What is a domain name?
A domain name is how users find a website on the internet. To find us you would enter our domain name, ‘www.shopwired.co.uk’, into the address bar. Each domain name is unique and cannot be used for more than one website. You can, however, have multiple domain names that point to the same website.
Domain names have a specific structure which we've explained for you below using ‘https://www.wikipedia.org’ as an example:
‘https://’ is the protocol for the domain. The domain protocol will either be ‘http://’ or ‘https://’ depending upon whether or not the site has an SSL certificate. ‘https://’ means that a site uses encryption, has an SSL certificate and is far more secure than a site using the 'http://' protocol.
‘www’ is the subdomain. A subdomain is a subsection of your domain which can lead to different parts of your website. You can create multiple subdomains under your domain name.
For example, www.wikipedia.org leads to the homepage for Wikipedia, where you can choose the language you want to view Wikipedia in. If you selected to view Wikipedia in English, you would be taken to ‘en.wikipedia.org’, and if you selected to view Wikipedia in French, you would be taken to ‘fr.wikipedia.org’. Both of these subdomains are separate to the subdomain of ‘www.wikipedia.org’, but all of them exist under the root domain of 'wikipedia.org'. Your website doesn't have to exist at a subdomain at all. Twitter, for example, doesn’t use a subdomain and simply exists at their root domain, ‘twitter.com’.
You can choose to set up the homepage of your website to exist either with or without the subdomain 'www.' It doesn't matter which you choose, but you should only have one as your 'canonical domain' or else search engines will penalise you for having duplicate content. Whichever you choose you should set up a redirect for the other which leads to the 'canonical domain' so that there are no complications for anyone who tries to reach your website.
The root domain is made up of the name of the website and the extension that is chosen:
‘wikipedia’ is the name of the website and is also known as the second-level domain. This is the most important part of your domain as it's the part that your customers will associate you with.
‘.org’ is the last part of the domain name and is known as the domain extension or top-level domain. 'Top-level domain' simply means the top of the domain name hierarchy.
These are the different types of top-level domain extensions:
Generic top-level domain extensions - These have three or more characters and include hundreds of extensions from the most popular ones, .com, .org and .net, to other extensions which aren’t well known and are seemingly random like .blog, .photography and .art.
Sponsored top-level domain extensions - These domain extensions can only be used by websites that belong to a specific community. For example, ‘.edu’ can only be used by educational institutions within the US.
Country code top-level domain extensions - Each country has an assigned two letter extension which can be used by websites registered within that country. The UK’s country code is ‘.uk’. Some country codes also utilise second-level domain extensions to help organise the domain extension further. For example, the '.uk' extension also allows for second-level domain extensions such as '.co.uk' (for general use), '.ac.uk' (for educational institutions) and '.org.uk' (for charities).
A full list of top-level domain extensions can be found here on IANA's website.
Why do domain names exist?
Every website that you visit exists at its own IP address, which is a string of numbers that computers use to access websites. So when you visit 'www.google.com' your web browser actually takes you to the IP address of '188.8.131.52'. However, because IP addresses are difficult to remember, domain names were created as a simpler way for people to be able to remember and find the websites that they’re looking for on the internet. Domain names are located in the Domain Name System (DNS) and are regulated and registered by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).
Every domain name is stored on a DNS server along with the corresponding IP address that the domain name relates to. When you enter a domain name into your browser's address bar, your request is sent to the DNS servers. Those servers find the IP address that is listed against the domain which you entered, and send that IP address back to your browser which will then know which website to load for you.
How do you obtain a domain name?
Temporary domain name
When you begin your free trial with ShopWired you’re given your own unique ShopWired domain name which will contain the company name that you chose for your store upon creation of your free trial. This domain name will be a subdomain which has the root domain of either '.myshopwired.com' or '.myshopwired.store'. This domain name has the purpose of allowing you to build and view your website before you have set up your own domain name. We highly recommend that you purchase the use of your own domain name before making your website live.
