Domain vs. URL: What is the difference?
I can help you compare the two.
I wrote this in-depth domain vs. URL comparison guide to explain the uses of each one and their differences. I’ll also explain domain names and how to spot URLs online.
Domain vs. URL
You must understand domain names and URLs individually to know their differences.
What Is a URL?
A URL (uniform resource locator) is a complete and associated IP address that navigates through a web server to find a specific web page.
A domain refers to the whole website, while a URL refers to a specific web page.
Every URL includes a domain name and other details like protocols to direct you toward specific pages or website files.
The domain is the website’s name, and the URL is the website’s address on the internet.
Here are the components of a URL.
Protocols include HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol, an application protocol for transferring information between network devices.
When you type in the address bar, your URL scans domain registrars on the internet infrastructure to look for your domain and page.
Most browsers input the HTTP for you.
If your website has an SSL certificate, the HTTP turns into HTTPS.
Your URL stands vulnerable if you do not have an SSL certificate. This certificate is a bit of code that gives better security for your online communications.
A path is a direct route to a specific website page. You can look at it as categories that help identify the particular page’s location.
Suppose you open a page on Facebook.
Facebook is the main domain, and your path is “ojdigitalsolutions.” If you click on the cover photo, you go through another path.
The domain is still Facebook, but you went through the “/ojdigitalsolutions/” path, then the “/photos/” path, then to the actual location of the photo.
What Is a Domain?
A domain name is an internet resource name and a website’s address.
It acts as a complete web address. When internet users type your domain names, they go straight to your web address.
Domain names are text forms of IP addresses. Each part of the domain separates itself with periods or dots.
Domain names cover the whole website, meaning each page uses the same domain name.
Your domain should only be two or three words. Some of the most popular domain names are at least one to three words.
Domain registration only requires your name, postal address, home address, and other details.
Types of Domains
There are two classifications for domain names: 1) a top-level domain and 2) a second-level domain.
- TLD Domains
A top-level domain (TLD) is a common extension on most popular websites. You can use a top-level domain for different types of websites.
There is a general understanding of specific top-level domain names. Although there are over ten thousand TLDs, you’ve probably seen at least five.
Here are the most popular top-level domain names.
- .com – commercial businesses
- .org – nonprofits and organizations
- .edu – educational or academic sites
- .net – network organizations
- .mil – official military sites
- .gov – government institutions
There are also TLD domain names for different countries.
- .co.uk – for sites in the UK
- .ca – for sites in Canada
- .us – for sites in the US
- .com.au – for sites in Australia
- .eu – for sites in the EU
- .jp – for sites in Japan
- .in – for sites in India
A business name with a specific country TLD domain lets users know the business’s physical address.
You’re free to use most top-level domains. Choosing the proper top-level domains helps visitors easily identify your website.
If you use the wrong top-level domains, you will confuse users, which can hurt your website. Your top-level domains do not change when you access a web page inside the website.
In the domain name hierarchy, .com remains the most popular.
- SLD Domains
A second-level domain is the specific domain name you give your website. There cannot be a duplicate second-level domain name.
An example of a second-level domain is “ojdigitalsolutions.” When combined with a TLD, here’s how it looks like:
SLD domains are also known as domain extensions.
Here are the best practices when choosing a domain name.
- Pick a domain name that users can easily spell.
- Don’t use an overly long domain name.
- If you have a long domain name, don’t use random letters. Visitors won’t easily remember random letters.
- Ensure your internet domain name is relevant to your business.
- You can get a variation if your desired domain is unavailable. Check with your domain name registrar for similar domain names.
The domain name registrar, or DNR, sells you your domain name. You cannot buy a domain name used by someone else.
Domain registration happens when you assign a domain name is registered. The domain name is then blocked.
You need domain name hosting to activate it.
A DNS host or domain name system host is a company that helps manage the configuration of your domain. It is sometimes also known as DNS resource records.
A domain name system host ensures your domain functions as it should by pointing visitors directly to your website.
Some domain hosts also offer new domain registration.
A domain name often refers to a parent domain. A subdomain is a domain name with a prefix.
- www.example.com – The complete address is a URL, while “www” is the subdomain.
- store.example.com – is a subdomain.
- support.example.com – is a subdomain.
The good thing about subdomains is you don’t have to go to domain registries to register them. You can use a subdomain if you own the primary website name.
