A Beginners Guide to Domain Names

“What are domain names and how do they work?”

It can be confusing to understand the difference between domain names, hosting and other services, particularly for beginners. It might sound basic, if you’re involved in building websites, but for those who are in unfamiliar territory, it’s everything but simple.

There are plenty of resources about domain names, with buckets of information. However, they often don’t have new-starters in mind. Their language can sometimes be too technical, that only domain savvy people will understand.

My short guide is written for beginners, you need to understand domain names in plain English before you can even begin to comprehend all the technical ins and outs.

What is a Domain Name?

 Simple as can be …Domain Names

A domain name is an address that you type in to your URL bar, to reach a website.

If it helps, think of a domain name as an address that gets you to your destination. Without an address, you can’t reach your destination (a website).

In a little more detail …

Domain names came around as a solution to IP addresses. Each computer, has their own string of numbers assigned to them, like 55.6784.22.1. But, a series of numbers is difficult to remember, without an accurate address, how are you supposed to reach your destination?

Along came domain names, a practical, simple solution to our forgetfulness. The physical address is still a string of numbers, the domain name redirects to a physical number IP address, taking you to the website.

Now if you want to visit a website, instead of typing in a whole load of numbers, you just type in a simple domain name. Like, google.com.

Domain Names and Websites are Separate

Domain Names - Address and DestinationYou can change your website content at any time and keep the domain name. You’ve bought the domain name and you can disconnect and redirect to any website you wish.

Think of your domain name as your phone number and your website as your phone. Your phone number acts as an address to reach your phone just like your new domain name acts as an address to

Allowing people to reach your website and your phone as a website. Your phone number acts as an address to reach your phone.

It’s often inconvenient to swap phones, your information is all there, and people know how to reach you. The same goes for a website, it makes more sense to use your current domain name for your new website, so your customers still know how to find you.

Just look at these examples –

I’ve just bought a domain name, www.newdomain.com. I want to connect my new domain to my existing website. My website won’t change at all but the address to get to my website will. Instead of the domain name, www.olddomain.com, it will be www.newdomain.com.


I’ve just built a brand-new website. I disconnect www.olddomain.com from my existing website and assign my current (olddomain.com) to my new website. When people type in my web address, they’ll be taken to my new website.

Free and Paid Domains

Your domain name will be free from a website builder, like WordPress or Wix. It’ll be a ‘sub-domain’. Typically, it’ll be your company name, followed by your website builders company name.Domain Names



Be aware you don’t own the subdomain, it’s free – but it’s not yours. It belongs to your website builder / sub-domain name. If you decide to switch to another provide, you can’t take your domain with you.

As you can see from the example, your sub-domain will be an extension of your website provider’s own domain. It’ll include their name after yours, like wordpress.com.

If you’re hoping to be a long-term business, it’s advisable to buy your own domain. Giving yourself a unique brand.

If you buy a domain name, maybe from GoDaddy or Namecheap, you’ll own it. It’ll cost around £15 monthly, but it won’t include a hosting service. You need a hosting service for your website to be visible on the internet.

Hopefully my beginners guide has given you an insight into the world of domain names. Discover how you can pick the right domain name for your business in my blog post, “How to Choose a Domain Name“.

About the author: 

Marie Harwood is a Digital Marketing Assistant at Different Gravy Digital, Hale, Cheshire.

Different Gravy Digital are a full service Digital Marketing Agency operating in the Hospitality & Leisure, Financial Services, Legal & Property sectors.  Products and services range from; 3D & 360° Tours, Website Design & Build, Social Media, Video Production, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Content Creation, Email Marketing, Online Feedback / Review Systems and Paid Advertising (Google, Bing and Social Media).

Contact Details:


0161 706 0004

120a Ashley Road, Hale, Altrincham, Cheshire, WA14 2UN