Buying an unused domain name
Unused domain names can be purchased directly from domain registrars. There are many domain registrars that you can choose from, and all of them offer their own set of pricing for different domain extensions. We recommend you purchase your domain name either with Namesco or with GoDaddy.
Buying a domain name from a current owner
If the domain name that you want has already been purchased by someone else, but you've really set your heart on having it, there is the possibility that you could buy the domain name from the current owner. You will, however, have to be prepared to shell out quite a bit more cash for it than you would if you were just buying a domain that nobody currently owns.
To buy a domain name from someone you should first check aftermarket auctions to see if it's for sale by auction. You can find aftermarket auctions on GoDaddy, NameCheap, or Flippa.
If the domain name is not for sale by auction, then you can approach the owner privately to see if they'd be willing to sell it to you. Before you do this you should take a peek at the current website that exists for the domain name. If a website doesn't exist for it or if the site is looking a bit derelict, then you might stand a good chance of being able to purchase the domain. If, however, the site is up and running and looks well looked after, then you could really struggle to get the owner to sell you the domain, and you should strongly consider your other options instead.
Once you've checked the website you should then check to see who currently owns the domain by running a WHOIS search. If the person who owns the domain name has chosen to protect their details for privacy, then you can try going through a domain name broker instead. These services are available on both Namesco and GoDaddy.
Once you have the contact details for the owner of the domain name you should decide what price point you want to offer them before you make contact. What you offer them is entirely up to you, but you'll want to try to come up with a fair offer that would entice them more to accept it. You'll also need to be prepared to negotiate as they're not likely to accept the first offer you send them unless they're desperately looking to unload the name.
How do you choose a domain name?
Choosing a suitable name
When choosing your domain name you’ll most likely want it to be the name of your business or at the very least related to what your business does. Thus when choosing your business name you should have a look to see what domain names still exist for any names you’ve put on your shortlist. To do this and to give you other ideas about what name you might like you can use a domain name finder such as Nameboy or DomainWheel. Make sure you keep your domain name short and memorable.
Choosing the right extension
When you’re choosing a domain name you’ll need to pick a domain extension. The most popular domain extension is ‘.com’ and we do recommend that you purchase the '.com' for your chosen name if you can. If you're based in the UK '.co.uk' is another widely used option which you should strongly consider using. There are, however, multiple other options for you to choose from, but you'll want to be careful as your customers are bound to already have habits for typing domain names into their search bars and you'll want to be as easy to find as possible.
You should also consider buying your domain name with multiple domain extensions. While you would have to pay for each one separately, it can help you maintain your brand or even help you to expand in other countries. Buying the ‘.com’ the ‘.co.uk’ and the ‘.uk’ of your domain, if they’re all available, could prove very useful for your business.
How do I connect my domain to ShopWired?
Once you’ve purchased your domain name you’ll need to connect it to your ShopWired account and point it to the ShopWired servers. To connect your domain name to your account select ‘Your Account’ then ‘Domain Name’ from the left menu. On the ‘Your Domain Name’ page enter your domain in the ‘Your Live Domain Name’ box and then click save. If your domain should show at a subdomain (that isn't www.), make sure you tick the box to show this.
Once you've done that you will then need to point your domain name to the ShopWired servers. This step is essential in getting your live domain name to work. Just pasting and saving your domain name in the box is not enough to get your domain name to work. We’ve created help guides for the most common domain name registrars to help you in pointing your domain name to ShopWired. If you find you’re still struggling to get your domain name to work properly, please send a message to our support team who will be more than happy to help you sort it.
How do I make my website secure?
The security of your website will be very important to your customers, and should thus be very important to you. To make your website secure you will need an SSL certificate which encrypts any data that is sent from a user of your website to the server. Having an SSL certificate is always a good idea and is required if you plan on having customers enter sensitive information on your website.
All of ShopWired’s paid plans come with a free SSL certificate which you will just need to generate in order for it to work. Once you have successfully pointed your domain name to your ShopWired website a new section will appear on the 'Your Domain Name' page where you can select to generate your certificate.
Read more in GETTING STARTED:
Creating a logo for your business
How to set up Google Analytics
Where are the products