One of my visitors, while reading the article on How to Register a Domain Name, was puzzled by the concept of domain name parking. This article explains what it means and describes the situations when you may want or need to park your domain name as well as its downsides.
To ensure that we are all talking about the same thing when I say "domain name", let me briefly mention that a domain name is a name like "thesitewizard.com". Loosely speaking, it's the address of your website. Normally, if someone wants to set up a website, he/she will need to pay a small annual fee to register a domain name. The domain name can then be "pointed" to a website containing the web pages that the person wants to set up. Whenever visitors type that web address into their browser, they will be brought to the website. For example, if you were to type "thesitewizard.com" into your browser, you will be brought to the main page of this website.
Very often, when people "buy" a domain name, they are only just starting out on a new website. Since getting a domain is the first step of many in creating a website, most people don't have any website at the time they register the domain. As such, they can't point the domain name anywhere.
Domain name registrars, the companies through which you register a domain, work around this problem by allowing you to point your domain name to a dummy web page. When visitors type the address of a domain that has been parked, they will see this placeholder web page in their web browsers. The content placed on the dummy web page varies from registrar to registrar, and it's possible that some registrars place advertisements or links to themselves on your parked domain. (Note that you will not earn money from those advertisements. You will only earn from the advertisements you place yourself on your website.)
There are of course other situations which might lead you to want to park your domain. For example, if you were buying many domain names because you think you might want to reserve them for future use, or because you can't decide between the different permutations of names and want to take precautions against those names being "stolen", then it's likely that you will want to park those domains temporarily till you either decide what to do with those names or till you actually get a website ready for those domains.
In general, most people reading this article needn't worry about this section. For the majority, getting a domain name is just a precursor to starting a website, and as such, the domain name is rarely parked for long (usually only until you sign up with a web host and point your domain name there). When it's parked for such a short period, that temporary dummy web page on your parked domain doesn't really matter since it will not be associated with your domain for long.
However, if you're parking your domain name for a long period of time, you may want to scrutinize the content of the placeholder web page used by your registrar for your domain. After all, that web page is now associated with your domain, and your reputation. While it will be obvious to any seasoned web surfer when he/she encounters such a page that it's just a parked domain web page, less web-savvy Internet users may think that page is really part of a website you created. The recommendations and links placed on that page may appear to be endorsements of those products by you. Remember, since the design of the page was not made by you, there's no guarantee that advertisements look like adverts. If the registrar is unscrupulous, they may make the ads seem like genuine recommendations from you. People who trust you, on reading your page, may fall lock, stock and barrel for the things said there.
Now, I'm not saying that any registrar does these things. My only experience with domain parking on one of my own domains date back many years. My memory is vague about the whole thing, and all I remember is the distaste I felt about the page and the haste with which I quickly pointed my domain away, to my own dummy web page (which is a completely blank page). But I'm probably hypersensitive to such things, and most people have thicker skins. (And I actually don't even remember what the page contained, or which registrar/domain it was, so for all you know, it was some harmless thing like an "under construction" page that irked me because I can't stand such pages.)
If you don't want to park a domain at your registrar's default parking page, but you're not ready to develop a website for it yet, one way is to do what I do.
Although my main domains (that have actual websites attached to them) are placed on web hosts I trust, I also have web hosting accounts on other web hosts for my play sites, including one that offers virtually "unlimited" everything. For reasons given in the article The Myth of "Unlimited" in Web Hosting, I don't really rely on such "unlimited" web hosts for anything serious. But, in my opinion, they are useful for one major thing: unlimited domain hosting for my test sites. Many of them allow you to place an unlimited number of domains/websites on a single account.
In view of this, whenever I get a domain name that I think I might want to develop in the future, I buy it and point it to my account at that web host. It doesn't cost me anything to point it there since that account allows me to host as many domains as I want at no extra charge. I simply create a blank page (actually, just an empty file with a zero file size) for those domains.
I know the people who monetize all their domains will probably think that it's a great waste of opportunity to point the domains to blank pages. They are probably right, of course. But I only have so much time, and developing new websites and maintaining existing ones take a lot of time (for me, anyway). And I want to make sure that when I actually get around to developing those new sites, the domains will still be available for me to use. The only way to ensure that is to buy the domains now, when they are still for sale. Otherwise when I'm finally ready to work on the sites, they may already be sold to someone else. And since I want to avoid the various registrars' parking pages, I use these empty pages instead.
You don't have to follow my example, of course. I'm just explaining what I do, as a personal choice.
That's all there is to domain name parking. It's a simple concept really, once someone explains it.
In any case, if you're considering getting a domain, or starting a website, you may want to continue by reading the following articles. (There are many other relevant ones on thesitewizard.com, but these should get you started, as well as point you in the right direction.)
All the best for your site!
This article can be found at http://www.thesitewizard.com/domain/domain-name-parking-explained.shtml
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