What you need to know about websites and domain names

Are you thinking about starting your own business? Perhaps you’ve had a business for some time now but you don’t have a website? Choosing the right domain name can go a long way if you are a business looking to increase sales. Your website and domain name are the foundation of your digital presence – and a critical component of your marketing strategy.

The world of domain names and websites can seem like a complicated topic, so we’re going to give you an overview here.  We hope this will help you make intelligent and informed decisions related to websites, domain names and domain registration. Ready? Let’s dive in!

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the physical “address” of your website and where consumers can access a specific web address directly online. It can only be accessed and used by the domain name owner — known as the domain name registrant (your business).

For example, if you wanted to visit our company (Seelutions) website, you couldn’t access it directly by simply typing “seelutions” in your browser — that would simply provide you search results for the term “seelutions”. Instead, you need to type the domain name “seelutions.com” in the browser and that will take you directly to our website.

A domain name is an easier way for consumers to directly access a specific business website – which is one reason why it should be simple and easy to remember. 

The value of a “good domain name” is when there’s demand in the domain name market. As a result, every domain has a monetary value and can be bought, sold and exchanged through various online marketplaces.

What are the parts of a domain name?

A domain name is comprised of two different levels. A domain name will have the top-level domain (TLD) and a second-level domain (SLD). Let’s look at each more closely.  What does top-level mean? The last section of a domain name is known as the Top-Level Domain (TLD). In our example (www.seelutions.com), the TLD would be the .com segment. Top-Level Domains are sometimes called suffixes or extensions and are meant to communicate the purpose or location of a website.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) controls registries that make TLDs available. There are several types of TLDs that ICANN recognizes but the most widely recognized are .com, .edu, .net and .org.

What does second-level domain (SLD) mean?

The second-level domain (SLD), sometimes referred to as 2LD, is the section preceding the TLD. In our example (www.seelutions.com), it would be the seelutions segment.

While the TLD is important, the primary value of any domain name is the SLD. For instance, with Google.com, there is more value in Google than in the .com section, right?  The SLD of the domain name should also reinforce your brand or website identity.

The length of an SLD should be short, branded and memorable.

What’s the difference between Domain vs URL?

The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and domain name is often used interchangeably.  Yet, there are specific differences.

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is a string of characters in a web browser that tells the server to display a specific resource to the consumer. The URL is much more descriptive and encompasses the domain name.

For example, https://www.seelutions.com/about/ is a URL that includes the domain name seelutions.com within it but let’s look at the other elements of that URL. For instance, most web addresses will use either HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS (HTTP with a security certificate).

The path

The path defines the exact resource for the web server (where your website is “hosted” or resides) to display. In the example, the path would be /about/ and includes the critical elements of the URL following the TLD. It’s important to note that the path will begin with a forward slash and is case sensitive. A URL might also include a directory or subdirectory within the path section of the web address. This section of the URL is essentially a folder within the main website that houses the resource. In our example, /about/ is the directory. Some URLs have directories and subfolders within those directories.

The subdomain

A subdomain is an optional part of a URL that creates a completely separate section of your website. If a URL has a subdomain, it will precede the name with a period. Websites might use subdomains to create new directories, separate or store web files, or to communicate unique segments of a website to a consumer. For example, Tumblr uses subdomains for users:

  • Example.tumblr.com
  • Example2.tumblr.com

In the two addresses above, Example. and Example2. are both subdomains that Tumblr uses to store and display unique pages to its visitors. As you can see, both websites use the same domain name, with a unique subdomain.

In our previous example, www. — which stands for the World Wide Web — serves as a subdomain. Many domains do not use the www. subdomain, but some still prefer it. You must set up proper redirects to your canonical domain if you want to resolve any issues between www and non-www subdomains for your URL.

A website’s URL will always include the site’s domain name. However, as you can see, there are several other sections of the URL that are required to access any resource or page of a website.  The main difference is the complexity of the URL. And, while there is only one domain name for a website, there can be an endless number of URLs.

What is the difference between a domain and a website?

