What is a Domain Name and Why Do I Need One for My Website?

what is a domain name

Having a website for your trade business is critical to help you bring in new business. Not only does it share what you do with the world, but it makes it easier for people to find and contact you when searching for tradies in their area, and it gives your business credibility.  These days people think that if you don’t have a website, your business either doesn’t exist anymore, or might be a bit dodgy.

Having the right domain name for your business website is an essential component, but for many tradies, domain names and how they work is a mystery. So, what is a domain name, how does it work, and why do you need one?

What is a domain name?

Put simply, your domain name is your unique website address that can be typed into an internet browser to find your website. Much like your home address, it’s the location where your site is found.

To understand domains, you need a basic understanding of the Internet – but we won’t go overboard in the explanation here. The Internet is essentially a giant network of computers connected by a global network of cables so they can communicate with each other.

In the Internet world, websites are hosted on computers (called servers) by your web hosting company. Each website has a unique IP address – a numeric string of numbers that identify your website from the millions of others on the Internet. Since numeric strings are difficult for people to remember, a domain name is associated with it to make it easier for us humans to navigate across the Internet.

It’s a bit like housing developments. Before a house is built, the plot of land is identified as a lot number.  Once the house is built, the owner adds a letterbox displaying the number allocated, in that street, so people can find the house.  So an IP address is like a lot number, and the domain is like the street address.

What’s the difference between a domain name and a website?

Your domain name is your website’s address, while your website is a collection of files (created in HTML, and consisting of pages and images, among other things) that have been stored by your web hosting company on their server computer so that they can be accessed over the internet by people. Your domain name is the digital address of your website files.

To have a website that’s accessible over the Internet, you need:

  • A website
  • A domain name
  • A web hosting company

These three things can be created and managed by three different companies, which is why it’s so important to understand what they are, and how they work together to share your business online.

It’s good practice to have an experienced web agency to manage it all together for you.

How do you get a domain name, and what do you need to know?

Finding and registering a domain name is fairly simple, with an abundance of domain name registrars available on the internet. Domain name registrars are the sellers of domain names, and when you buy a domain name from one, they register your domain name on the domain name registry so that it’s reserved for your sole use.  Our parent company Commonsense Marketing are authorised domain resellers, and can provide any domain that is available for sale here -  commonsensemarketing.com.au/domains.

How long can you register a domain for?

Most domain names can be purchased for 1-10 years at a time, and can continue to be renewed after that for as long as you wish.  In Australia, a .com.au or .net.au domain name must be registered for 2 years minimum at a time, whereas the new .au domains or .com domains can be registered for one year at a time.

What happens if you forget to renew it?

Whichever version of a domain you decide to use, it’s important that you renew it before it expires in 1 year or 2 years.  If you forget to renew it, you face the risk of it becoming publicly available for sale and possibly purchased by a competitor.

Not only that, most businesses register email addresses to go with their domains, to present themselves professionally.  John@fantasticlandscaping.com.au is far more professional than johnny69@hotmail.com.  If you forget to renew your domain when it expires, it means you will lose all your emails too!

We’ve had several companies contact us when this has happened to them, because their web person forgot to renew their domain and all of a sudden they lost their website and all their emails.   We can retrieve and renew the domain if it hasn’t been purchased by someone else, and we always put it on auto-renew so this never happens again.

What kind of domain name should I get?

choosing domain name

There are few things to consider when choosing your domain name and a domain registrar:

Choosing the domain type

If you’re located in Australia, we recommend buying a domain which ends in .com.au or .net.au, to show people that you are in fact located in the same country as them. You can also register for a .au domain, which we strongly advise you to do.

To register a .com.au or .net.au domain name you will need an ABN (Australian Business Number). An ABN is a unique 11 digit number that identifies your business or organisation to the government and community and your accountant can get one for you, or you can apply for one at the government site – the Australian Business Register.

You don’t need an ABN to purchase a .au domain (after 1 October 2022) or a .com domain.   The main problem with choosing a .com domain is that people will think you’re an American based business.

Choosing your domain name

Domain name affects every area of branding. It could be argued that today’s domain name is one of the most significant aspects of a brand’s identity.

