When you decide to bring your business or brand online, you’re going to start seeing a lot of terms like domain name, website, URL, domain registrar, and more. While they’re all related to having a website, they don’t all mean the same thing. Luckily, they’re simple to explain, and we’ve spelled out the basics right here. Once you discover the differences between each term, you’ll be ready to navigate the web with confidence.
Simply put, a domain name (or just ‘domain’) is the name of a website. It’s what comes after “@” in an email address, or after “www.” in a web address. If someone asks how to find you online, what you tell them is usually your domain name.
Examples of domain names are:
The first step in creating an online presence is purchasing a domain name. Anyone can purchase a domain name by going to a domain host or registrar like Google Domains, finding a name no one else is using, and paying an annual fee to own and register it. You can also choose from various domain name endings (or “TLDs”), like .com, .coffee, or .photography. If you’re thinking about buying a domain name, check out our tips on how to come up with a good name.
A domain name, website, and URL are not the same thing.
A URL (aka Universal Resource Locator) is a complete web address used to find a particular web page. While the domain is the name of the website, a URL will lead to any one of the pages within the website. Every URL contains a domain name, as well as other components needed to locate the specific page or piece of content.
Examples of URLs:
Though one leads to the other, buying a domain name doesn’t mean you have a website. A domain is the name of a website, a URL is how to find a website, and a website is what people see and interact with when they get there. In other words, when you buy a domain, you have purchased the name for your site, but you still need to build the website itself.
In digital terms, a website is a collection of content, often on multiple pages, that is grouped together under the same domain. You can think of it like a store, where the domain is the store name, the URL is the store address, and the website is the actual store, with shelves full of products and a cash register.
Luckily, building a website is much easier, faster, and more economical than building a physical store or office. Today, there are many great companies who make it possible for anyone to build a beautiful, professional-looking website in just a few hours—and most don’t require any knowledge of coding or design. To learn more about building your site, check out our post on how to choose a website builder.
In order to create a website, you need a few things:
- A domain name (such as yoursite.com)
- A domain registrar and host (such as Google Domains)
- A do-it-yourself website builder, like SquareSpace or Wix, or a web designer
- Digital content—the text, images, videos, and other media that visitors will see when they come to your site.
A domain registrar is a company that sells domain names that aren't currently owned and are available for you to register. A simple search on a domain registrar’s page should tell you if the domain name you want is available and how much it will cost.
A DNS host is a company that manages your domain's configuration (also known as DNS resource records) that makes sure your domain name points to your website and email. Most domain hosts also offer domain name registration.
Domain registrars should offer privacy protection for free.
WHOIS and RDAP directories
The WHOIS and RDAP directories are public listings of domain names and the people or organizations associated with each name. You can use the directory to find domain owners and IP addresses, as well as mailing addresses and telephone numbers.
For privacy, some domain name owners choose to hide their personal information from these directories, just as you might want your personal telephone number to be unlisted in a telephone book.
Now you know the difference between basic web terms, and how they all play a part in creating a web presence for businesses and brands. At Google Domains, we want everyone to feel informed, secure, and empowered to grow their business online.
Ready to get online? Start searching for your domain name at domains.google.