E-Class #03

Website 101: Domain Names, Hosting and ISPs

Claim some territory!

The very first step towards a website for your business is registering an effective domain name, which essentially carves out a space for your business on the Internet. This is the address text that someone will type in their browser to find your website. It typically looks like this: http://www.yourwebsiteaddress.com. All of your website files and pages will be located "under" the domain "yourwebsiteaddress."

A URL (or Uniform Resource Locator) is the complete address that appears in the address bar of the website you’re viewing. For example, http://www.yourwebsiteaddress.com/blog/20100505/how-to-build-a-website.html.

Choosing a domain name is not an exact science, especially since many short and sweet domains are already registered. In the old days you could register pretty much any name you could think of; there were plenty of options available. Since nearly everyone has a website the choices are slimmer. But that’s not to say that yours is taken.

Think of domain names that are easy to remember and stand out in some way. It should describe what your business does or offers, and include your business name, without getting too long. It should also make use of your keywords (the words that your visitors will type into search engines to find you) and end in .com or .net.

  1. When you have a few ideas, go to http://www.GoDaddy.com or http://www.NameCheap.com. There are other options out there, but I find these are the most popular and most reliable registration services. They also offer hosting and design services, which makes them a convenient choice.
  2. To see if your preferred domain name is available, enter it into the search field, select the ".net" and ".com" boxes and click search.
  3. If it is available, I recommend registering both .com and .net versions. This will cost you between $12 and $30 each, depending on the package you choose and the length of time you wish to register the domain for.
  4. Click "register" and follow the steps through the checkout.

Here's a handy step-by-step tutorial we've created which will walk you through the domain registration process at NameCheap.com

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If you already have a domain name for your business – and you’ve had it for a while – you should stick with it. Not only are your customers familiar with it, but search engines give higher page ranking to established websites that have been up for a while. Dead set on updating your domain? Use a 301 redirect to point the old site to the new one. If you’re not sure what this is or how to do it, ask your tech guy to set it up for you

Set up a place to store your domain and website files

Every website needs to be hosted somewhere. Hosting is a service that stores the programming files that control the design and layout of your website on a secure server. The size and traffic volumes of a website typically determine where a site should be hosted and how much that site will cost to host.

GoDaddy offers hosting services, which is a convenient option for simple, content-based sites with medium traffic volumes. If you’re planning to use your website to sell products, publish numerous content pages, images and video and work towards substantial traffic volumes you should look at services like Host Gator (http://www.hostgator.com) and Host Monster (http://www.hostmonster.com).

To set up your account, simply click on the links above, select a hosting plan and follow the instructions. You’ll be asked for your domain name, contact and billing information. When you’re all done you have a place to put the files you create.

Here's a handy step-by-step tutorial we've created which will walk you through the hosting registration process at HostGator.com

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Make sure as you set up these new accounts that you keep track of your login details and passwords, and that those logins are all in your name. If someone else is assisting you with this, make sure that you retain ownership and control over the settings that are established. The last thing you want is for that person to disappear and leave you without access to the essential accounts for your site.

Lastly, you will need to point your domain to your hosting account. Here's a walkthrough of the process with NameCheap.com

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Speaking of help, what kind of experts will you need?

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are simply people who provide services related to the Internet and online marketing. ISPs include web programmers, web designers, web copywriters, keyword researchers and SEO professionals.

As you have probably experienced, it can be challenging to start to try to play all of these roles yourself. Even if you want to learn the basics yourself, it can be helpful to have an expert on board to walk you through or fix your mistakes.

At this point, you’ll likely want to recruit some tech support, like a web designer or web programmer. The best place to start is by asking your colleagues and friends for recommendations – someone they trust, and who you think has done a good job with their website. You can also look to freelance listings websites like Elance (http://www.elance.com), Craigslist (http://www.craigslist.org) and Guru (http://www.guru.com). Take your time and screen through applicants carefully. You’re putting some pretty important elements of your marketing in their hands.

I hope this makes the process of getting started a little easier for you and sheds some light on where you can find help. In two weeks you’ll work through an e-class on website design which will help you put the whole package together.

Your next e-class focuses on effective web copywriting. The online audience is a busy and highly distracted group, so you need to use some key techniques to make them take your desired action.

As always, please do send me an email if you have any questions or feedback about the course.

See you next week!

Hugh Tafel