What Is a Website Domain and How Does It Work?

Matthew is a Marketing Copywriter with a B.A. in Professional and Public Writing from Auburn University. He aims to learn a little more about the SEO world each day, and share as much of that knowledge with you as he can. When he's not striving to put out some fresh web content, he's usually fueling his Tolkien obsession or working on miscellaneous creative projects.

One of the first and most essential steps for any company’s digital marketing campaign is to create a website. Your website acts as the central hub for your marketing efforts, since it acts as your online storefront.

But the process of creating a website has several steps, and one of the very first involves purchasing a domain. That’s no small thing, either, as the domain itself can play a role in the effectiveness of your marketing.

What is a website domain, though? While you may have heard the term before, you might not have any real knowledge of what it means.

Don’t worry, though — on this page, we’ll look at what domains are and how they work.

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What are domains, URLs, and websites?

Something you may be asking yourself is, “What does domain mean?” It’s a word we often hear thrown around in relation to websites, but we don’t often know exactly what the word entails.

In fact, it can be easy to assume that a domain is something it’s not, like a URL or a website. For that reason, one of the best ways to understand domains is to look at them in comparison to those two things. Below, we’ll talk about each one.

What is a website domain?

To put it simply, a domain is the name of a website.

Websites can be identified with IP addresses, but those aren’t convenient for humans to remember, so domains are used to make it easier to keep track of website names.

An example of a domain would be walmart.com. The equivalent for a physical store would be the store name.

What is a website URL?

While domains only consist of the website’s name, URLs provide the address for each individual page. Domains are included in URLs, but they aren’t the same thing. URLs consist of the full line of text that you see in the address bar when you visit a website.

An example of a URL would be https://www.walmart.com/account/trackorder. The domain “walmart.com” is part of it, but it also includes additional information to direct the browser to the order-tracking page specifically.

If the physical store equivalent of a domain is the store name, the URL is the store’s street address.

What is a website?

A domain is the name of a website, and a URL is the address that tells browsers how to get to a website.

Neither is a website, though. A website is made up of the actual pages, graphics, text, and everything else users see and interact with on your screen.

The physical equivalent in the example we’ve been using would be the actual, physical Walmart building, with all the shelves and products inside.

Components of a website domain

Website domains consist of two primary components: The name and the extension.

We can look at this by returning to the example of walmart.com. In that example, “walmart” is the name, while “.com” is the extension.

The name component of a domain can be almost anything, provided it hasn’t already been taken. Essentially any combination of letters and numbers would work. Preferably, though, the name is that of your company.

The extension, meanwhile, has a more limited selection of options. The most common one, by far, is “.com.” Other possibilities are “.gov,” “.org,” and “.net,” among plenty of other options.

In all likelihood, your site is best off using “.com.”

The purpose of a website domain

One question you may still have is, “What is a website domain’s purpose?”

The purpose of a domain is to put a simple, recognizable name to a website. It serves as a name that users and browsers alike can make sense of.

Without domains, websites would be known by their IP addresses, which appear as strings of numbers. An example IP address would be 256.185.138.91. That isn’t very convenient to try remembering. Walmart.com, on the other hand, is much more easily recognizable.

In a word, then, the purpose of a website domain is convenience.

How to get a website domain

We started by asking, “What does domain mean?” Having answered that, as well as having seen the purpose of a website domain, we can now look at how to get your own website domain and use to it create a website.

Domain name registrars

To get your own domain, you have to go to a domain name registrar, such as Domain.com or Bluehost. These registrars are authorized to sell domains that haven’t yet been taken.

Start your search with an idea of the domain name you want.

Ideally, you want to keep it simple. If your business is called Gareth Plumbing, try for garethplumbing.com, or maybe even gareth.com.

Your choice of name will have marketing ramifications for you, as an overly long or hard-to-remember domain name will make it harder for people to find your site. Don’t get too attached to any specific name, though, as it may not turn out to be available.

The registrar should be able to tell you whether the domain you want is available. If it is, you can register it for your company. If not, you’ll have to come up with something else to use.

Site-building

Once you have a domain, you can go about building your website.

This is the fun part! It’s like creating your physical store after signing the deed on the land. Whether you go it alone or get help from a web development agency like WebFX, design a site that will engage users.

Website hosting

Your site may be finished, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. There’s still one more step before you can get things rolling.

That’s because there’s a significant difference between a physical store and a website: A website has to be digitally accessible across the globe.

For this to happen, your site needs to be physically stored on a server somewhere. It also has to be stored in such a way that the site data can be rapidly carried to any computer where the site is visited.

For that, you need to rent space from a web host. While you can register your domain with one registrar and rent from a web host separately, many registrars offer both domain registration and web hosting services, offering you the convenient option to do both in one place.

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Get help building your website from WebFX

Struggling to figure out all the ins and outs of the site-building process?

Whether you’re hung up on the design elements of your site or simply still asking “What is a website domain?”, WebFX can help you get it all straightened out.

We’ve been working in web design for over 20 years, and the experience has lent us more than enough knowledge and dedication to make your company’s site the best that it can be. We’ll work with you every step of the way, from registering your domain to designing your pages.

To get started with us, just give us a call at 888-601-5359 or contact us online today!