17 April 2007

Domain setup and the importance of domain names

I am going to describe a general setup issue here that relates both to blogs and websites - the issue of choosing your domain name or website name.

If you are going to set up a web presence you have two main options;

1) Obtain your own domain name with web-hosting.
2) Obtain a sub domain of an existing domain with web hosting.

Now I describe them this way because a number of the more specific ways of having a web presence can in fact be seen as variations on these two themes.

If you think of the communities that are currently so popular - sites such as myspace, blogspot and so on you can view these as essentially offering you a web presence in the form of a subdomain of their domain.

You may be able to obtain a more flexible form of web hosted sub-domain. If you use a blogspot account for example you are essentially tied to Googles blogging software ( although this can be addressed to point to your own domain space if you have one).

If you obtain a more flexible subdomain package however you may be able to use more flexible content management software (CMS) or alternative blogging software which gives you a wider range of choices.

The importance of domain names
The most flexible arrangement is of course to purchase your own domain name and hosting package. This will often allow you to create additional subdomains of your own name and is likely to come with things like FTP accounts, webmail and other resources.

The main advantage of this route is that you have more control over the name of your web site. With a subdomain you only have control over the subdomain element of the name but with a purchased domain name you have the choice of the domain name which reflects your site.

Choice of domain name is by no means a minor matter. The choices you make at this stage will have a potential impact on your Internet visibility further down the line - so choose your domain name or your blog address with care.

The name you choose should be catchy and if possible reflect the nature and purpose of your website. This may not be easy as many of the best web site names have already been taken. So be prepared to search for variations of the name you are seeking. Develop a list of potential names before you search to see if they are available.

The domain name is important because it can have some influence on your search ranking. Search ranking is something we will be returning to frequently and is one of the most critical factors that will affect your web site earnings.

You need to put yourselves in the mind of your potential customers or readers. What words are they likely to be using when searching for a service like that provided by your site. What words will they use when searching for the information you are offering. Try to incorporate the most important of these words into the name that you choose for your domain. This will help you as you try to develop " brand recognition" for your site.

When searching for a good domain name remember that single words are best ( but very very difficult to find) or short memorable two or three word phrases. The advice is that usually you should avoid hyphens in a phrase. Remember also that dot com names are the most highly sought after.

Of course I didn't think much about these matters when I first started this blog. I wasn't even sure I was going to continue blogging for long then. I had followed this advice for domains that I owned but not for this blog. Ah Well we all live and learn!

Your domain name and your email address
If you have your own domain name, you also usually can have multiple email aliases of the form someone@website.com. With this you are able to use different email aliases for different purposes. For example for enquiries about your products and services you could use an email address such as sales@website.com. For customer feedback you could use an email address such as feedback@website.com.

Having different email addresses makes it easier for you to filter your email using your email client program and but gives customers the sense that yours is more than a one person operation.

Your domain name and the search engines
If you develop a site hosted by some of the free web hosts using a sub-domain, you will find that it is hard to get it listed in a major directory like Yahoo!. It can be very difficult anyway to get listed by Yahoo! so its best not to give yourself extra problems.

Some search engines may not even spider your sites if you are using a free hosting service and a sub-domain. Search engines are the lifeblood of traffic for most websites so again why give yourself extra problems? Its best to get a proper domain name and have it hosted if you want to be sure of search engine inclusion.

Even if you get listed using a hosted sub-domain you may find that it is harder to get a high search engine ranking. The search engines seem to give a lot of weight to the root or home page of a domain so again having your own domain name means that you are going to increase your chances of getting a good listing.

Taking everything into consideration the best route is to buy a domain name and have it hosted ( you can of course use free hosting for that and you still get the advantages of having a domain name). Even if you are going to use one of the pre-packaged arrangements such a blogspot or some other form of sudomain arrangement you should still choose the name carefully. You may not have control over the main domain part of your website name but you can and should still choose a good name for the sub-domain part.

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