Getting a URL for a Website

Submitted by Irene Herz | Category: Web Hosting | Published on Apr 17, 2005
What is a domain name? Do I need one for my website? If so, how do I choose a name and how do I register it?

First question: Do I need my own URL?

A URL, also called a domain name, is the address people use to get to your site. There are many websites that will give you a page or pages within their URL. For example, will give you your own online diary (often called a blog). It will be called Yahoo's Geocities offers free webpages (supported by advertising). Your address on Geocities will by If you just want to share some thoughts with friends, or pictures of the new baby, perhaps you don't really need your own URL.

There are three main reasons for getting your own URL:

  1. You need credibility. If you want to be perceived as a real merchant, expert, authority or whatever, telling someone to go to your page on Geocities is -- well -- tacky.
  2. You need a short, easy-to-remember name. If you're going to be giving people the address verbally or on a business card, you want it to be as simple to remember and type as possible.
  3. You need more capability than a blog or a free web page can provide. For example, you want an online store to sell your products.

Second question: What shall I name my site?

Many search engine optimization experts will tell you that your URL should include one or more searchwords you want to be found under. For example, if you have a Yoga studio in Kalamazoo, you might want to register the site as "".

But you have to weigh searchword inclusion against the question of how hard that URL is to remember. For example, if "" is available, even if it doesn't use the desired searchword "studio", it might be preferable, because it's shorter and doesn't have the hard-to-remember hyphen.

Of course, there's the contrarian argument: It's better to have a meaningless but catchy URL than a dull but relevant one. Did Google originally try to register ""? Did Amazon try for ""? Would they have been more successful if they had started up their websites under those names?

It's also best to use as simple a name as possible. Before I knew any better, I registered my webdesign site as "". Not only can nobody remember it, no one can even spell it. I covered myself a little by registering "", which is much easier to remember, but still not ideal because of the quirky spelling.

Your domain name (for example,"") must be 32 letters or less, including the extension, which is the part following the dot. The most popular extensions are .com for commercial sites and .org for nonprofit sites. Many of the most appealing .com and .org names have been taken already. Consider these alternatives:


If you are in a country other than the USA, you can take that country's extension, for example, .ca for Canada. The nice thing about many country registrations, Canada for example, is that they demand proof that you're legally entitled to the name (for example, incorporation papers for "The Ajax Corp" if you're trying to register That protects your right to an appropriate URL for your company.

Third question: How do I register the name I've chosen?

The registration process is simple. You fill in the name you want and click the button. They will tell you whether the name is available, or suggest others. Once you have a name that's not taken, you purchase it just as you would on any ecommerce site. (If you've never made an online purchase, you may want to consider using a professional web design company to build your site!)

If you're creating your own pages, you'll need to do your own registration. The oldest company in the business is Network Solutions. They're quite reputable. Also expensive. Their less expensive rival is GoDaddy, where names cost about nine dollars a year each to register.

If someone else is registering the name for you, make sure you are listed as the owner of your domain. Otherwise, you won't have control over the name if, for example, you want to move your website to a new web host.


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