Your domain name is the address of your website, blog, or store on the internet. It is a unique string used to find where your website data is and serve the content to a visitor.
For online businesses, a domain name is key for branding, SEO, and building credibility. Having a distinctive, easily remembered, and quickly typed domain name is crucial for your target audience.
In the rest of this piece, we’ll explore the different types of domains – or in looser terms, the different components of a domain, how to choose a domain, steps to secure your domain, and domain name best practices.
- There are four main types of domains: top-level domains (TLDs), second-level domains (SLDs), subdomains, and internationalized domains
- TLDs are the highest level of domains or in simpler terms, what comes after the dot
- Second-level domains (SLDs) are directly before the TLD and make up the most important part of the domain name; they mainly represent your brand.
- A subdomain is a separate web address under a parent domain used to organize content on a website
What Are Domain Names?
A domain name is the alphabetical and user-friendly representation of a numerical IP address of your website. The user-friendly representation of a domain name makes it easy to remember, builds brand awareness, improves credibility, and creates a lasting impression on visitors.
How Do Domain Names Work?
Imagine if every time you wanted to visit a website, you had a type a number like 220.127.116.11 in your browser!
That’s where the Domain Name System comes in. The DNS is like a huge phonebook for website domains. Websites are hosted on servers that each have a unique IP address. Domain names are tied to their unique IP addresses, so as soon as you type in the domain name in the web browser, it looks up the right IP address for the domain name you typed in and returns the relevant data in the form of a web page.
4 Types (or parts) of Domains – Top Level, Second Level, Subdomains & Internationalized
There are four main types of domains: top-level domains (TLDs), second-level domains (SLDs), subdomains, and internationalized domain names (IDNs).
Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
A top-level domain, also known as domain extension, are the last part of the domain name – they are located after the dot.
Top-level domains are further categorized into three main types:
- Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)—The most commonly used domains are gTLDs. Domain name extensions like .com, .net, .org are commonly used by websites with a global audience, while .com is the most popular one.
- Country-Code Top-level Domains (ccTLDs)—Two-letter domains that represent specific countries or geographic locations. Examples include .uk for the United Kingdom or .jp for Japan.
- Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLDs)—Domains that are sponsored by specific organizations or agencies. For example, .gov for U.S. governmental entities and .edu for educational institutions.
Examples of TLDs include:
|used for commercial and general websites
|used for non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and community projects
|originally intended for network-related entities but now broadly used for various online purposes
|reserved for accredited educational institutions, primarily colleges and universities
|reserved for official governmental entities and agencies
|used for informational websites, but it’s open for registration by anyone without restriction
|intended for app developers and related services
|country code top-level-domain for individuals and organizations located in Canada
|country code top-level-domain for individuals and organizations located in Australia
A second-level domain is the part of a domain name that appears directly to the left of the top-level domain. Your second-level domain is the most prominent part of your whole domain name and is usually your brand or product name. When choosing SLDs, the owner has the full right to choose a string of letters or a word that accurately describes their business.
In “www.hostadvice.com,” the SLD is “hostadvice”. This accurately reflects that this website advises on choosing hosting providers. The name is simple and easy to remember. Make sure you choose something that’s unique, accurately describes your website, and isn’t too long.
Country Code Second-Level Domains (ccSLDs)
Second-level domains can also be country-specific. ccSLDs are Used by some countries to further categorize domains based on various criteria. For example, the UK uses .co.uk for commercial purposes and .ac.uk for academic institutions.
Examples of SLD include:
|“google” is the SLD
|“wikipedia” is the SLD
|“amazon” is the SLD. (Note: “co” is also technically a country code second-level domain in this case)
|“bbc” is the main SLDs, when “co” is the ccSLDs
Subdomains, also known as third-level domains, are prefixes added before the SLD and TLD. The purpose of the subdomain is to separate and organize the website into separate sections and subdirectories. In “blog.example.com,” blog is the sub-domain.
Subdomains make websites clutter-free and organized. They give unique URLs to every section/category on your website and only the admin has the right to create a subdomain.
The subdomain of many websites is the “www” Subdomain. It is an SEO best practice to point all domain name variations to a particular domain format (with or without the www.) so that even if a user doesn’t include a subdomain or make queries made with or without the www. subdomain, they are directed to your website.
Examples of subdomains include:
|blog in “blog.example.com”
|Represents a blogging section of the “example.com” website.
|shop in “shop.mywebsite.org”
|Indicates an online store or e-commerce section
|forums in “forums.techsite.net”
|Points to a community or discussion forum section of the site
|support in “support.software.com”
|Denotes a customer support or help section
Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)
IDNs are domain names that contain non-Latin characters, such as Arabic, Cyrillic, or Chinese scripts. They enable users to access domain names in their native languages and alphabets.
IDNs are an essential part of making the internet more linguistically diverse and accessible to billions of non-English speakers worldwide. They undergo a process called “Punycode encoding” to be compatible with the Domain Name System, converting them into a format beginning with “xn--” followed by ASCII characters.
Benefits of Different Domain Types
Understanding the benefits of different domain types can help you select the most appropriate domain for your business needs.