We recommend choosing a domain name which reflects the key purpose of your business.  A great domain name is easy to spell, pronounce and remember. Here’s a few things to consider:

  1. Your domain name does not have to be the same name as your business trading name.  Eg: if your registered business is JS Trading Pty Ltd or John Smith Trust Pty Ltd; your domain name can be fantasticlandscaping.com.au  - provided it is available.  Check domain availability here.
  2. Think about the future.  One day you may want to sell your business, so it’s good to choose a name that can be used by a different owner.  Johnsmithlandscaping.com.au can’t really be used by someone whose name isn’t John Smith.
  3. Consider a benefit.  Fantasticlandscaping.com.au immediately gives the impression that your work is fantastic – and is certainly more inspiring than locallandscaping.com.au
  4. Consider location.  If you want to stay local and want to get found in local searches, consider putting your location in the name – eg: penrithlandscaping.com.au
  5. Suss out your competitors’ names first – you don’t want anything too close (or your advertising may benefit them!)

What not to do when choosing a domain name:

  1. Use dashes. Eg:  fantastic-landscaping.com.au.  Few people will remember if or when to use a dash in your domain and you have to keep spelling it out.
  2. Use numbers. No one can remember whether they should spell “five” or use the number “5.”
  3. Use abbreviations. Eg:  nicebldg.com.au  Abbreviations will only clutter up your domain name, making it ugly and forgettable and confusing.
  4. Use ambiguous words. Make sure your domain doesn’t have any ambiguity. For example, ExpertsExchange.com might look okay as two words, but does it reflect what the company does? This domain could also be ExpertSexChange.com.
  5. Use creative spellings. Some businesses like to tweak the common spellings of words in order to make their business name creative. For example, “Doug’s Holesale Digging,” “Kleen Machine,” or “The Dzign People.” Those may work in an offline world of signage and print advertising, but they don’t make for effective domain names and you’ll forever be telling people how to spell it.
  6. Don’t make it too long.  We suggest under 30 letters.  Otherwise it becomes painful when entering your email address into forms.

Choosing a domain registrar

Not all domain registrars are equal.  Do your due diligence.

  1. While many offer what seems like very low domain fees, there are always hidden extras to look out for.  The most common one is they charge you an extra annual fee for the “domain management” function.  If you’re going to be using the domain with your website, you will definitely need this, because it’s where the website server hosting and email hosting server information is added.  We don’t charge extra for this because we believe it should be included with the domain fee.
  2. Some (one in particular located in Melbourne) charge extremely high prices for domains, with claims that you get a lot extra.  99% of the extras are totally unnecessary, yet most non-technical business owners don’t realise this.
  3. Some offer a range of other services too like email hosting and website hosting.  We suggest that you do not use their website hosting as it’s not their core business and is usually shared, slow and not well supported.

Should you trust your web developer or IT person to get your domain for you?

You think your web developer would be the best person to sort it all out for you wouldn’t you.  After all, they understand all this technical stuff, and they need access to your domain registrar so they can set up the web and email hosting info.

Most web agencies or IT support companies will do it correctly.  But, there are some who won’t.

They’ll offer to take care of it for you, and they do.  The problem is, in many situations we’ve come across, they’ve set up the domain in their own domain account, so the business owner does not have any access.  In some situations, it’s even worse - they’ve added themselves as the registered contact of the domain, not the business’ owner's name.  So the poor unsuspecting business owner doesn’t not even own his/her own domain name – their key asset.

Always make sure that you have your own domain account with the domain registrar, that you have the login information and that you are the owner of the domain.  If you’d like to check to see the official registration information of your domain – simply enter your domain here - https://whois.auda.org.au/.

Like some help getting your domain sorted?

Understanding domain names, domain registrars, web hosting and websites can be a little confusing at first, which is where we can help.

  1. Our Instant Tradie Websites give you a range of stylish designs to choose from, with step by step instructions on how to customise with your own content.
  2. When you’re ready to launch your new site, we’ll help you get your domain name, and take care of setting up your website and email hosting, and keeping it functional and secure.

Take all the complications out of creating, marketing and launching your trade website out to the world with Instant Tradie Websites, so that you can concentrate on what’s important – running a profitable and successful business that gives you a bright future.

About Annette Welsford

Hi there. My passion is to inspire and help business owners to create the type of marketing and customer service that makes their business irresistible. I'm privileged to have a talented team at Commonsense Marketing who create and execute beautiful websites, engaging social media campaigns, and fantastic email campaigns that deliver results for our clients. And it's wonderful that many of them have said lots of nice things about the work we’ve done (see our case studies). We love to work with the owners and teams of small to medium sized business who are motivated to become the best in their niche and achieve more than they ever thought possible.