Your first introduction to the internet may seem like a language lesson. I have found over the years that computers and computer people speak a foreign language. Translation services are often required.
DomainName -- many people actually buy a domain name before they start designing a website. This is one of the areas where I see my customers run into trouble over time. So, to start out: a domain name is the short-cut address that people will type into their browser to find you. For writers, this is often your name or your pen-name. It can also be something that identifies you with your writing. However, it must be unique. If your name is John Smith, you may have trouble getting www.johnsmith.com registered. You'll want to take some time picking your name. To check and see if the name you want is available, don't bother with a domain name search, just type the name you want into your browser.
Should you use ".com"? Generally, yes. ".us" for United States, ".ca" for Canada, and other international codes work as well and may be easier to get. It is important to get the right ending. While ".edu" may be available for what you want, if you aren't an educational institution, you may find that you lose customers that way simply because they don't think to look for you under ".edu". Alternately, if you are in competition with another name that IS using ".com" you'll find your advertising doing THEM more good than it does you.
Here's the problem with a domain name: you are registering it for a period of time. You can't "own" a domain name, you lease it. Just like leasing commercial real estate, any value you add to it goes with it when the lease is up. Value? What value is there in a name? Well, some names have sold for millions of dollars after the value has been added. Will your name ever be worth a million dollars? Maybe not. However, I wonder if the person who originally purchased "CreditCards.Com" thought it would become as popular as it did?
You add value to that name every time someone clicks on it or enters it into a web browser. Those clicks become part of the "history" of that domain. And history is gold. Consider this: someone enters your name into a search engine. The search engine looks through all of the listings it has that mention you. It finds a fan site that has a history of lots of hits, then it finds your brand new website...not so many hits. Guess which it is likely to list first? Everyone wants their website listed at the top of a search listing. There are companies who will charge you a lot of money for promises to get you the #1 slot, or to just guarantee you'll be on the first page. Don't buy it. Save your money. No one can promise that. Companies that make those promises are often using what's called "black hat" techniques to artificially inflate the hit count on a site. It may work for a while, but when the search engines catch on, they'll often ban your site...completely. Ouch.
So, you buy your domain name -- and we'll get to how to do that in a minute -- and a year goes by. If you don't renew your lease with them, guess what happens to your domain name? It goes up for sale to the highest bidder. I recently requested a quote on an average domain name only to find that the company wanted $10,000 for it. I've had a couple of friends who didn't pay attention to this minor detail -- and wound up having to start all over with a new domain name, losing email addresses and their customers in the process.
Have I made it clear that buying a domain name is something you want to pay attention to?
Now for the good news. Everyone wants to help you buy the domain name you want. When you're ready, you'll have opportunities to buy an unused domain name for about $10 or less. I'm going to suggest that you get your domain name through your hosting company. The reason being: hosting companies are invested in your success. Many of them will give you a discount or even give you the name for free. Also, the domain name has to be set up to work with the hosting company, so you'll save yourself a step by combining the process. You'll have one bill instead of two, and -- if they're good -- they'll also be more likely to remind you ahead of time.
Up next...content is king.