Why your Web Site MUST have a Domain name . . . and how to get one

1. What is a Domain Name ?

A domain name is a unique name that identifies an internet resource such as a website. Domain names are formed by the rules of the Domain Name System (DNS). Any name registered in the DNS is a domain name.

2. What makes a good Domain Name ?

The key elements of a good domain name are

2.1 It should convey effectively the nature of your business

A name such as golfnews.com will immediately give the reader an idea of what the site contains, with no further description. It will also be easy to recall from memory at a later time.

But, a warning, you must also plan ahead for any future diversity.

Suppose you then decide to provide news about other sporting activities. It would make no sense to set up new names such as golfnews.com/boxing golfnews.com/tennis The name of your site should be generic in order to allow for future variation. If you had chosen the more general "sportsnews.com" this gives you the flexibility to add sportsnews.com/golf sportsnews.com/boxing sportsnews.com/tennis

2.2 It should be easy to remember and to spell.

Think of the situations when you need to convey the spelling of your Url. It could be in spoken format (during a conversation, a phone call, in your voice mail) or printed format (on all your stationery). You want to make it as easy as possible for your customer to record it and to recall it later and, hopefully, to communicate it to others.

You need to avoid a name that is too long or one with confusing characters such as '~' or '-' or mixing 'I' with '1' (And just how do you explain the tilde sign '~' over the phone ?)

3. What are the benefits of a Domain Name ?

3.1. Portability

A domain name means that you are free to move to a different web host or ISP and leave the name unchanged. Why would you want to move ? Some of the reasons could be:

  • A better standard of support (quick response and competent replies to technical questions)
  • Lower prices
  • Faster connectivity to your site
  • Better tools and features

Whatever the reason you are no longer tied to your old ISP.

3.2. A professional image for your company

Would you feel comfortable about ordering goods offline from a company based at Flat 4a, Dodgy Street, Cheaptown or about sending an order online to an Email address of perkins23@localisp.com , where there is no way of finding any information about the company such as the postal address. Contrast this to ordering from sales@VCRworld.com where you have the option of obtaining company details through their registered domain name (via http://www.internic.net/whois.html).

Think of the credibility it lends to your company to have a name based on the business: contrast this to a cheap sounding name possibly hosted on a free site.

3.3. Ease of use for your customer

A well chosen domain name will be shorter to enter into a browser and easier to say over the phone or appear on a business card. In addition a customer may guess that your site name is www.[yourcompany].com and reach it successfully.

3.4. Submission to search engines

Some search engines may not accept submissions from free (non-domain) sites

4. How to register a Domain Name

Domain names can be registered through many different companies (known as "registrars") - a listing of these companies is available at ICANN: http://www.icann.org

You can register for 1 to 10 years - prices can vary anywhere between $10 to $20 per year.

Most Web Hosting companies will handle the registration process for you, but make sure that you are properly listed as the owner of the domain when it is registered.

5. How to choose a Web Host

If you have a business site on the web then you should aim for nothing less than a professional hosting site providing 24 hours support, who will give you a domain name - not one which incorporates their own name.

Although a domain name will simplify your move to another provider if you are not happy, it is best to choose right the first time. Technical features apart here is a useful rule for choosing any company which provides a service: ensure that their level of support is first rate.

Do not tolerate automated messages with false promises to respond in 24 hours. Ignore what they claim to achieve and prove it for yourself. Send in questions and observe the quality and speed of response.

6. How to transfer to a domain site

If you are moving from a non-domain site to a domain site, typically with a new provider, you will not want to lose all the traffic currently visiting your old site.

Such traffic is coming from, for example

  • Other sites linking to yours
  • Existing articles or sales letters submitted to newsgroups or forums
  • Existing ads at other web sites
  • First, you change the individual pages on your old site to point to the new site.

For example,

"We have now moved to another site. Click here to visit new site".

You can find which sites are linking to you, if they are registered in a given search engine, by searching for "link:old address". You will then need to make contact with these sites and inform them of the new name.

However it is likely that there will still be unidentified sources conveying visitors to your site. What you can do is to ask the visitor where he heard about your site prior to redirecting him. A free gift may provide the incentive which provides this information.

Ideally you should have counters to tell you how many times your old pages are being accessed. Once you feel that no more traffic is reaching your old site or that it does not justify the cost of maintaining it you can cancel the original site. A final tip - depending on your relationship with your old provider there is no need to announce your intention to move until you are ready.