Ok, you have an idea and a vision for sharing your knowledge on the web or you’re starting a small business and want to create an online presence where people can find you. As long as you have little patience, and an attitude to stick with it, even you can create a web presence.
You don’t have to know HTML, although it is helpful. You don’t have to be a computer artist, just resourceful. You don’t have to be a computer programmer, you just need some of the same tools they use.
But before you begin any of that, you need to decide two things. Do you create a website or do you create a blog? That depends on what you want to do. And what are you going to call your new web space?
If you’re an individual who wants to share your knowledge, or hobby and interests, a blog would be great for you. It requires some up front set up and design, then you simply make posts whenever you want that are as easy as typing a letter and pushing a button.
If your business is a service company, than a blog might be exactly what you need as well. In your design you can create a static front page, and generate posts for subject matter expertise, news or sales and discounts. You need to shell out a lot of money for some computer consulting firm that will charge you a lot more than necessary. And you don’t need to rely on your Account’s teen age son who has been “playing with computers since he was 6”.
The Blog Approach
The great thing about blogs is that you don’t need to know the technical code behind them; though it really can help. But even that’s not as difficult as you might think. And similar to your smart phone, there’s often an App for that. Nearly everything a business wants to do on a blog, someone has created an app to do exactly that. But on a blog, they’re called Plugins or Widgets. They’re not the same thing, but we’ll talk about that later.
If you’re a company who wants to create an online store, you have a wide range of choices. A website might give you more control over your presentation and provide more robust shopping cart software to satisfy your every need. But blogs are catching up to speed with that technology as well. So you still have a choice. Online shopping requires a bit more technical knowledge and it’s important to know exactly what you want or need to do. It might be better for your small online shopping business to start out on eBay or Amazon where you can create a store front on their application network.
But if you really want your own place, you can do that too. And there are some great resources to help you decide what you want, need and can do.
- eCommerce Basics: 10 Questions to Ask When Creating an Online Store – at Entrepreneur.com
- 6 Tips for Building a Web-Based Store – at the Wall Street Journal (wsj.com)
- 12 E-Commerce Solutions for Small Businesses – at Business News Daily
Creating A Domain Name
So you’ve decided on a blog or website, now you need both a name and domain name for your site. A domain name is your address on the web. For instance (yahoo.com) is a domain name. Your domain should be something that identifies the content of your site. It’s your visitors first perception of who you are and what you offer. Think about how you look at domain names when you’re searching the web for information. When you’re looking for medical information and the search returns a domain called “beerdrinkers.com”, would you go to that site first for the medical information you’re seeking? Probably not.
Most registry services can provide you with suggested names if the one you’re looking for is taken. But there are some things you want to keep in mind. If someone has a domain called awardstoday.com, but awards-today.com is available; it may not be a good alternative. The general public isn’t used to dashes, underscores or other characters in a domain name. Letters and numbers are more often the norm.
Also, if you register a .com name, you might also think of registering the .net and .org versions as well. This helps protect your presence on the web from copycatters. For instance, PagansPath.com, PagansPath.net and PagansPath.org all point to the same website. These additional registrations for the .net and .org are typically referred to as “parking a domain”. The .com is the main advertised site, but all three can be used to access that single web site.
If you like acronyms for your business, PLEASE keep in mind how they might appear. In Charlotte North Carolina there’s a company called Professional Mail Services, PMS. Seriously? You want your domain name to be PMS.com? But acronyms aren’t the only bad business domain names.
What about these:
Choosespain.com? That can be read as either “choose Spain” or, “chooses pain.” Whorepresents.com, they meant Who Re-Presents, but unfortunately it is often mistaken for “whore presents.” And don’t even get us started on Masterbaitonline.com, I’m sure the Master Bait and Tackle Online store wishes they hadn’t gone there. Want more examples? Check out the 21 Most Awkward Website Names from HuffingtonPost. My personal favorite Ferreth and Jobs, PA or FerrithandJobs.com. It made me laugh; a lot!
Your domain name is more than web address. It tells people who you are before they even arrive. So be careful how you choose your name. There are a few really good domain name generators you can use. Some are free, others will do it for you for a fee. Top 3 Domain Name Generators. Even a name generator can’t give you all the possibilities. So you might still need to do some thinking on your own.
If your domain name is going to appear on you business cards or a work vehicle, keep in mind how it’s going to look. Make it easy to remember. Integrity Plumber Protection could be iPlumberPros. Electric Power Systems might be ePowerSys.com; even if it looks like e powersys, it’s still memorable and not derogatory. Much like timey wimey things.
