What is Second Level Domain? How To Choose One (+Examples)

What is Second Level Domain? How To Choose and Register One (+Examples)

Final: What Is Second Level Domain: Key Insights for Website Owners

A second-level domain (SLD) is a part of a domain name that appears immediately before a top-level domain name (TLD). An SLD is often the website name.

For example, in “http://www.hostadvice.com/,” “www” is the subdomain, “hostadvice” is the second-level domain, and “com” is the TLD. The combination of these domains makes a complete domain name.

In this article, we’ll explore second-level domains, their importance and types, and how to choose great ones for your newly built website. We’ll also cover how to register your chosen domain and discuss some examples.


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  • A second-level domain is what users often remember and type to access a specific site
  • Specialized SLDs have gained prominence, particularly for industry-specific sites or focused communities
  • When establishing your online presence, choosing the right second-level domain is critical
  • Your SLD should be a reflection of your brand, product, or service
  • Before finalizing your SLD, do comprehensive research to ensure it doesn’t infringe upon existing trademarks or copyrights

What Is Second Level Domain?

A second-level domain (SLD) is the part of the domain name between your subdomain, such as www, and the TLD, such as .com or .net. It’s a unique identifier that sets your website apart within the broader hierarchy of the domain name system.

A second-level domain is just one type of domain, but it is very important. It is a key part of what users have to remember and type to access a specific site, such as “example” in “example.com.”

Other Components of a Domain Structure

Your web address is a composition of different elements:

  • Top-level domain (TLD): This is the extension of your domain, like “.com,” “.org,” or “.net.” TLDs categorize websites broadly. There are various TLD types. Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) like “.uk” are country-specific. Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) like “.blog” cater to specific niches. There are also Sponsored Top-Level Domains with predefined purposes.
  • Subdomains: Subdomains precede the second-level-domain and serve as additional sections. For instance, in “blog.example.com,” “blog” is the subdomain.

What Is the Difference Between TLD and SLD?

The relationship between TLD and SLD  within a web address is hierarchical. Understanding the TLD-SLD hierarchy is crucial to appreciating what each part does and how they work together. Here’s a breakdown:

  • TLD: The TLD serves as the top-level identifier, categorizing websites based on their purpose or origin. They define the general category or purpose of a website. For example, “.com” suggests a commercial site, while “.edu” indicates an educational institution.
  • SLD: On the other hand, the SLD acts as the second-level identifier, providing a unique label to the website itself. Second-level domains come right before the TLD. They provide a personalized touch. In “example.com,” “example” is the SLD. It’s your unique brand or identity within the TLD.

Comparing their roles, TLDs segment the internet into categories, while SLDs individualize web addresses within those categories.

Types of Second-Level Domains

Final: What Is Second Level Domain: Key Insights for Website Owners

Second-level domains (SLDs) come in various flavors, each telling a different story.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Generic SLDs: Generic SLDs represent brand names, products, or general terms. Examples are “Booking” in “booking.com” or “Product” in “product.com”
  • Geo-specific SLDs: These SLDs are like virtual GPS. They shout out a specific location, whether it’s a region, city, or place. Imagine “london” in “london.gov.uk.”
  • Numeric and Alphanumeric SLDs: For those who speak in digits, these SLDs incorporate numbers. Sometimes, they mix numbers and letters to create unique combinations. Take “247support.info” for example.
  • Acronyms and Abbreviations: Saving keystrokes is the name of the game here. Acronyms or abbreviations become SLDs. Think “nasa” in “nasa.gov.”
  • Personal Names and Pseudonyms: SLDs can be personal. Individuals use their real names, nicknames, or creative pseudonyms. It’s perfect for personal websites, blogs, or portfolios. An example is “johndoe” in “johndoe.net.”

Different SLDs cater to different needs. Whether you’re branding, localizing, or simply expressing yourself, there’s an SLD for you.

