Building your own website - Step 1: Buy your domain

domainNow that we've discussed why it's important to have your own website, we can now dive in to the first step toward getting yours set up.  That would be registering your domain.

Your own custom domain will provide two main things:  the web address or URL (Universal Resource Locator) which will point to your website; and the basis to host your own custom email addresses for your business.  Before I show you how and where you should register your domain, I'd like to give you a few pointers on how to choose a good domain.

If you remember from our previous post, a large part of having a website is giving your content the opportunity to show up on search results.  This all starts with your domain name.  If possible, it always helps to have what you are about in the domain name - e.g. www.thomasdanielmusic.com.  That said, it doesn't hurt to go ahead and get just your name as the domain as well, IF it's still available.  You can easily direct multiple domains to the same website, so I usually get alternate spellings (in case users enter a typo), and the ".net", ".org", ".me", etc. versions of the address as well.  You don't want someone infringing on your "domain" (both in the web and property sense), so grabbing all related domains to point to your website can be a huge benefit if you can afford it at $10 to $35+ a year per domain registration.

But for your primary domain you want something that screams "YOU", which is unique yet simple as possible.  This can be very hard to achieve since so many domains are registered now.  In my opinion it's better to go shorter and memorable compared to long and distinct.

Another factor to consider is how easy it will ne to verbally tell someone your domain on the phone or in person.  In situations where you are talking about your website, the person will either have to write it down or remember it for the next time they are online.  So again, simplicity can be helpful.  Complex spellings or use of dashes or underscores can hurt you in this regard, so it might be better to go with an abbreviation that still makes sense.

The final thing to consider in choosing your domain is the suffix: ".com", ".net", ".me", ".us", etc.  Each domain designation has a specific meaning as to the purpose of the website, so stay away from domains using ".org" if you are not a non-profit organization.  Keep in mind that ".com" is the default domain suffix that people will type, so if at all possible try to use that for your domain.  If not, then ".me" is a good alternative since it is a relatively new suffix.  But realize that if you grab "businessname.me" when there is another company that uses "businessname.com", that could be very confusing for people when they type in what they think is your URL only to find someone else's website.  You need to stand out with your own distinct web address if possible.

Once you figure out what domain you want to go with, it's time to register it. Resist the urge to use Godaddy.com. They nickel and dime you for features like whois privacy, and while they have made some improvements to their control panel, it is still harder to use than other services. Having had to work with Godaddy for various clients, I am definitely not a fan of their service or user interface.

The services we like are Hover.com and Dreamhost.com (they offer registration even if you don't host your site with them). Hover.com is the best pure and simple domain registration service overall, and they have the best user interface - but they do cost a few bucks more per year. Dreamhost is one of the cheapest registration services, and I really like their user interface too.  Both services have top-notch customer support.  Each service has different pricing and added features, and each type of domain varies in cost, so make sure you explore each service to find out which one is the best fit for your plans before making a decision.  You can expect to spend anywhere from $9.95 to $35 or more per year on your domain.

If you are going to use a hosted website service, which we'll talk about in the next post, you can probably get a free domain registration when you sign up for certain services like Dreamhost.com, Squarespace.com, and even some of Wix.com's plans. While it makes it easier to manage all of your website related things and payments under one service, you are not required to have your domain registered with your hosting service.

We'll dive deeper into hosting services and website platforms next time, so stay tuned!