Choosing a domain for your self hosted homelab website for the first time? Let's go over the basics! 🌐
So you're off to buy a domain name for your self hosted homelab? If you are ready to buy a domain name, then you are most likely going to be exposing services to the internet. However, the process of exposing your domain using Reverse Proxy or other DNS methods such as Cloudflare tunnels is a whole other story. But good thing I got it covered already!
Domain names can be tricky to understand sometimes and there is so much controversy behind domains and SEO. It can be quite confusing if you are new to all of this. Choosing a TLD (Top-Level Domain) is the best option if you will be self hosting a public blog or website.
What is a TLD?
A top-level domain (TLD) is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet after the root domain. The top-level domain names are installed in the root zone of the name space. For all domains in lower levels, it is the last part of the domain name, that is, the last non empty label of a fully qualified domain name. For example, in the domain name www.example.com, the top-level domain is .com. Responsibility for management of most top-level domains is delegated to specific organizations by the ICANN, an Internet multi-stakeholder community, which operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), and is in charge of maintaining the DNS root zone.
TLDs play an important role in the DNS lookup process. For all uncached requests, when a user enters a domain name like ‘google.com’ into their browser window, the DNS resolvers start the search by communicating with the TLD server. In this case, the TLD is ‘.com’, so the resolver will contact the TLD DNS server, which will then provide the resolver with the IP address of Google’s origin server.
Choosing a Domain Extension
It's rare, but I do get asked once in a blue moon why I chose a .lol domain for Noted. I will let you in on a little secret, it's not because I'm trying to be funny!
I knew I wanted a domain name that is a Top-Level Domain (TLD) because this website will be informational. The .lol domain extension is one of the more than 50 new new generic top level domain names (gTLDs) proposed by the search engine giant that is accepted by Google and other top search engines.
I noticed the .lol domain extension was virtually untapped. This means not many people knew about it because it was a relatively new extension. Even to this day, I am able to get very short .lol domains. I have a handful of them already. I was able to scoop up noted.lol, hosted.lol, files.lol, snip.lol, jams.lol and a few others for my kids names that they can use some day if they wish. Don't worry, I use the domains I buy and do not resell or park domain names!
Some fun TLDs to look at might be
Are there any Restrictions for TLDs?
Yes. A restricted TLD is a top-level domain (TLD) whose registration is limited to people or entities that satisfy certain criteria. Both generic TLDs (gTLDs) and country codes (ccTLDs) can have restrictions. It is up to the TLD's registry to implement restrictions and decide on the criteria for those restrictions.
An example of a restricted gTLD is .NYC, which is the TLD for New York City and requires a valid New York City address from persons or entities who want to register .NYC. An example of a restricted ccTLD would be .US, the United States' domain. Registrants for .US must have a presence in the US.
Domains and SEO
Since the .lol domain is accepted by Google as a TLD, SEO is not a problem. In fact, if you google "Executable Forensics" for example, you will see Noted is in the top 3 results. (Thanks to Philip Tarrant for that article!) Another Google search example is "Self Hosted QR Code". You can see where I am going with this. The .lol domain is rock solid and Google loves it.
Do you have to buy a .lol domain? No, that is just my preference and I landed some good, short domain names. You can use any TLD but some extensions have less available and the .lol is a new extention so there are more names available.
Your domain name is a small part of SEO. The majority of Search Engine Optimization depends on your website content such as title and key words you use when people search for a term. After all, the word "Noted" is a very broad word that could mean anything. It isn't necessarily related to self hosting and I knew that when I chose my domain. I banked on my content doing all the SEO work and so far it's working out!
Where to buy Domains?
Now this is another topic that is very subjective. I've seen debates about where to buy domain names so many times and there are always so many results. I use Porkbun because I was turned onto it by a YouTuber a couple years ago. They tend to be a bit pricey but I like their panel and how easy it is to knock in my name servers at a flick of a mouse button.
Do I recommend Porkbun? If you don't mind paying a premium then sure. Like I said, the prices can be beat but I cannot speak for other registrars prices and overall support. I've never had any domain issues with Porkbun and my overall experience has been great.
However, I do hear a lot of good things about Cloudflare Registrar services. It's a newer feature of Cloudflare so when I took a look at it, their domain options were pretty slim pickings. So if you are okay with suggested domains over domains you actually want, Cloudflare seems to offer good prices but with a small sacrifice.
Final Notes and Thoughts
Domain names are an essential part of building your brand so choose wisely! You can always change the domain but keep in mind Google and other search engines will have to re-index all of your content. So that relationship you built with Google will start over from the beginning.