The Importance of Choosing the Right SLD

Final: What Is Second Level Domain: Key Insights for Website Owners

Your second-level domain is often closely identified with your business and brand.

Here are the reasons why it matters:

  • Brand Identity and Recognition: Your SLD is your online brand ambassador. It’s what users remember and associate with your site. Think “apple.com,” and you’re instantly in Apple’s world.
  • SEO and Keywords: Relevant keywords in your SLD can boost your site’s SEO, making it easier for users to find.
  • Credibility and Trust: A professional SLD radiates credibility. It shows you mean business; your website isn’t just another random site.
  • Targeted Audience and Localization: Your SLD can target specific audiences. A “.uk” SLD tells visitors you’re catering to the UK crowd. It’s like a digital handshake.
  • Memorable and User-Friendly Web Addresses: Long, complicated URLs? No, thanks. A concise, memorable SLD simplifies sharing and makes you more accessible.
  • Consistency Across Online Presence: Your SLD isn’t just for your website; it’s your social media handle, email address, and more. Consistency breeds recognition.
  • Trademark and Legal Considerations: Choosing a unique SLD helps you dodge legal battles. You don’t want to inadvertently infringe on someone else’s brand.
  • Future-Proofing Your Online Presence: Your SLD can outlive trends. Choose wisely so your website’s name remains relevant and meaningful even as the internet evolves.

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How to Choose the Right Second-Level Domain

The right second-level domain needs to align with your brand, appeal to your target audience, and prevent potential pitfalls.

Understand Your Brand and Audience

  • Relevance: Your SLD should reflect your brand, product, or service. It must convey what visitors can expect when they land on your website. For instance, a modern and inventive SLD could resonate well with your tech-savvy audience if you’re running a tech-focused platform. On the other hand, a more general audience might prefer a straightforward and clear SLD that instantly communicates the nature of your offerings.
  • Target Audience: Tailor your SLD to cater to your primary audience. Understanding their preferences and expectations is crucial. Think about what language, tone, and style would resonate best with them. By using SLDs that directly mirror your content, you can help users swiftly grasp the essence of your website.

Prioritize Simplicity and Clarity

  • Length: Short and snappy SLDs tend to stick in people’s minds. However, while aiming for brevity, ensure that your chosen SLD still encapsulates the essence of your brand. Strike a balance between being concise and conveying meaning.
  • Avoid Complexity: Numbers, hyphens, and unconventional spellings might complicate matters for your audience. These elements can make your SLD harder to remember and type correctly. Use these only if they are integral to your brand’s identity.

Avoid Trademark Issues

Before finalizing your SLD, undertake comprehensive research to ensure it doesn’t infringe upon existing trademarks or copyrights. The last thing you want is a legal conflict that could lead to a forced domain change.

Follow practical guidelines to ascertain the availability of your chosen SLD while avoiding potential legal entanglements.

Future-Proof Your Choice

  • Scalability: Your chosen SLD should be able to grow with your business. Consider whether it will still be relevant as your business expands or diversifies its offerings. A narrowly focused SLD might limit your future opportunities.
  • Adaptability: Think about the global landscape. Ensure that cultural or language barriers don’t limit your SLD.

Avoid EMDs (Exact Match Domains)

In the past, exact match domains (EMDs) were favored for their SEO benefits. Examples of an exact match domain include seowritingtips.com and freeamazoncoupons.com.

However, search engines have evolved, and now, having a branded and memorable SLD holds more weight. Prioritize a domain that encapsulates your brand rather than merely stuffing keywords.

Test Your Choice

  • Feedback: Before sealing the deal, seek feedback from colleagues, friends, or potential customers. Their insights can shed light on how effective and engaging your chosen SLD truly is.
  • Pronunciation and Spelling: An easily pronounceable and spellable SLD prevents user confusion. If people can’t verbalize or type your domain effortlessly, they might drift away from your site.

