An online presence is a hallmark of good marketing in this digital age, and a website is a key component of that. With one, you'll be able to disseminate information to your customers and get found by prospects searching for you on Google. The first step to all of that is securing your domain name.

If you’re in the process of setting up a website for your business, you might’ve come across two terms: domain and domain name. On the surface, domain and a domain name might seem like the same exact thing. And if you dig a little deeper, that’s exactly the case -- a domain and domain name are often used interchangeably.

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Every website has an IP address, which is a unique string of numbers that connect computers to web servers, but people don’t want to memorize an IP address just to visit a website. Fortunately, web addresses fill in for a website’s IP address, allowing people to easily remember and identify websites.

Anatomy of a web address for this blog post. The graphic differentiates between protocol (https://), subdomain (blog.), domain name (, and page path (/what-is-a-domain).

Essentially, domains are like your house’s address. Instead of your friends using your house's GSP coordinate every time they want to visit you, they can just plug in your street address, which is much easier to remember.

What is a domain name?

The term “domain name” is often used interchangeably with the term "domain". The domain name is simply a type of domain that describes the name of your website. 

Not including its extension, like “.com”, the maximum length a domain name can be is 63 characters. The minimum length can be one character.

The Parts of a Domain Name

There are two parts of a domain: the second-level domain and the top-level domain.

parts of a domain name that shows hubspot's domain ( broken up into second-level domain (hubspot) and top-level domain (.com)

Second-Level Domain (SLD)

The second-level domain is the unique identifier for your website, the part of your domain that comes before “.com”.

If you're building a website for your business, consider buying a domain that reflects your business's name. This will make it easier for people to find your website without needing to spend a lot of time scouring Google for it. For instance,’s second-level domain is “hubspot”.

Top-Level Domain (TLD)

The top-level domain is the extension, the part of your domain that comes after your second-level domain.

It specifies what type of entity your organization registers as on the internet. For example, HubSpot’s top-level domain is “.com” since we’re a commercial entity in the United States. Most American businesses also register their website with “.com”. There are over 1,500 top-level domains available worldwide.

There are many other types of domains that could be components of your domain name.

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD)

gTLD refers to the best known and most broadly used TLDS: 

  • .com
  • .net
  • .biz
  • .org
  • .info

Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD)

These two-letter TLDs refer to specific geographical locations. Here are the most common ones: 

  • .cn (China)
  • .ru (Russia)
  • .de (Germany)
  • .br (Brazil)
  • .au (Australia)
  • (United Kingdom)

Internationalized Country Code Top-Level Domains (IDN ccTLD)

These are domains that can be displayed in non-Latin character sets (e.g. Chinese).


A subdomain is a domain that is part of a larger domain, appearing before the root domain name (e.g.

If you want to acquire a domain name, you must buy one and register it. To do this, visit a domain name registrar, like GoDaddy or Google Domains, plug your desired domain name in, check its availability and price, and then buy it, if it’s in your price range. From there, you'll be able to associate that domain with your server and hosting provider, making your site able to be accessed through the web address.

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Originally published Jul 27, 2020 3:29:08 PM, updated July 27 2020


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