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Domain names: What you need to know

If you need a domain name, or you have a domain name and are not sure of what to do next, this article is for you.

Domain names are where you start when you want to have a website. Domain names are the URL or “address” for your website. The one for this website is hilltopwebsolutions.com. You’ll see it in the white search bar at the top of the page. It is the digital address for your website, meaning when someone types it in to google or the address bar, that person sees the content you have published on your page.

How do you get one?

Anyone can purchase a domain name from a domain registrar. There are a lot of them out there and it is usually an easy process. Many people purchase their domain name from GoDaddy, NameCheap, IONOS, Google Domains or other vendors. You can visit any one of these vendors and type in the address you want to purchase and then put in your credit card and buy it. If it is not available, it will say that it is not available, and then offer you some similar suggestions that ARE available. Once you buy it, it’s yours!

Important notes on your domain name choice:

You must choose your domain name carefully. It establishes your brand identify, credibility, and can help you with SEO. A relevant domain name can help improve your visibility on search engines like Google, making it easier for potential customers or supporters to find you. And a “real” domain name helps your visitors understand you are a real business and not just a side hustle. For example, domainname.weebly.com is not a real domain name. It is a turnoff to visitors, telling them you are not a serious business. Same with domainname.wordpress.com. Get a real one and watch your credibility and professionalism improve. A couple of notes about your choice:

  1. Choose a domain name that is as short as possible and as close to your business name and organization name as possible. Something easy to remember so that you can say it to someone you meet and they can remember it. Or something that will fit on your business card without being too long.
  2. You want to avoid acronyms as much as possible like ZXYRG.com. Many organizations like to shorten their domain by using an acronym but sometimes it can be confusing for visitors.
  3. You’ll also want to avoid numbers for the same reason.
  4. Use the correct file extension, and get a .com if you can. And a .org if you are a non-profit. Here is a list of industry standards for the “extension” or end part of your domain name:
    • .com: The most popular and versatile option, for businesses and nonprofits
    • .org: Used by nonprofits and organizations that are not commercial but may not yet have a 501c(3) designation
    • .net: Originally for network-related businesses but now used more broadly
    • .biz: Short for “business,” often used by small businesses. Don’t do it. It’s not as professional as a .com
    • .edu: Reserved for educational institutions

Important notes on your purchase:

  1. Domain names are pretty inexpensive. Usually $12-25 per domain name unless it is a domain that is very in demand.
  2. Once you buy it – you’re not done. You now have to put content (web pages) online somewhere and point your domain to the site and pages.

How it works:

Now the fun part! Publishing content online and pointing your domain name to it! Get yourself a website designer (like Hilltop Marketing) to design your site. We design on a staged URL and apply the newly redesigned site to the domain name when it’s ready to publish. How it works is that you go into your domain name registrar and edit the DNS records. You’re going to point the A record to where your pages are hosted to; or change the nameservers to where your content is hosted.

Wait..what?? If you are starting to hear a wobble wobble in your head like an adult on Peanuts …don’t worry – your website designer will take care of this part for you.

Email Addresses:

You can have email addresses tied to your domain name. You can purchase email accounts through your domain registrar or through a third party. As long as you have access to your domain name registrar and DNS you can set up your email box accounts. So much more professional to have your email address be susie@nameofbusiness.com vs. susie@gmail.com.

Set Up Renewals For Peace of Mind:

It’s important to keep a tight pulse on your domain name and not to let it expire without you renewing it. Many business owners have typed in their website address to find their website down and then realized that it is because the domain name expired, and they have to pay a hefty fee to reinstate it. Or worse – that they lost it because someone else purchased it during the time it was not renewed. All that can be avoided by making sure you are set up with your credit card for auto-renewal AND that you are receiving the email notifications from your domain name registrar. You may also want to choose pay extra for privacy protection to keep your personal information private.

A story about a lesson learned:

A message from Leigh Ann… When Hilltop Marketing started, I made quite a few mistakes with my domain name and I hope you all can learn from them!

Mistake #1: The domain name hilltopmarketing.com was not available so I purchased hilltopmarketing.org, not realizing that was usually reserved for nonprofits. And started emailing clients with my email address leighann@hilltopmarketing.org. Yikes.

Mistake #2: Tried to correct my mistake by purchasing hilltopmarketing.biz and used that as my website URL and for my email. Then realized it wasn’t very professional, not as professional as a .com. leighann@hilltopmarketing.biz just didn’t seem to have the polish as everyone else’s .com email address.

Mistake#3: Knew I needed a .com so I purchased hilltopwebsolutions.com. Why didn’t I just get hilltopmarketing.com? Because the market price for it is $6K and climbing. So hilltopwebsolutions.com was chosen because it had hilltop in it, it was short, and had web solutions which is what I do. But it still doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t exactly match my business name and it disrupts my branding. Clients don’t know the real name of my business. They think the business name is Hilltop Web Solutions instead of Hilltop Marketing. A full on branding snafu. So now what? Change the name of my business or pay up with a huge chunk of change? Undecided – Time will tell.

>>> All this could have been avoided if I named my business something different, something that was AVAILABLE as a .com at the time when I started my business. <<<

So don’t make the same mistakes I made and search away to find a domain name that is (1) close to your business name, (2) short and easy to remember and without acronymns, and (3)something with an appropriate domain name extention (.com!).

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