If you are doing business, online or offline, you need a website. When potential clients go looking for you (or for someone who does what you do) they look online. If you are not there, they won’t find you. And I am shocked at the number of times I meet someone or hear about a new business and find no trace of them (or perhaps only a Facebook page) online.
If you are in business, you need a website of some kind as your online presence. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive, but it needs to be there.
Before you set up a website, you need to register a domain name. The domain name, or URL, is the address of your website that people enter to reach your site. For example, the URL of my primary site is IdeaLady.com.
Registering domain names is easy and inexpensive. There are hundreds (thousands?) of places to buy them.
Are All Domain Registrars the Same?
They will all have access to the same .com domains, but there may be differences in pricing and services. Prices can vary from one domain registrar to another, but most will be around $10 or so a year for a .com. Some registrars offer deep discounts for the first year, then charge much more for renewals, knowing that most people are unlikely to move to another registrar. Saving a few dollars on your initial domain registration fee could cost a lot later.
Every registrar has people who love them and others who hate them. If you try to go by all of the opinions you read online you will make yourself crazy. After checking out a lot of registrars, I became a reseller for a major domain registrar and buy all of my domain names there. If you want to buy your domain through me, you can do so at http://GreatDomainsHQ.com. (Because I am a reseller I make a small amount of money if you register a domain there, but I recommend them because that is the service I chose for my ~200 domains.)
Choosing a Good Domain Name
Your domain name is important. It may be the first thing a potential customer learns about your business, so it needs to present your business effectively. You may use your business name, your own name, some keywords that describe what you do, or other relevant terms. Here’s a tip: You can have more than one domain name, and send them all to the same location or to specific pages within your site. For example, I not only own IdeaLady.com, I also have TheIdeaLady.com, CathyStucker.com, KathyStucker.com and other domain names pointing to the same site.
Register a Domain Name
Before you go to register a domain name, come up with several possible names. It isn’t 1994 anymore, and lots of domain names have been claimed. Have several possible names in mind so that if your first choice isn’t available you can use one of your backups.
Get a .com. There are lots of other Top Level Domains (TLDs), such as .net, .info, .co, etc., but most people think of .com when they enter a web address. Choose a different TLD and you may end up sending your customers to competitors. Most domain registrars will encourage you to register the .net, .org and other TLDs of your domain. This is not necessary, although I am sure it is very profitable for them. I did register IdeaLady.co, just because I thought some people might mistype IdeaLady.com and end up there. I didn’t want them to land on someone else’s site.
rite right. If your first choice of domain name is not available, you may be tempted to go with a misspelling, such as “UrBestJewelry” instead of “YourBestJewelry.” Avoid that impulse. People will have a hard time remembering which spelling to use, and may end up on someone else’s site instead of yours. In fact, try to stay away from words that will be confusing, including numbers. (Is it “SixSecrets” or “6Secrets”?) If you choose a domain name that could have two ways of spelling it, see if you can register both versions and point both at your site.
When you find that one of the domains you like is available, buy it. Now. Not later. If you wait to think about it or talk it over with someone else or whatever, it could be gone when you come back. Years ago I was trying to register a domain name for a client. In the couple of hours it took her to get back to me, her first choice was gone.
Choose either a public or private registration. Public registrations will be visible in the whois.com directory. The whois directory allows people to type in a website and view the owner’s name and contact information. I don’t bother with private registration, but if you do not want your personal information shown, choose private instead of public. It will cost a bit more, but if keeping your contact information private is important to you, it will be worth it.
Domain registrations must be renewed annually. At the time of registration you can pay for a single year or multiple years. There is some evidence that registering for several years is a good signal to the search engines. They figure that you and the site will be around for the long haul, and may give your site more authority in the search results. That may or may not be true, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to register at least your primary domain for more than one year.
Set up your domains to auto-renew and make sure you keep a current credit card on file with the registrar. Many people have lost their domain names because they got busy, forgot to renew, missed the reminder emails, etc. Don’t be that guy.
Perhaps the most important thing about registering a domain name is to NEVER let anyone else register the domain for you in their name. Lots of website designers do this for their clients. Or to their clients. If you hire someone to set up a website, DO NOT allow them to register the domain name under their name. If they do, you do not have control of your website. If they get mad at you, go out of business or die, you will lose your website. I have seen this happen to people who should have known better.
Ideally, you should register the domain name yourself and use your credit card. That way you will know where the domain is registered, you will have the log in and password to manage the account and you will control renewal of the name. Without these things you do not control your website and you are at risk of losing it.
Once you have your domain name, you can set up a website. For that you will need a hosting account. I recommend http://MyFavoriteWebHost.com/. (That is an affiliate link that will take you to the webhosting company I recommend and use.) You can host multiple sites in one account, there are lots of features and programs included (including site builders and easy WordPress installation), their support is top notch, and the price is very reasonable (under $10 a month). You can register domain names through them also (and they give you one domain name free for the first year) but I prefer to keep domain registration and hosting separate. I don’t know if it matters, but I prefer not to keep all of my eggs in one basket.
The best time to set up a website was five years ago. The second best time is today. If you don’t have a website, get one now. Go to http://GreatDomainsHQ.com/ or your chosen domain registrar and get your domain name. Then get your hosting account at http://MyFavoriteWebHost.com/. Setting up a website or WordPress blog is easy there, but if you run into problems their tech support staff can help.
Do it now and start building your online business today!