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Registering and Setting Up Your Second-Level Domain

Final: What Is Second Level Domain: Key Insights for Website Owners

Choosing the right second-level domain is an important first step in setting up your website. Let’s dive into the essential steps and considerations to remember when registering and setting up your second-level domain.

Step 1: Research Domain Registrars

Opt for well-known and reputable domain registrars with a track record of reliability. Conduct thorough research by reading reviews and gauging customer feedback to ensure you’re making an informed choice.

Take into account the services they offer beyond domain registration. These include website hosting, SSL certificates, and domain privacy protection.

Step 2: Check Domain Availability

Verify the availability of your chosen SLD using the registrar’s search tool. If your desired SLD is already taken, don’t despair. Most registrars provide suggestions for available variations that could suit your needs.

Consider alternative top-level domains like .net, .org, or .biz if the .com extension is unavailable. This flexibility can help you find a good domain name that aligns with your goals.

Step 3: Understand Pricing and Renewal

While registrars often lure you in with promotional prices for the first year, it’s essential to understand the full pricing spectrum. Be aware of the regular price for subsequent years to avoid surprises.

Equally important are the renewal rates. Some registrars may offer low initial costs but spike the renewal rates. Take time to understand these details and factor them into your decision. Also, keep an eye out for any transfer fees in case you decide to switch registrars in the future.

Step 4: Consider Domain Privacy Protection

By default, domain owner details are publicly listed in the WHOIS directory. This exposure can lead to privacy concerns. Many registrars offer domain privacy services for an additional fee.

This protection replaces your personal information with the registrar’s generic details, safeguarding your privacy and reducing the risk of spam or unwanted attention.

Step 5: Check Domain Management Tools

Ensure that the registrar provides a user-friendly dashboard that allows you to easily manage your domain.

Look for features like domain forwarding and DNS management. These tools empower you to make necessary changes efficiently and ensure your website functions as intended.

Step 6: Secure Your Domain

Consider the registration length for your domain. If you’re committed to maintaining it, registering for multiple years can spare you yearly renewals and potential lapses.

Moreover, prioritize security by choosing registrars offering extra protection layers, like multi-factor authentication. This added security reduces the risk of unauthorized access and modifications to your domain settings.

Step 7: Set Up Renewal Reminders

Even with multi-year registration, setting up reminders for domain renewal is wise. Domain expiration can lead to downtime and even loss of the domain. Guard against this by scheduling timely reminders. This ensures your domain remains active and your online presence uninterrupted.

You can learn what happens to expired domains here.

Step 8: Website Hosting Considerations

There is a strong connection between domain and hosting. When it comes to hosting your website, several key factors require your attention:

  • Combined Services: While domain registration and website hosting are separate services, many registrars provide both. Opting for combined services can be convenient, particularly for beginners, as it streamlines management.
  • Types of Hosting: Familiarize yourself with the diverse hosting options available. These include shared hosting, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting, dedicated hosting, and cloud hosting. Understanding these distinctions ensures you select the best fit for your website’s requirements.
  • Transferability: If you decide to buy hosting from a domain registrar, ensure you retain the flexibility to transfer to another hosting provider in the future, if necessary. This safeguard is essential for avoiding potential limitations down the line.

Considering these factors, you can ensure a smooth and effective hosting experience that aligns with your website’s needs and growth trajectory.

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Practical Examples of Second-Level Domains

Understanding second-level domains (SLDs) becomes much clearer when we examine real-world cases. Let’s delve into practical examples of how SLDs work across various contexts.

Websites and Brands

  • Google: The domain “google.com” exemplifies the SLD concept. In this case, “Google” is the SLD, symbolizing the brand itself. Users commonly type this SLD into their browsers when searching online, recognizing it as a direct link to Google’s website and services.
  • Wikipedia: Consider “wikipedia.org”. Here, “Wikipedia” serves as the SLD. It distinctly identifies the online encyclopedia’s website. The “.org” is the Top Level Domain (TLD), while the SLD narrows down the site’s purpose and content.