Benefits of Different Top-Level Domains (TLDs)
- Universal Recognition: Widely known and accepted across the globe.
- Business Value: Seen as a premium TLD for businesses and commercial enterprises.
- SEO: Often perceived as more authoritative, potentially offering SEO advantages.
- Broad Appeal: Initially intended for network-related entities, but now universally used.
- Alternative: A go-to choice when the .com version of a desired name is taken.
- Trustworthiness: Often associated with non-profit organizations, lending a sense of credibility.
- Community Focus: Ideal for open-source projects, community groups, and educational resources.
- Educational Integrity: Reserved for accredited educational institutions, adding legitimacy.
- Focus: Clearly indicates the educational nature of the content.
- Official Status: Exclusively for government entities, ensuring the authenticity of information.
- Trust: Users trust .gov domains for accurate and official information.
New generic top level domains (gTLDs) – like .app, .blog, .guru, .shop:
- Niche Targeting: Enables brands and websites to be more specific about their content or services.
- Branding: Offers innovative branding opportunities and domain name combinations.
- Availability: Since they’re newer, many names are still available.
Country-Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) like .uk, .ca, .de:
- Localization: Indicates a local presence, ideal for targeting specific countries or regions.
- SEO Advantages: Can improve rankings within local search results.
- Cultural Connection: Resonates with local audiences, showing a commitment to local customers.
Benefits of Unique and Custom Second-Level Domains
Unique and custom second-level domains can offer several benefits to website owners, including:
- Branding: SLDs allow businesses and individuals to establish their brand or identity online. For instance, “apple” in apple.com directly reflects the Apple brand.
- Localization: Companies can use SLDs to target specific regions, especially when combined with country-code SLDs. “amazon.co.uk” targets the UK, while “amazon.fr” targets France.
- Memorability: A well-chosen SLD makes a domain name more memorable to users, increasing the likelihood of return visits.
- Credibility: A relevant and professional SLD can instill trust in visitors, making them more likely to engage with the content or make a purchase.
- Domain Defense: Owning multiple SLDs related to your primary brand can prevent competitors or cyber-squatters from registering them.
Benefits of Subdomains
A third-level domain can offer several benefits to website owners, including:
Organization—Think of subdomains like a big house with different rooms for different things – one room for sleeping, another for eating, and so on. Just as the different rooms with different names serve different functions and keep your home organized, subdomains help organize website content in a similar way. They create a clear hierarchy so visitors can easily find the content they want.
Flexibility—You can use one subdomain for your blog, another for your forum, and a third for your online store. This way, you can tailor your content to different audiences and make your website more user-friendly.
How To Choose the Right Domain Type
Choosing the right domain name type for your website is crucial for establishing a strong online presence. Here are some tips to help you choose a domain name type that is relevant, memorable, and easy to find.
1. Understand Your Website’s Purpose
Before diving into domain name types, have a clear understanding of the primary purpose of your website. Are you building an educational platform, a non-profit initiative, a governmental site, or perhaps a commercial venture? Different domain extensions like .edu, .org, .gov, and .com resonate more naturally with their corresponding niches, providing immediate context to users.
2. Consider Your Geographical Target Audience
If your content, product, or service is particularly tailored to a specific country or region, using a Country-Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) such as .uk for the United Kingdom or .ca for Canada can provide more localized relevance and can potentially help in local SEO rankings.
3. Evaluate the Need for Subdomains
Subdomains can be beneficial when there’s a need to segregate distinct sections of your website. For instance, if you have an e-commerce platform and a related blog, using shop.example.com and blog.example.com can help streamline user experience. However, excessive or unnecessary use of subdomains can confuse visitors. Ensure that each third-level domain serves a clear and justified purpose.
4. Avoid Trademark Infringement
It’s important to make sure you’re not infringing on any existing trademarks or copyrights. You should always avoid using names or terms that belong to another company or individual. Using someone else’s trademarked name could lead to legal issues, and it can also harm your website’s reputation.
So, be creative and original when choosing your domain name, and do your research to ensure that it’s not already taken or in use by someone else.
5. Stay Flexible but Favor Familiarity
While it’s tempting to go for newer, flashy TLDs like .guru or .app, remember that classic domain extensions like .com or .net are more recognizable to the average user. Newer TLDs can be used innovatively, but the trade-off between creativity and familiarity should be carefully weighed.
Types of Domains: Ready to Choose Yours?
Understanding the different types of domains can help website owners choose the most suitable and effective domain name for their online presence.
A domain name that is easy to remember, relevant to the website’s content, and reflective of the brand identity can go a long way in establishing a strong online presence.
Whether it’s a TLD, SLD, or subdomain, each type of domain serves a specific purpose and can be used strategically to improve website navigation, target specific geographic locations, and establish a unique online identity.
Next Steps: What Now?
- Find a perfect domain name for your business
- Comparison of domain hosting providers
- Check out the list of cheap domain hosting providers
- Consider Top Level Domains: The ABCs of TLDs and choose the one that fits your needs
- Find the web hosting service that provides free domain
- Discover the difference between hostname and domain name