Once you’ve decided to build a website, you need to make an important decision, even before you consult our roundup of the best web hosting services: What’s your domain name going to be? You know, it’s the [yoursitename].com web address by which all your (hopefully) many customers will find you. Furthermore, how do you go about staking your claim for it? Purchasing a name is a relatively simple process (although finding one that isn’t already taken can be a challenge), but there are many factors that you should consider. Since your domain name is, in effect, the name of your website, you want to make sure you get a good one. But what makes a good one? And since it’s also the address of your website, you want to make sure you understand the contract between you and the domain name registrar. Is it starting to sound a little more complicated? Don’t worry: This primer can help you get started.

Domain Names Defined

Domain names put a friendly face on hard-to-remember numeric internet addresses. Every computer on the internet has a unique internet protocol (IP) number. A domain name represents one IP number or more. For example, the IP number for the domain name whitehouse.gov is The whole purpose is to give users an easy-to-remember handle so that when sending an e-mail to, let’s say, the President of the United States, you can type president@whitehouse.gov instead of the more unwieldy president@