Here’s why you should use a subdomain.
- To sell ecommerce products.
eCommerce requires sophisticated levels of security. Thus, it might be better to separate it from your primary domain name.
Sophisticated cybersecurity software can be costly. Instead of subscribing to your primary domain name, you can limit the service to your subdomain.
You can create a separate online store linked to your primary domain name using a subdomain. Doing so would prevent exchanging data from one site to another.
An isolated store helps protect you from attacks if your primary domain name is compromised.
- To separate your blog.
Putting your blog on a subdomain instead of your primary domain name helps minimize clutter.
Managing thousands of posts takes a lot of work if everything is in one CMS.
You might want to separate your blog if you’re working with a team of writers and engaging in high-volume content.
When you separate your blog, you can customize its CMS to make it more beneficial for writers. You can install plugins or extensions on your blog CMS, not your primary CMS.
You can customize the different CMS to serve other purposes with a separate domain name and subdomain.
Too many plugins in one CMS can cause problems since some won’t work together. Ensure you understand the purpose of each plugin before you add it to your CMS.
- To create a staging area for your website.
If you redesign a website, you can do so on a subdomain.
A staging site is a clone of your live website. You can use it to draft websites before applying them to a final domain name.
A staging site lets you test major and minor changes to see how it looks on a live website. Doing so prevents you from having to make actual changes to the primary domain name.
Developers use subdomains as staging sites to test and fix bugs before saving the website to its final domain name.
- To add a resource section.
Instead of adding a resource section to a path on your domain name, you can add one on your subdomain.
The advantage of this is you get a cleaner, complete address without sacrificing your domain name. You can have a subdomain for learning or support.
If your website has a lot of content you need to separate, you can add subdomains.
An example of this is garena.com.
Garena.com is the primary domain name, and account.garena.com is a subdomain.
This business owns different games, and the primary websites for these games are subdomains like ff.garena.com.
Garena did not have to register on each game’s site. Instead, it created subdomains for each one. Doing so allowed them to build a complete website for the game and remind visitors the game comes from Garena since you can see it on the URL.
Domain vs. URL
Here are the differences between a domain and a URL.
The motive of a domain name is to provide easy access to a website. A business can use its domains as a form of branding.
If you are not using search engines to find a website, copying and pasting the URL is the most efficient way to find a site.
The domain is a human-friendly string of text that represents your IP address.
The URL is a string of text and code, which is the address of a specific website or part of a website.
Domain refers to the friendliest part of the URL, where you can identify the site’s name.
The URL is the web address that includes the domain name and specific part of the site you want to access.
You can divide your domains into two parts: 1) the TLD and 2) the SLD domains. Different TLD and SLD combinations direct you to various sites.
The most common URL parts are the domain name, protocol, and path; there are also more specific parts like the port and hostname.
An example of a domain is ojdigitalsolutions.com.
An example of a URL is https://www.ojdigitalsolutions.com.
The first domain ever registered was Symbiolics.com in 1985.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, defined URLs in 1994 to create a more detailed explanation of websites and their respective parts.
You use a domain name with a DNS because it includes a TLD, DNS caching, and an authoritative DNS server.
You use a URL with multiple elements like protocols, domains, paths, etc.
What a Website’s URL Tells You
The various elements of a URL can give you information about the website you’re visiting.
Here are some things you can determine by looking at a website’s URL.
You can verify a website’s security by its website protocols.
A URL that starts with https (ex., https://ojdigitalsolutions.com/) is much more secure than a URL with http.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure HTTPS are data transfer protocols, with HTTPS being secure.
HTTPS sites are secure because they have a TLS/SSL (Secure Socket Layer) Certificate, meaning the information you exchange with the website is encrypted.
Sites with only HTTP protocols are not secure because they don’t have SSL certificates, meaning bad actors can easily intercept the information you exchange with these websites.
You can tell a website’s physical location if it has a specific domain extension.
A website that ends with .ca originates in Canada, a website that ends with .de originates in Germany, and a website that ends in .jp originates in Japan.
A URL containing a slash (/) followed by additional text tells you the site’s internal structure and the specific page you visit.
For example, if you visit https://ojdigitalsolutions.com/about-us/, you will see the website’s About US page.
The “/about-us/” text is right after the website’s primary URL, meaning the About Us page is accessible from the website’s home page.
