What is a domain name? + 13 other domain name FAQs answered

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Understand domain names

Do you have questions about domain names? Well, we’ve got answers. Just click/tap on the question you’re interested in to jump straight to it.

Still have questions? Call a GoDaddy Guide on 020 7084 1810 and we’ll answer them.

Please note, prices listed in this article were correct at time of publication.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is what people type into a web browser to reach a particular website. Examples of domain names include godaddy.com, twitter.com and bbc.co.uk. You might also here them called a “website address”, “web address”, or the “name of a website”.

The structure of a domain name consist of two parts – the name and the domain extension. In our domain name examples, the names are “godaddy”, “twitter”, and “bbc” and the domain name extensions are “.com”, and “.co.uk”

How can I register/buy a domain name?

To register a domain name, you just need to decide what domain name you want and then buy it from a domain name registrar such as GoDaddy.

All good registrars will have an easy-to-use search function which will make it easy for you to check if the domain you want is available and then purchase it.

Although it’s easy to get a domain name, you may find that the one you want is already taken, especially if you want to use a popular domain name extension such as .com. This means you may have to be flexible when registering a domain name, either by going for a different domain name extension or opting for a name that isn’t your first choice.

This guide explains how to buy a domain name in more detail.

You can learn more about choosing domain names in this guide.

How much is a domain name?

Domain names usually cost between about £10-£20 per year. However, with special offers a domain name can cost less than this for the first year.

If you’re trying to buy a domain name that is already owned by someone else, then you may have to pay much more. Some domain names are classified as premium domain names and may also be more expensive. However, once you’ve bought the owned or premium domain, you will usually only pay the usual annual renewal fee.

How can I get a domain name for free?

Many domain name registrars offer free domain names when you buy one of their other products.

For example, you can get a domain name for free with GoDaddy with our website builder, and many of our web hosting packages.

Some owners of domain extensions, such as the .tk extension, allow people to register free domain names. However, doing so usually means complying with more restrictions than with paid-for domain registration. Plus, in the case of .tk, domains that are registered for free remain the property of the company that owns the extension.

How can I transfer a domain name?

You can transfer a domain name between domain name registrars by contacting the registrar you want to transfer the domain name to. You will then be sent a form to confirm that you want to transfer the domain name. You can learn more about how to transfer your domain to GoDaddy here.

If you want to transfer a domain name to another person, you will need to contact the registrar your domain is currently with.

Can I buy domain names without hosting?

You can buy a domain name without hosting. However, you need some sort of hosting solution to set up a website. (Almost all domain name registrars offer hosting as well.)

It can be a good idea to buy a domain name without hosting if you want to grab a particular domain while its available, but you aren’t yet ready to create a website. Holding a domain name before you get your first website online will only cost you around £20 a year.

Can I buy trademarked domain names?

Although you can buy trademarked domain names, doing so is likely to land you in legal trouble. At best, the trademark owner will raise a domain name dispute and take it from you. At worst, you could face legal action, fines and jail time for intellectual property crime.

Domain name registrars aren’t responsible if you decide to by a trademarked domain, so do your homework first and make sure that you’re not infringing anyone’s intellectual property.

Can I change the domain name of my website?

Yes, you can change the domain name of your website. If your website is new, then changing its domain name should be quick and easy. Your hosting provider’s support section should contain instructions on how to do this.

However, if you want to change the domain name of a more established website, things get a bit more complicated. This is because changing a website’s domain name can have an impact on search engine optimisation. This guide explains more about changing the domain name of an established site.

Can I use hyphens in domain names?

Yes, you can use a hyphen in a domain name. However, including a hyphen in a domain name makes it harder to remember. That means you may want to choose a domain name without a hyphen.

Do capital letters matter in domain names?

No, capital letters do not matter in domain names. Domain names are not case sensitive. That means example.com is the same as Example.com, eXample.com and even EXAMPLE.com.

How do I buy a domain name from someone?

If you want to buy a domain name that someone else already owns, you have to identify the owner using GoDaddy’s WhoIs domain lookup tool and then make them an offer.

Once you’ve reached an agreement, you’ll pay them the money and they’ll transfer the domain to you via your chosen domain registrar.

If you want to keep the domain, you’ll still need to renew it via the domain registrar.

You can use a domain broker service like the one offered by GoDaddy to buy a domain that someone else owns.

How can I sell a domain name?

To sell a domain name you need to find someone willing to pay your asking price and, once everything is agreed, transfer the domain to their control.

If you want to sell a domain name you registered through GoDaddy, start with our domain appraisal tool which will give you an estimate of its value and then guide you through the selling process.

How do I permanently buy a domain name?

It’s not possible to permanently buy a domain name. Although we talk about buying domain names, it’s more like a leasing system. That said, as long as you keep renewing the domain name it will remain yours. If you’re keen to keep a domain name, you can turn on auto renewal and/or renew it for the maximum time your registrar allows.

Can I create a website without a domain name?

Yes, you can create a website without a domain name, but only if you want your visitors to have to remember a random string of digits instead of your site’s name.

Even if you create a website using a free service like Blogger, you’ll still have domain name, albeit it one that you don’t own.

Summing up

Domain names are the building blocks of the web as we know it. They’re a useful starting point for anyone looking to get a business online. Choosing the right domain name is an important part of getting your first website and running, so put some thought into your decision. But remember, there’s no such thing as the perfect domain name, so buying something you like even if it doesn’t seem ideal can be a good idea.