A website’s “home” is on a domain, and it’s the collection of files and coding language in the backend that produces a front-end experience for internet users.  Your website is what a consumer sees when they visit your domain name or specific URLs on your domain.  And, businesses will use their domain name when promoting their website — “Visit our website at XYZ.com!”

The main difference between a website and domain is the intended use of each.

The domain is the series of characters someone puts into their web browser to access your website. Your website is the visual result once they visit the domain.  You can think of a domain like your home address and the website as your physical house. The address is how someone finds your home, and the physical house is your website.

Intellectual property and domain names

Intellectual property (IP) is a term that encompasses several legal issues like trademark dilution, copyright claims and patent infringement, among other things.  There are intellectual property considerations to understand before moving forward with your site. The last thing you want to do is invest time and money into registering a domain and building a website that infringes on another’s legal rights. When building out your business, you must be diligent about protecting your own assets — including your domain and website.

Editor’s note: This content should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal situation.

Many brands use their organization name as their domain name. For instance, Pepsi uses Pepsi.com and McDonald’s uses McDonalds.com. The value of a branded domain cannot be overstated, but these businesses are not awarded trademark protection by simply using the domain names.

The relationship between domain names and trademarks is important to understand before you purchase a domain and start building a website and business. There are risks to purchasing a domain name without researching trademarks first.

Domain availability doesn’t protect from trademarks

Just because a domain name is available, doesn’t mean there isn’t a trademark protecting that brand name. For instance, if you found a variation of pepsi (ex. pepsi.biz) that was available for registration, you could not purchase and operate a business on that domain because it could be protected under trademark law.

When it comes to domains and trademarks, remember these basic concepts.

  • If the name is identical to another business in the marketplace, it could be protected.
  • Descriptive trademarks that are memorable through sales and marketing can be protected.
  • If two trademarks confuse customers about the products or services, the first commercial trademark owner has priority.
  • In the event of trademark infringement, the infringer may have to forfeit use of the domain and pay the trademark owner damages.

So, consider picking several potential names that you like. Take your list and conduct a search for trademarks on the USPTO’s website and foreign databases to see similar companies using those names.  When you do find a domain name for your business that has not been trademarked, it may be wise to begin the U.S. trademark application process for your brand name. There are three available trademark applications based on where your business is operational. By earning trademark protection for your brand name, your domain will also be protected for 10 years.

While unique domain names that align with your brand can be protected, some domain names are not eligible for trademark protection. If your domain name uses broad and common terms that are associated with general topics or keywords in your industry, they are likely not distinctive enough to earn trademark protection.

Understanding websites

It’s not enough to register a domain name with trademark protection — you then need to build a website. One of the most common legal issues with websites is the unintentional or intentional use of copyrighted images and content. This is just one reason it’s so important to work with a reputable website developer or business. For instance, some business owners design their own website and decide to add a nice image to their website by simply copying an image they found via Google Image Search. Many of these images are protected, and the copyright holders can demand compensation for the material used without permission or proper attribution. Big mistake – and can be quite costly to the business.

Of course, there is an endless amount of reasons why your business should have a website. Here are a few of the top reasons:

Your website is open 24/7

There are many limitations to physical stores — including your hours of operation. Websites will give consumers access to learn about your business when they want and need it.  Having information readily available is critical for attracting new business.

It can be your best salesman or marketing person

Without marketing or sales persons, a business will have to rely solely on word-of-mouth advertising and repeat business. Your website affords you the freedom to control the message to consumer experience.

Consumers are researching you online

Your consumers are searching for information about your services and/or products online — even if you’re a brick-and-mortar business. And, while you might not be able to control reviews on Google My Business, Yelp or other review sites, your website can dictate an accurate message about who you are as a company. If you don’t have a website, you’re at the mercy of consumer reviews.

So, are you ready to take the next steps with choosing and registering your domain name and getting a website for your business? Seelutions is here to help. Consider scheduling a free consultation to get started.  Simply email langley@seelutions.com today.

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