SEO 101: What Is a Domain Name? How Does It Work?

What and How Domain Names WorkWhen you look at a domain name what do you see?

While some people understand the technical details behind domains, others are unsure of what these are all about.

Think about a domain name as a street address for a house.

While a street address looks like this – 100 State Avenue – a domain appears as follows:

A domain consists of two parts:

  • A top-level domain (TLD), such as .com, .org, and .net.
  • The actual domain name, such as “testwebsite” in the example above.

While you probably realize just how big the online world has become, you may not realize that nearly 300 million domain names had been registered as of 2015.

With robust growth continuing, especially in underdeveloped areas of the world, you can expect this number to skyrocket over the next five years.

Domain Related Questions

Now that you understand the basics of a domain name, it’s time to address a few related questions:

What is an IP Address?

Also known as an Internet Protocol address, this is a unique identifying string of numbers assigned to every network, server, and individual computer on the internet.

In short, it’s used to identify information online and allow for efficient communication between networks and devices.

Why is there a ‘www’ before my domain name?

Above, we talked about the actual domain name as well as the top-level domain. However, there’s another part of the domain you need to understand: the ‘www.”

This is known as a subdomain, and is not associated with the actual domain name.

It’s important to correctly setup your www CNAME. By doing so, your website will resolve when a visitor enters and into his or her browser.

How does a domain work?

When someone enters a domain name into a web browser, the domain name is then used to find the associated IP address. As a result, the intended website is displayed.

Note: domain names, as opposed to IP addresses, are used because they are easier to remember than a long string of numbers.

Are Domains Valuable?

In the early days of the internet, registering a domain name was both complicated and expensive. Fortunately, this has changed over the years and now anybody can register a domain.

The first step in doing so is finding a domain registrar. For example, GoDaddy is one of the most popular. From there, you can search for available domains and register through ICANN.

If you hand register an available domain, it will cost somewhere in the $10 to $30 range, depending on the TLD.

However, there is also a robust secondary market for domain names. This is where people buy and sell domains that are already registered.

Here is a list of the most expensive domain name sales of all time. As you’ll see, “generic” domains can sell for tens of millions of dollars. Here are the top five sales:

  • for $35.6 million
  • for $35 million
  • for $30.18 million
  • for $18 million
  • for $17 million

Impact on SEO

When choosing a domain name for a business, it’s important to consider the SEO impact. Here are several tips you can follow:

  • Length: avoid domain names that are longer than 15 characters
  • TLD: stick with the most common TLDs, such as .com, .org, and .net. Others, such as .info, are often associated with spam.
  • Word separators: hyphens can be a spam indicator, while also increasing the likelihood of typos.

Tip: having a target keyword in your domain name is not as important as it once was, but it can still give you an SEO boost.


Now that you better understand domains, you’re in position to find and register the name that best suits your business.

About Charlie Rose

I am the founder of SEO Mechanic. I have 20 years of experience helping multinational corporations and small businesses take the guesswork out of SEO. You can find me on Twitter.

One response to “SEO 101: What Is a Domain Name? How Does It Work?”

  1. Ozzietel says:

    Sometimes a commercial enterprise proprietor just wants according to cover them. Domain names are cheap. They may bear registered various domain names. They have solely one website. Many times the extra domain names do not to factor in imitation of theirs website. They’ve just been purchased according to preserve others (their competitors?) out of grabbing them.

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