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How do I find the right domain for my website?

Wie Domains funktionieren und worauf du bei der Auswahl für die eigene Webseite achten solltest

How do domain names work?

Every homepage needs a domain - otherwise you would have to enter the IP address in the browser, and nobody can remember that. IP addresses can also change over time, for example due to a change of provider. Many web servers host several websites - but have only one IP address. How should the server know which page to display?

The solution is the Domain Name System (DNS). Here, names are assigned to web pages that are easy to remember. If you enter this domain name into the browser, a DNS server takes over the translation into the current IP address. This works just like in a phone book: a name is assigned the phone number. It's even a bit simpler, because each name only occurs once in this Internet phone book, so it's unique.

Since there are so many names, they have been subdivided: just as there are area codes in the telephone book, the names in the web are subdivided into so-called top-level domains (TLD) . While the area code is placed in front of the telephone number, the top level domain is added to the name separated by a dot. For example, 'name' becomes 'name.de' (de is the top level domain for Germany).

What domain extensions are there?

There are now over 1,000 top level domains available and new ones are being added all the time. They can be divided into the following groups:

  • Country code top level domains (ccTLD) Each country has its own domain, e.g. .de for Germany, .at for Austria and .ch for Switzerland. The country code consisting of two letters is used. Also .eu is considered a country-code domainalthough it does not refer to a single country.
  • Generic Domains (gTLD) These generic domains are used by a group. These include .com (commercial) for businesses, .net for networks, .org for organizations, and so on.
  • New generic dom ains (newgTLD) Since 2013 there are about 600 new domain extensions from private providers, these represent specific professions, applications or regions. Examples are .cafe, .gmbh, .berlin, .bayern, .cologne, .photography, .versicherung, ...

At Wikipedia there are more information about the Top Level Domains

13 tips for your own domain

Welche Punkte sollte ich beachten, reicht eine Domain oder sollte ich mir möglichst viele Domains sichern?

Tip 1: One or more domains?

As a rule, it makes sense toactively use only one domain for a website. This is the domain that is also used on letterhead, business cards or for e-mail addresses and thus communicates to the outside world. Also for a good positioning in search engines only one domain should be used for a homepage.

The domain can be the company name, the name of the entrepreneur, a product or even a generic term (waschmaschine.de, whisky.de).

Let's take the fictitious butcher's shop Meier in Stuttgart as an example. The domain "metzgerei.de" might seem ideal. Apart from the fact that the name is already taken, you get a few million results on Google for the term butcher's shop. The searcher would probably narrow down the query regionally, e.g. 'Metzgerei Stuttgart'. Since search engines take the words in the domain name into account, the website'metzgerei-stuttgart.de' would have a good chance of being among the first results. If the domain name is occupied,'metzgerei-in-stuttgart.de' or'stuttgart-metzgerei.de' are also good alternatives.

Other spellings

In many cases, however, other domains are registered, e.g. for different spellings. If the main domain is metzgerei-meier.de, it would make sense to also register metzgerei-mayer.de, metzgerei-mair.de, metzgerei-maier.de and metzgerei-meyer.de. No matter which version the visitor has in mind: he always lands on the right page.

Important: from all other domains for a website should always be redirected via a so-called 301 forwarding to the main domain. Google does not like it at all if the same content is accessible under several domains.

At the same time, additional domains protect you from a competitor registering a similar domain. Otherwise, nobody can prevent the neighbouring butcher's shop Schulze from registering and using the domain metzgerei-maier.de for itself.

If an expansion abroad comes into question - perhaps only at a later date - the corresponding country domains should also be secured in order to be able to use them at a later date. Once a domain is taken, it can be difficult, expensive or impossible to take it over. For example, a technology blog is run under stadt-bremerhaven.de and only recently a customer told me about the very annoyed administration of a municipality where the last name is the same as the town name and the customer was simply quicker with the registration.

Similar sounding domain names

Often there are completely different spellings for names that sound the same (e.g. Weiland/Vaillant). Here, too, it is useful to save similar-sounding names - if they are still available.

Typo domains

If you are smart, you will also save possible names with typos. For example, a well-known search engine owns not only the domain google.de but also the incorrect spelling googel.de.

Extra Tip:

Here is a page where you can Price and availability of domains can check in a flash.

Tip 2: What to consider with umlaut domains

Domains with umlauts (ä,ö,ü or even ß) have been possible for some time. As the owner of drogerie-mueller.de, it makes sense to also secure drogerie-müller.de. This is especially true in the reverse case: while you can use the spelling 'müller' for a website, this is not possible for e-mail addresses. According to the specification, these may only consist of the characters a-z, 0-9, and underscore or hyphen.

Tip 3: Do not register too many domains!

If you secure many variants of a domain, you should be aware that you will have to pay an (albeit small) amount annually for each domain. We have already experienced that someone has secured hundreds of domains, but in the following years could no longer afford the costs of a few thousand euros.

Tip 4: Be careful when deleting domains

Domains can of course also be deleted again. However, if it was in active use, you should think twice about this step. There are a lot of people who are just waiting for a domain to become free again so that they can immediately register it for themselves. Either to sell it at a high price to the previous owner (for example, if the latter forgot to renew the domain) or to misuse the domain for other purposes. To prevent this, you should decommission a domain that is no longer needed instead of deleting it.

