domain name itself, such as “ecwid”
  • The extension, such as “.com”

A domain extension is a suffix that follows the domain name in a web address. It’s likely you’re already familiar with the most common domain extensions: .com, .net, .org, .co.

To distinguish domains from one another, there is a hierarchy within the domain name registry. Let’s look into the most common domain levels.

Top-Level Domains

Top-level domains are the domain name extensions that represent the highest level in the Domain Name System hierarchy.

There are generic top-level domains. For example:

  • Domains used for general purposes: .com, .net, .org, .info
  • Domains used for their specific purposes: .pro, .biz, .name
  • Domains used by companies of a certain industry: .edu, .gov, .travel

.edu domains are usually used by universities

There are also country-specific top-level domains. They are associated with certain countries or geographical locations. For example, .au represents Australia, .ca for Canada, and .uk for the United Kingdom.

Second-Level Domains

Second-level domains are domains that follow top-level domains. For example, in “ecwid.com”, “ecwid” is the second-level domain of the “.com” top-level domain.

Usually, second-level domains are the name of the business that registered the domain name with a registrar. It can be a brand name or a company name that potential customers use to identify it.

Third-level domains

Third-level domains follow second-level domains. For example, “www” is the most common third-level domain.

Third-level domains are often referred to as subdomains. Large companies often use subdomains to distinguish between departments or parts of their site. For example, a company can host its blog on a subdomain like “blog.companywebsite.com.”

The Importance of a Domain for Your Business

Now that you know what a domain is, you might be wondering: do I really need one for my business website? The answer is yes!

There are several reasons why having a domain is essential for your small business. To name a few:

  • It helps customers find your business online. A domain name makes it easier for customers to remember your website and search for it.
  • It defines your brand. A domain name can support your brand, letting the customers know who you are and what you sell. A unique domain name helps associate your name with your product.
  • It helps optimize your SEO. Search engine optimization relies on keywords to help your rankings during searches. It can be useful to have a domain that contains a keyword related to your business.

Artists often use their name as their personal brand name and domain name

How to Register a Domain

Before you put your knowledge to practice, let’s discuss domain registration.

Before registering a domain, you should come up with a domain name. It should be short, unique to your business, and easy to remember. It’s a good idea to choose a .com domain, as this is the most popular and recognizable domain extension.

And never forget about SEO! It’s important for your domain authority — this describes your website’s relevance for a specific subject area or industry. The higher your domain authority scores, the higher your domain ranks in search engines. You can check your domain authority using this tool.

Once you have an idea of what you want your domain name to be, you can check if it’s available using a domain availability checker tool. For example, GoDaddy or Name both have easy tools for determining domain availability.

A domain availability checker shows that the domain is taken and offers an alternative

If the domain name you wanted for your business is taken, you can try a domain name generator tool to come up with some alternative domain name ideas. For example, this one or this one both can provide great results.

When you find an available domain, you then want to register it with a domain registrar. It is a business that sells domain names and handles the process of registering them.

Some of the most popular domain registrars are GoDaddy, eNom, Name, NameCheap, Moniker, NetworkSolutions.

To buy a domain:

  1. Go to the domain registrar of your choice.
  2. Type in your domain into the search box and click Search Domain.
  3. Select the extension you need (for example, .com) and add the domain to your cart.
  4. Complete the registration and payment process.

Congratulations, now you have a domain for your business!

How to Connect a Domain Name to Your Online Store

If you’re considering buying a domain name for your ecommerce business, you might be looking for an ecommerce platform too. Luckily, some platforms allow you to kill two birds with one stone.

Take Ecwid by Lightspeed, for example. When you sign up with Ecwid, you get a free ecommerce website with a built-in online store, also known as Instant Site. But that’s not all! You also get a free domain for your Instant Site too. It will look like this:

https://store12345.company.site, where 12345 is the ID of your store and .company.site is the Ecwid domain.

Of course, you want to change the default domain name so that it better represents your business and makes it easy for the customers to find your store. You can easily customize the domain name in your store settings. For example, you can choose to use your brand name instead of your store ID — coolbrand.company.site. Here’s how to do that.

An example of a free domain for an ecommerce website made by Ecwid by Lightspeed

If you don’t want to have .company.site as your domain, you can easily give your Ecwid Instant Site a custom domain. However, to do that, you’ll have to buy a domain name from a registrar of your choice. You’ll follow the same directions that we provided in the previous section of this article. Then you can connect your new domain name to your Ecwid store.

Use this guide to connect your domain to your Ecwid store in no time.

Whether you connect your own domain name to your Ecwid store or customize the default domain name, you get a free SSL certificate for your store. This is extremely important when selling online. When customers share their private information while purchasing something from your store, your SSL certificate will keep sensitive data secure from hackers and data thieves.

To Summarize Your Domain Knowledge

A domain is important for your small business because it helps customers find you online, defines your brand, and supports your SEO efforts.

Now that you have a good understanding of what a domain is and are familiar with the domain structure, you can register a domain for your business website.

To do so, come up with a domain name, check if it’s available, and register it with a domain registrar of your choice. Remember, a domain name is an important part of your online presence, so choose one wisely.

The post What a Domain Is & Why You Need It for Your Business first appeared on Ecwid | E-Commerce Shopping Cart.