Geographical Examples

Numerous countries utilize SLDs to categorize websites based on location or intent.

  • BBC: The SLD in “bbc.co.uk” is “bbc”. The “.co” that follows acts as a secondary SLD, indicating a commercial entity. This domain structure pinpoints the British Broadcasting Corporation’s website within the United Kingdom’s commercial landscape.
  • University of Oxford: “ox.ac.uk” showcases “ox” as the SLD. In this case, “.ac” indicates an academic institution. This SLD structure distinguishes the University of Oxford’s online presence as an academic entity in the UK.

Specialized Domains

With the internet’s evolution, specialized SLDs, in particular TLDs have gained prominence, especially for industry-specific sites or focused communities.

  • Amazon Books: Imagine “books.amazon”. Here, “books” take the SLD slot, directing users to Amazon’s bookselling section. This specialized SLD adds precision to the site’s purpose and content.
  • Trail Running: Hypothetically, a domain like “trail.running” would feature “trail” as the SLD. This setup narrows the website’s focus within the broader running community, catering to those interested in trail running.

Personal Blogs and Portfolios

Individuals frequently use their names or pseudonyms as SLDs to create personal spaces or online portfolios.

  • John Doe: “johndoe.net” is an example where “johndoe” functions as the SLD. It provides a personalized online identity for the individual.
  • StarArt: For an artist using the pseudonym StarArt, “starart.com” showcases “starart” as the SLD. This SLD choice distinctly represents the artist’s online presence.

Final Words: Choose Your SLD Wisely

In wrapping up, let’s revisit what we’ve learned. Second-level domains (SLDs) are the puzzle pieces that make your web address unique. From brands to niches, they define your site’s identity and purpose.

As you embark on your online journey, take some time to carefully consider your SLD choice. It’s not just a name; it’s a digital badge that sets you apart.

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Next Steps: What Now?

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I update my SLD’s DNS settings?

Updating your SLD’s DNS settings is straightforward. Simply log in to your domain registrar’s control panel and locate the DNS settings section. From there, you can make the necessary adjustments. This change could involve updating name servers to point to your hosting provider. It could also be to add specific DNS records like A, CNAME, or MX.

Can I have multiple SLDs for one website?

Yes, you can use multiple SLDs to serve different purposes while directing traffic to a single website. For instance, if you have “example.com” as your main SLD, you can create subdomains like “blog.example.com” or “store.example.com” for specific content. Alternatively, you can set up redirects from additional SLDs to your main website for branding or marketing campaigns.

How can I choose an SLD that’s both brandable and SEO-friendly?

Selecting an SLD that’s both brandable and SEO-friendly requires careful consideration. Aim for a short, memorable SLD that resonates with your brand or content. If possible, incorporate relevant keywords that reflect your website’s focus. However, avoid excessive keyword stuffing, which can harm your SEO efforts. Striking a balance between brand identity and search engine optimization is key.

What is the most popular second-level domain?

The most popular SLD is undoubtedly “.com.” It’s recognized globally and is often the first choice for businesses, organizations, and individuals. “.com” domains are synonymous with the internet, and their familiarity makes them a preferred option for establishing an online presence.

Is a second-level domain a subdomain?

No. An SLD is the part of the domain that sits directly to the left of the top-level domain (TLD). For instance, in “example.com,” “example” is the SLD. On the other hand, a subdomain is an extension of the main domain that can be used to organize and categorize content. For instance, “blog.example.com” uses “blog” as a subdomain of the “example.com” domain.

Rafi Salber
Edited By:
Rafi Salber
Content Editor
Rafi is the editor of HostAdvice.com, an online publication that covers the latest developments in the web hosting industry. With a background in content development and a passion for all things tech-related, Rafi has a keen eye for spotting trends and a talent for researching and explaining complex ideas in a way that is accessible to readers.

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