Choosing a Domain Name
Before choosing your domains, consider specific elements to make them more impactful.
There are two ways you can choose your domain.
A keyword-focused website takes advantage of SEO or search engine optimization. These types of websites are potent and make use of organic searches.
You can use domains with a specific country or location to add another unique identifier to your website.
For example, if you search for “visit Las Vegas,” the top organic search is visitlasvegas.com.
This domain capitalizes on users who enter the keyword phrase “visit Las Vegas.”
The disadvantage of using keyword-focused domains is they can be expensive and only sometimes effective.
An example is NFTs.com, which sold for $15 million, the most expensive public domain sale ever made.
One technique you can use is to go to HostGator to see if the domain you want is available. If not, you can check out the suggested domains similar to your query.
Keyword focus means looking for the most relevant keywords without domain names.
This technique is very effective if a brand doesn’t play a big part in your business. An example of industries where the brand doesn’t matter as much as quality is lawnmowing, repairs, or
Contrary to keyword-focused domains, brand-focused domains usually happen as part of a larger market strategy.
There are instances where the brand name itself drives people to purchase. A perfect example of this is luxury brands.
A perfect example of this is tesla.com.
The domain says it all, and because of the branding, people searching the internet know what they’ll get.
Since Tesla is a big brand, there is no sense in using a different domain name.
One clever thing Tesla does is use a subdomain for its shop.
It also uses a subdomain for users to log in.
Tesla doesn’t crowd its website and can assign different security metrics per subdomain.
You don’t have to be strictly against a brand-focused domain when using a keyword-focused domain.
Adding a specific location makes your website more accessible.
An example is supremenewyork.com, which works because if you search for a Supreme store in New York, you’ll most likely type “supreme USA” on Google.
5 Factors To Consider When Choosing a Domain Name
Here are five things to consider when choosing a domain name.
1. Use the Right Extension or SLD.
Ensure you choose a relevant SLD for your domain. The most recognizable and trusted domain extension is .com. Very rarely are there situations where using another SLD is acceptable.
Google has a “domains.google” website for domains, which works because Google is one of the most popular companies in the world.
The .org extension is also acceptable in some instances. Wikipedia.org is one of the most popular websites on the internet. However, using .org might not be the most appropriate if you have a for-profit business.
2. Make Shorter Domains.
The ideal domain length is 12 characters long. However, there are instances where domain names stretch up to 20 characters.
The OJDS website is 18 characters long.
You can use abbreviations if your business is longer than 20 characters. An example of this is The Wall Street Journal since its website is www.wsj.com.
3. Avoid Complicated Spelling.
You should be very careful regarding how you spell out your website. Avoid exaggerated spelling since it can confuse visitors.
Hackers sometimes use misspelled websites to trick visitors.
Ensure your domain name is simple and easy to spell. Using words is usually more effective.
For example, www.acquisition.com is more straightforward to search for than www.aittech.com.
Avoid hyphens and numbers unless necessary.
If your business has numbers, this is when you use them in your domain; if not, avoid adding them.
For example, 88rising.com is a domain with numbers in it. This domain is acceptable because the brand’s name has the same numbers.
Unlike 88rising, you shouldn’t make a domain like cardetailing567.com because it looks unprofessional and does not encourage trust.
4. Check Trademarks.
Checking for trademarks is essential when picking a domain name. You have to check if the domain name is available and if the word in the domain is not trademarked.
Trademarks can bite back the more prominent your website becomes. Your company might get sued for using a trademark, and you may have to shut down your domain.
There are many instances where companies innocently grow their brands or domains only to discover a trademark already exists.
5. Create a Domain that Fits Your Market.
Creating a domain name that doesn’t fit your market has disadvantages, like not taking you seriously.
Use professional words if your business is for a more professional audience, and use creative words if your industry or niche is more creative.
Another thing you can do is come up with an original name or symbol that inspires your domain.
An example of this is “puma.” us.puma.com is a sportswear company that is easy to remember, and you can still associate it with sports. The puma is a fierce animal that translates well into branding, especially a sports brand.
The Bottom Line
I hope I’ve made it easier for you to understand the differences between a domain and a URL, including their uses.
Use the information you learned in this article to create the best and most appropriate website domain name and URL.
You should learn why a website is important.