Recently someone asked us to help them setting up a website and it just occurred to us that our profession has been making a lot of assumptions. We have become so obsessed with the deep and intricate parts of SEO, Web Design, etc. that we have left the general public behind. We have become like the TV Chefs that use terms and techniques as if everyone knows what it means. Chefs talk about blanching, browning, simmering, etc. to an audience that is sitting there thinking “What the hell is blanching?”, but too scared to ask because they don’t want to ask “stupid” questions.
On that note, I have to quote one of my all time favourite teacher. My physics teacher used to say “There is no such thing as stupid question. The only stupid thing is not to ask questions”. He made us all fall in love with Physics and most of us went on to study it.
On the basis of his great advice, I am going back to basics and make the assumption that the reader of this article is new to the website ownership and wants to know how the heck you start. Those experts in SEO and Websites can stop now and read something else instead!
To set up a website you need a Domain name. Domain names are recorded with a Registrar (sort of like Land Registry) which records who has the use of a domain name. Now please note, I have said “the use of” because you never own the name of a website because you pay for the right to use the name for x number of years. So long as you pay the annual fees, you can use the name. No amount of “But I thought of this clever name” will cut it here or in a court. Trust me.
There are many registrars around the world ready to sell you “Domain Names” but of course now you know you are not buying but are renting the name. These companies include enom, Network Solutions, 123-Reg, Go-Daddy, but remember there are 1000s of them with 100s of different prices and service quality! (BTW, mentioning their name here is not a recommendation).
These are the extensions that come after the dot in your domain name for example mydomain.com vs mydomain.co.uk or mydoamain.es, etc.
Think of these as Country Codes in your telephone numbers such +1 for US, +44 for UK, +34 for Spain, etc. Unlike telephone codes, these determine your “target location” and not necessarily your physical location. So a domain with .co.uk is declaring that their target audience is the United Kingdom, or .fr is for France but .com is for Commercial (World Wide) and not as commonly mistaken belief that it means US. US has it’s own TLD and yes you guessed it, it is called .us but US has put some restrictions on who can register!
There are other non-geographical TLDs such as .org, .net and now we have many more that allows you to specify your sector such as .property or .hotel, etc.
So why the complexity? Well a number of reasons. Firstly it makes money for Registrars, after-all the Internet is now a money making machine. Secondly, it allows Search Engines to make some sense of what you do or where you expect your customers to be from. Finally, consumer perception (wrongly) assumes that a company with country TLD domain name is actually based in that country which of course you now know is not true. However, perception is reality for many.
Just one more thing! Extension or TLD has nothing to do with the language of the website. Just because your extension is ES it does not mean it is in Spanish. Language setting is part of the HTML code (lang=xx) in the Webpage Header which tells search engines and your browser the language of the page and not the entire website. Page headers are not visible to visitors unless they know how to examine the code. This code allows the web browser to display the correct characters as well as search engines to identify the language in use. So you can have a dotcom website and specify the language, page by page if you wish. Although best practice and logic says you will group them together under sub-folders e.g. mydomain.com/en/ for English and mydomain.com/es/ for Spanish pages, etc. You can even specify your languages by variants such as English (en-GB or en-US), French (fr-FR or fr-CA), Spanish (es for castilian Spanish, es-MX for Mexican Spanish), etc.
So you now know you can “Rent” a domain (because you can’t ever own it), and how you decide on the extension (TLD) that best suits your purpose without worrying about language, and how to determine your audience location, and your website language. Now we come to how you actually get hold of one, but before you do this you need to decide what to call your website!
You may wonder why I cover this first but it is very important to get this right and also because this is the fun bit!
For god sake do not go around searching for these names. Remember Internet has a serious problem with squatters! There are some very nasty people, although these days we call them opportunistic entrepreneurial people, who can get the wind of searches people make for non-existent domains. They then register the name before you and then want money from you in order for them to release the name to you. We love free markets don’t you?
Aside from extension (TLD) of the domain you need to also think of relevance as this will play later in your fight for position within Search Engine Results Page (SERP). You also want the name to make sense to your audience. For example if you have a hotel called “Orange Tree” don’t just pick orangetree.com because search engines and customers do not know if you are a tree grower, coffee shop, restaurant, etc. Look for orangetreehotel.com. You see, now everybody knows what you are and what you do.
Another thing you should avoid is difficult-to-spell words such as Sphinx or Psychedelic or similar words. Also, avoid double letters if you can, so you don’t end up with a name like cognisantassociatesspain. That double “ss” between associates and Spain will cause you eternal problems, and if it was es it would be even more confusing. That is why our parent company’s domain is cognisantassociates.co.uk even-though we are in Spain, although we were surprised to find how many people cannot spell cognisant!
This is how you should do it:
You first need to open an account with a Registrar (usually free) so that you can register your domain name. Usually this is pretty simple.
Chose a company that is nearest to you and speaks your language. This is important as when things get technical and complex you want to be talking in your native language! Also, make sure they can deal with your domain extension (TLD) as not all registrars can allocate all TLDs. If you are not sure check on their website or contact them. This could be your first test on how good their service is!
Once you have gone through their account process and validation process (each Registrar has it’s own process), then you are ready to register your domain name.
First check to see if the domain is available. Whilst logged in click on their “Buy Domain” button or section (sorry they call it “Buy” even though we all know you can’t buy it!). Look for the domain name you want and they tell you if it is available or not. If it is already taken, usually the Registrar offers you alternatives such as other TLDs or variation of the same name or phrase.
Now they try to sell you all sorts of services that you do not need or you should shop around such as:
However the things you should do are:
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