By the way, this rule also applies to social media accounts. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer had to experience this when she (or her team) switched the Twitter account @_A_K_K_ to the new version @akk in January 2019. The old account was carelessly deleted in the process. So a journalist immediately secured the name @_A_K_K_.

Tip 5: Domain as short as possible

Especially on mobile phones, typing long domains is annoying and error-prone. Therefore, you should choose the name as short as possible.

Tip 6: Domain simple and concise

The domain name must be simple, concise and unique. Especially if you only hear a name (radio advertising or telephone), it is important that it is easy to remember. Have you ever had to spell out the address of your homepage on the phone? Then the name was clearly too difficult!

Since many short terms are already taken as domains, you can also add numbers to a term. This can also increase the memorability. Examples are gold123, check24 or autoscout24. Good numbers to add are 1, 7, 24, 123, 360 or 365, as these terms are easy to associate. In English, 101 is often used, which corresponds to the German 1x1.

Tip 7: Choose easy to understand spelling

The domain name must be simple, concise and unique. Especially if you only hear a name (radio advertising or telephone), it is important that it is easy to remember. Have you ever had to spell out the address of your homepage on the phone? Then the name was clearly too difficult!

Since many short terms are already taken as domains, you can also add numbers to a term. This can also increase the memorability. Examples are gold123, check24 or autoscout24. Good numbers to add are 1, 7, 24, 123, 360 or 365, as these terms are easy to associate.

Tip 8: Social media usernames

If you also use social media for your marketing, you should check when selecting a domain whether the name is still available as a user name on the platforms (and register it there straight away). It would be impractical to use a completely different name on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter than on the website. Exactly the same spelling is not always possible, since, for example, dots are not allowed in Twitter names.

Tip 9: Do not overdo SEO

The domain is also a ranking factor for search engines. If the name is a generic term (like waschmaschine.de), you have a slightly better chance of ranking in the search results. But there are many other factors, and the content of a website is much more important than the domain name.

You should also not try to put as many keywords as possible in the domain name. Who remembers the correct order of words the next day when he saw the following domain on a car:

Tip 10: Choose the right domain provider

Most of the time, you register a domain through the hosting provider where you also run your website. However, most hosting companies also offer to operate domains with 'external registration'. In this case, the domain can be registered via another provider and then points to the server at the hosting company via the name server settings. If the domain and hosting are with the same provider, this has the advantage that changes to the IP address are made automatically. It is practical if as many domain endings as possible can be registered via the hosting company, then you do not have to refer to additional providers for other endings.

One should try to keep the number of contractors as small as possible. If changes to the domains are necessary later, one must first find out where one once registered the domain.

With most providers, domains are automatically renewed annually and only expire when you explicitly cancel them. If there is no automatic renewal, one has to think about the timely renewal, otherwise one can lose the domain. Many domains go into quarantine (30-60 days) at the end of their term, during which you can still get the domain back.

The prices also vary from provider to provider. Sometimes setup costs are added to the annual fee. Actually, you could go by the cheapest price when choosing a provider, because technically there are no differences. However, it can be very useful if, in the context of renewals, transfers or disputes, the provider also offers good support and you have a competent contact person (and not just an automated tool that handles the orders).

Tip 12: Important when changing provider

When moving a domain from one provider to another (provider change), the website, e-mail accounts and name server settings (DNS) are usually not moved automatically. Therefore, it is important to document the settings and create data backups.

The relocation of email mailboxes including their content is very easy with our Mail transfer website very easy.

Tip 13: Buying domains

If a desired domain is already registered and therefore no longer available, it may be possible to purchase it. The chances are good if no website can be reached under the domain. Domains are also offered for sale on platforms such as Sedo.

If there is no website with imprint or contact details, it can be difficult to find the owner of a domain. Because of data protection the owners of a whois query often not visible. Sometimes a search in search engines or a request to the provider or operator of the name server (DNS) helps.

Prices when buying a domain

When trading domains, the prices are often a few hundred or thousand euros. However, much higher prices are also paid for very sought-after domains. For example, the domain whisky.com changed hands for USD 3.1 million in 2015. Before purchasing a domain, one should carefully examine the potential of its future use.

Before buying, it is also important to check the domain's history. In the Internet Archive one can look at contents of past years. Sometimes a domain has been "burned" because content with a dubious reputation or link farms were operated in earlier years. With such a domain it can be difficult or impossible to get good rankings in search results.

Security when buying a domain

Especially when the purchase price is high, it makes sense to use a trustee service (escrow) for the transaction. The escrow agent then transfers the domain to the buyer after payment has been made. Since you usually do not know the seller personally, it can otherwise happen that you pay the purchase price and still do not receive the domain.

Conclusion on choosing the right domain

A domain is a long-term decision that should not be made over the knee. Before making the decision, a thorough analysis and possibly a consultation should take place. The domain name is part of a comprehensive marketing strategy and should therefore be well considered.

Any questions? Free advice on domains at +49 711 9 49 69 60

Updated: 29.12.2022