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Webmaster Series Part 1 – Domain Names

I’m starting a series of posts that teach you how to get started as a webmaster. It is going to be very specific and written so that somebody with no knowledge in this area can get started. The only thing I won’t cover is how a site looks graphically. If you put your site together the way I specify you will be able to get a good designer to come in and make it look nice and you will be able to change designs easily in the future.

Part 1: Domain Names
The first step to any website is to decide on a domain name. (ex. www.domain.com) There are situations where some people choose to not own their domain name. They use a subdmoain off of a major domain like “myname.blogger.com” or “myname.myhost.com”. The biggest problem with this is that you do not own it. They can take it down and you can do nothing about it. If you own your own domain you can move your domain and website to a new web host in a few minutes. I have also seen people own their domain name but use their ISP email address for their business email. This is a very bad idea. You want your email and your web traffic to come to something you own and control. As long as you own a domain you control what it points to.

I am assuming you have already decided what you want your site to be about. If you have ever tried to find a domain before you know how hard it is to find one that has not already been registered. So if you sell shoes don’t expect to get shoes.com, cheapshoes.com, or even reallycheapshoes.com just by registering it. You may have to purchase it in the aftermarket. Domains are like real estate. You would not be upset if somebody owned an empty field that you would like to build your business on. You would just find out who owned it and buy it. I’m not saying you have to buy a domain in the aftermarket just that it is an option.

There are several factors in choosing a domain name and depending on your goals there are different rules in choosing a domain name.

Brick and Mortar
This means that you have a business address and you don’t work out of your home. You have business cards and may even have some sort of non web based advertising. The strictest rules apply to this category. Getting a “.com” is a must. If your domain is to ever be heard out loud you want a “.com”. The reason is most people associate “.com” with the Internet. If you tell them your domain name they may remember the first part but might forget the “.net”. If you could only get a “.net” that means that somebody owns the “.com ‘ and when that person forgets the suffix they will type in your competitors address. Even if they are thinking “.net” they may still type in “.com” out of habit.

Next you need to pick a name for your domain. You want to keep it as short as you can. You also want to make sure that it is spelled the way it sounds. You don’t want to have to repeat it several times or have to spell it out to people any more than you have to. It does not have to be a real word as long it is easy to spell and remember. It can be a contraction of 2 words run together like cheapshoes.com. Don’t use dashes for the same reason you don’t want to use a non “.com”. (ex. cheap-shoes.com). There is a good chance you are going to have to buy a domain name so that you have something you can market. Who knows you might get lucky and find one that somebody let expire.

Gateway Website
This is when you are driving traffic to another website. You can be sending to your own main website or to an affiliate program. An affiliate program is where a company pays you for your traffic. You can use a “.net” or “.org” but people put more trust in a “.com”. You can use dashes. I would still try to keep it short and no more than one dash. Any more and it looks less legit. There is some search engine value in the words you pick for your domain but not like most people think. Google does not care what your domain name is but people who link to you do. You are less likely to get links to your site if the domain looks spammy. People also tend to use the words in your domain name to link to you.

Home Office
This is a very popular subject. Everybody seems to want to work out of their house. You can set up a website and make money selling something or providing a service people need. This really has the same rules as Brick and Mortar. The only difference is that you don’t have to keep it so short. It can be 3 words contracted together. I would still stay away from dashes because you are going to want people to type in your domain and tell their friends.

Obtaining a Domain
You get a domain at a domain registrar. There are hundreds to choose from. One thing to bear in mind is that there really are only a few true registrars out there. Most of the ones you see are resellers of the main ones. The big ones out there in no particular order are Godaddy, Yahoo, Register.com, Network Solutions, Moniker, Enom, DomainNameSystems.com and Google. They all have different prices. I personally use Moniker. I know the guys that run it and one of the things they are known for is protecting your domain. They all have their own registering system.

I will just talk about things you might see along the way on all of them. First you need to find an available domain. Then you follow the instructions to buy that domain. All of them will try to up sell you on all kinds of things. Just read the product descriptions so you know what they are before you decide you need one of them. The only thing I use a registrar for is to register my domain. They offer things like web hosting, privacy, email hosting, and web development. Other than privacy all these things can be found elsewhere. I don’t see the need for domain privacy. There is nothing wrong with it I just don’t see the need. They do offer certificates which you will need if you are going to be taking credit cards on your website.

The important things you need to set up are DNS and renew. I set my domains to auto renew so that I don’t forget to renew them later and I lose them. A domain is registered for a period of time from 1 to 10 years. Some even offer 100 year registrations. The Internet works on IP addresses, which is a series of numbers, separated by periods (ex That is very hard to remember so that is why domain names were invented. The DNS or Domain Name System was set up to connect the 2. When you register a domain you have to tell the registrar who is in charge of mapping your IP address to your Domain Name. This is your web host. If you don’t have a web host yet you can leave it to the default that the registrar gives you. When you sign up for web hosting they will give you the DNS server you need to enter at your registrar. I will cover this more in the next post on web hosting.

[tags]domain name, DNS, domain register, domain registrar, Domain Name System, web site setup, web site tutorial, domain tutorial[/tags]

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