Simply take some time, write out your domain name in various ways and look at it from all angels. You’ll come up with a name you can live with and one that will express your desires.
Registering Your Domain
Back in the very early days of Domain name registration, there was one and only one company who handled the task, Network Solutions. We’ll skip the back story, but an anti-trust suit was filed and on November 30, 1999 under the supervision of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the market was opened to other businesses. As the structure was developed and tested, several testbed registrars began using this new approach as early as March 11, 1999. Since then, over 900 registrars have entered the market for domain name registration services. The competition created by the shared registration system enables end users to choose from many registrars offering a range of related services at varying prices.
There are many registration/hosting services that offer you cut-rate deals on registering a domain name. Some offer to manage the domain for you. If you are creating your website yourself, I don’t recommend many of these services. If you want to make changes later down the road, it could cost you additional fees, or delay your ability to make changes from a day to a week or more.
Instead, I still recommend people register their domain at Network Solutions (netsol.com). You gain complete control over you domain and if you like their hosting service package, you can even host your site with them. Though I don’t recommend that part.
There are some popular alternatives, namely GoDaddy.com. If you want to be nickle and dimed to death; go for it. I can’t stand GoDaddy and have had more problems customizing, changing or moving sites from their services than any other service provider.
At Network Solutions, you have the option of setting up a free domain management account to manage changes to your domain through out its life. I highly recommend this. Whither you want to change your mailing address, email, or other contact information, to your owner name, or moving from one host to another, you control your domain. And NetSol does make it easy to do all these things. Also, if you really get into this and begin to register more than one domain, the NetSol management account will allow you to mange all your domains in one place. Something that’s VERY useful.
Now once you have a domain you need a place that will host your website. This is where things get tricky. Used to be you could go to HostFinders.com and compare hosting packages side by side. But they don’t exist anymore. It’s also hard to write an article like this with links to service providers because while this information doesn’t change a lot, the resources do. So do a Google Search for “web host comparisons” and check out the latest business articles that do these comparisons for you. Check out those articles from PCworld.com, cNet.com and business periodicals like the Wall Street Journal, Business News Daily and Entrepreneur.
But be careful and read the fine print. What looks like a good deal because it’s cheap, isn’t a good deal because there are hidden costs involved or services you want that aren’t offered. So don’t just look at the price. Look for the features you’re interested in.
You want to look carefully at pricing for varying services, or the offered “all-included” packages. Does the host offer email services, if so how many email accounts can you create? Does it have an email autoresponder service (yes you want this)? Will it provide a static IP address, or is that an additional charge (and yes this is something you want too). Do they provide 24/7 support if you need help with your site and is there an extra charge for that? Space and bandwidth are also important, especially if you have an online store that becomes popular. Of course you can plan small and worry about upgrading later. But make sure the host offers competitive services for those upgrades.
Here are the providers I recommend as of this writing. But check out a side by side comparison from PCWorld.com (again at the time of this article).
BlueHost is a good place for a static or eCommerce website, or a blog. They provide installation wizards to help you install additional services in setting up your site and they have pretty good prices for their packages too.
Another good place for both. They provide installation wizards to help you install additional services in setting up your site and they have pretty good prices for their packages too.
If you want a blog, this is the place for you. But keep in mind that WordPress.com DOES NOT offer email services. So if you want an email address with your domain name, you’re not going to get it here. If that’s ok with you, then WordPress is a really nice place to host a blog and you’ll find a great deal of help in setting up special features from other bloggers and support staff.
** One thing about WordPress.com that you can’t get with the others; a free blog! You don’t have to register a domain name to begin your web presence for blogging. If you want a place to write, but you’re not sure if you’re going to like this, then start out free and see where it takes you. Your blog will be whatyoucallit.wordpress.com. So this might not be something you want to do for your business. But you can switch that domain to one of your choosing later on for a small fee. You can even register the new domain through WordPress to do it.
So if you like MyPinkFuzzies.com as a domain name, but you’re not sure you want to spend money on it yet; sign up for the free blog MyPinkFuzzies.Wordpress.com and find out if you like blogging. If that domain name isn’t available when it comes around time for you to register it, WordPress will help you with alternative names. But remember; you will not be able to have firstname.lastname@example.org. But like everything else in the world, you can find an eMail host who will get you that email account; for a fee of course. Google offers this, if you want to find a place that does that kind of thing.
I guess this might be a good time to say, if you want a blog, I recommend WordPress. While there are competitors and alternatives, they’re not as user-friendly and some aren’t up to par as much as WordPress is.
Whatever you decide, remember that the site is only the first part of the task of being found. You still have to engage in an Internet Marketing campaign.
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