An SEO’s Take On Domain Names & Servers

Tory Terrillby Tory Terrill, Digital Strategy Analyst

 

When you think about a website, what are the most important, stand-out features that come to mind? 

You think about the images you can see, the text you can read, the buttons you can click and if it’s successful enough, the products (or services) you can buy from it. In its simplest form, a website is just a bunch of pages of code. The code makes up the design, layout, and organization of those pages. But remember, a website won’t be seen by most users without a domain and a server. 

Without a domain and a publicly-accessible server, a website is most likely useless.  

Domains

If a domain name is like a physical street address, an IP address is like the GPS coordinates. They both point to a specific place, but a street address is the way most people communicate the location of a destination.

A domain name is the “address” of your website. Consider the benefits of having a home mailing address—people are able to send you letters and packages, and ultimately engage with you using your address as an identifier or signal. In the same vein, domains help users find the specific websites they’re searching for. Each domain is linked to its own unique IP address( Internet Protocol Number). IP addresses are a series of numbers assigned to individual computers. Domain names communicate with other IP addresses, and rather than typing in a bunch of hard to remember numbers, domains provide users with an easy way to reach a website. Using our same example from before, it’s much harder to register and remember the latitude and longitude coordinates of a location, take Momentic Marketing’s, 43.034605, -87.905853, than remembering Momentic’s physical address 318 N Milwaukee St, Milwaukee, WI 53202. The same thing  holds true for domains and IP addresses. For those that are searching for an SEO agency, momenticmarketing.com is much easier to remember than its IP address, 66.44.197.1. 

Getting a Domain Name

It’s simple to buy a domain name, and anyone can buy one. The easiest way to purchase a domain name is to visit a domain name registrar, such as GoDaddy, BlueHost, or HostGator. Registrars allow you to purchase domain names that haven’t been bought yet, and you’ll likely pay a monthly or annual fee. 

To learn more about domain-names or how to purchase a domain name, we recommend visiting wpbeginner as a good place to start. 

Web Server

web server farm

If a domain name is like a physical street address and an IP address is like GPS coordinates, a web server is like the mailbox.

Boiled down, a web server is a collection of computers that store your website and all of its components including HTML documents, images, CSS stylesheets, and JavaScript files.2 A web server’s job is to serve your website to users that are requesting to see it, through HTTP requests and responses. HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is what the web server and the client side application use to communicate. The client side application represents every piece of text, image and other UI components that are displayed in front of the client, or the end user device (this could be a laptop, iPhone or tablet). 

How a Web Server Works

Here’s what the relationship between a client side application, an HTTP request, an HTTP response, a browser and a web server looks like:

The client side application (your computer, you, what you type in, this is all what’s considered the client, or client side application) requests specific information pertaining to your search (known as an HTTP request) from a web browser (think Google Chrome, Safari or Mozilla Firefox). Then, your browser takes your request to the server. The server then takes that HTTP request, collects all the data it needs to fulfill that request, sends it back through the browser using an HTTP response. Your browser then provides you with the ability to see a website and interact with it.

Here are two examples of how these dynamics would be at play in other real-life, non-technical scenarios: 

Example #1

Let’s say you walk into a restaurant and sit down at a table. You are the client (or client side application). A waiter comes up to you to take your order (the waiter is the browser). The waiter writes down exactly what you want (the HTTP request) and takes your order to the kitchen. The cooks, or the web servers, prepare your meal, or your data, and give it back to the waiter to return to you. The waiter brings your meal back to your table (the HTTP response), and you, the client, are able to consume your meal, or your data.   

Example #2 

Consider the way people used to sign up for magazine subscriptions as an analogy, where you receive a magazine subscription form in the mail, fill out the form and send it back to the magazine company. In this scenario: 

  • you, the reader = client side application 
  • mail person =  browsermail truck
  • mailbox = web server  
  • street address on the envelope = domain name
  • GPS coordinates guiding mail person to your house = IP address
  • incoming (incomplete) magazine subscription form = HTTP request
  • outgoing (complete) magazine subscription form  = HTTP response 

Web Hosting 

Hosting companies, like GoDaddy, not only provide you with a domain name, but provide you with a way to host your site. While a web server is what communicates with your browser to offer you the data you’re looking for, web hosting is a service that provides people with the ability to put their website on the World Wide Web. Without a web hosting service, a web server will never present your website to prospective customers because the web server won’t have access to it.  

Creating a Website

Whether you have coding knowledge or not, anyone can create a website using a Content Management System (CMS). A CMS is an application that allows users to build and manage their own websites, with little to no coding experience. WordPress, Squarespace, and Virb are examples of common CMSs. 

Without a CMS, you’d have to have the skills to code out a static website using different code files, so unless you know how to read, speak and write HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), your best bet is to stick with selecting a CMS. HTML, or Hypertext Markup Language, provides the basic structure of the website. CSS and JavaScript1 are used to enhance the structure of the website and make the website more dynamic and user friendly. In addition to this, CSS controls the way the website is formatted and presented. JavaScript on the other hand, controls how different elements of the website behave. A CMS gives you the ability to add images, text, buttons, and links without having to know how to code. 

How to Create and Host a Website, From Start to Finish:

creating a website

  1. Step 0: Select an SEO partner: The way your website is presented to and considered by Google is critical to its ability to get discovered online, so before you create or redesign your existing website, elect an expert SEO resource (or team of resources depending on the size of your site) to help you scope out opportunities to amplify your site’s visibility. If you’re unsure about whether to stick to an internal SEO resource or whether or not you’ll need an agency partner, start here.
  2. Choose a Domain Name: Should be short, concise, and easy to remember. 
  3. Find a Hosting Provider: GoDaddy, Bluehost, WP Engine, Dreamhost, and HostGator are just a few. Do your research, find one that works best for you and your needs. You can check out information about the providers listed above in this Best Web Hosting article.  
  4. Choose a CMS: This could be WordPress, Squarespace, Jooma!, or any CMS that fits your needs. Do your research as some of these applications are harder to use than others.
  5. Install your CMS: Your CMS provider should provide you with an easy way to install your platform. 
  6. Pick a Design: For WordPress specifically, there are hundreds of themes you can use. The theme represents the visual aspects of your website. This theme determines how things are laid out, the size and type of font, the color scheme, etc. 
  7. Install Plugins: Plugins are extra applications that help provide your website with additional functionality that your current theme might not offer. Do your research on plugins. You can definitely have too many plugins (this is called plugin bloat) and risk slowing your website down.
  8. Put Your Content Into the Template: Start adding images, buttons, links and text. Take your time with this and consult with an SEO or marketing expert to make sure you are linking your pages together in a way that GoogleBot can easily crawl and index.

Uploading your content into your designed theme is the first step to creating a website that drives traffic to and engagement with your target audience. Learn how to build a bridge to your new website with SEO, and ensure your website is seen in search results.

Interested to learn more about how we can help you with your SEO efforts? Contact a Momentic expert.

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