Thinking of starting your own website or blog? With sites like WordPress.com, Squarespace and Blogger it’s never been easier. With absolutely no programming or design experience you could have a professional looking website or blog to help you sell yourself to both your industry and your professional employer within minutes. These sites can be used as online resumes or portfolios, “hire me” pages, professional blogs, or just about anything else you can think of with only one catch: What happens when you outgrow the free (or very cheap) service you started?
Getting started with your website is easy. Growing your website is where the real work comes in. Sites like Problogger.net and others are full of stories of both how to get started quickly and how to overcome the myriad of growing pains every site owner will face. Of all the lessons taught and learned however the one that folks miss the most is about the one thing that will identify them online to others, their Domain Name.
I’ve heard time and time again excuses such as “I’m just getting started and I don’t want to spend the money” or “It’s too difficult to set up my own name” or even “the name I want is taken so I’m just going to use whatever my website service provided.” While all of these might have some validity, for about 5 seconds, here’s the truth.
Whether your name is John Smith or Smith’s Fine Jewelry or something else to people online you are whatever appears in their address bar. For example, would you be more inclined to buy something from js12345.wordpress.com or johnsmithjewelry.com? For a whole $9 (or less) buy the domain (affiliate link) name first and your audience won’t wonder who’s site they’re on later.
What about the difficulty in setting it up? Well, I’ve known quite a few people who spend more time worrying about this than they do reading the often easy instructions on the screen that can get them going in about 30 seconds. All of the major registrars I’ve used over the years make buying and setting up your domain name easier than buying a pizza from papajohns.com (which by the way is one of the most usable sites I know of). There simply isn’t anything to it. If you get stuck chat with their support. You’ll be up and running fast without any headache.
So what about what to do when your name is not available. This one is a little trickier. If you want your own name or to create a site for your personal business you might try hyphens (ie john-smith.com instead of johnsmith.com) or some other variation. If you want to start an online presence it is absolutely imperative that you reserve the name right off the bat and, in some cases, be willing to work with your business name to fit an available .com. If it’s a personal site look at a pseudonym or nickname etc. Taking something else just because what you really want will only make it that much harder for your customers to find you later.
Finally, while I’ve already covered a few good reasons to get started with your own domain name, one of the best and most overlooked reasons I’ve dealt with is, of all things, success. What happens if your site or blog gets popular? If you move to another host can you take your name with you? Changing the name of a website or relaunching under a new name can kill your traffic faster than a rain storm can kill a baseball game. Getting a good domain name up front will allow you to move your site to a new host or service without your customers noticing any loss of service or dead links on Google or another search engine.
Simply put, with your own domain name your website becomes portable and will be able to grow and move with you. Getting it right from the start will better identify you to your audience, create more trust with your audience, and allow you to grow yourself online as your audience grows.