Why do I need a Domain Name?

A scary but very timely thing happened to me last week, a thing that will serve perfectly to emphasize one of the benefits of owning your own domain name. There are many more reasons to get a domain name, and I will be looking at these later in this article. This is how it happened...

I had been running a site promotion course similar to "Pr2" for a while last year, but the demands of my (new) job and various other personal reasons meant that I could not sustain the course past the first 3 issues. Once everything was sorted out, I was able to turn my attention back to the course. I decided to start from scratch, and Pr2 was born.

I thought it would be a good idea for the subscribers to the original newsletter to hear abour Pr2, so I sent out an email explaining briefly what had happened i.e. that the new course was in a way a replacement for the old one, that it would be based at this site and covering this stuff etc. etc. I explained clearly at the top of the message that I was emailing people because they had already signed up for the course.

About 3 days' later, I received a terse (but not unfriendly) message from the Postmaster of my ISP, warning me that he had received several complaints about spam I had sent, and that he was thinking of shutting down my account with their company...

This story has a happy ending. After I explained to the Postmaster what the background was, and showed him the message I sent out, he agreed that the people who had complained were trigger-happy and unjustified in their complaint. My email account was saved, the sun rose, birds flitted happily from tree to tree etc.

Things could have been very different. If I had lost my email account, it would have been annoying but not fatal. My sites are hosted separately, so I would not lose any email. I just use my ISP to connect to the 'Net and send out mail. BUT if my ISP had also been my website host, and my account had been pulled, I would have lost EVERYTHING! Email, site, potential visitors, everything. This brings me to key point #1...

Domain names are portable

If you have your own domain name, and visitors have bookmarked your site under that domain name (and send email to that domain name) then the choice of company that hosts your site is largely immaterial. The worst that can happen is that you will lose a couple of days' traffic and a few emails if you need to change web hosting services.

Domain names will improve your promotion chances

As far back as the middle of last year, there were clear indications that domain names were relevant to search engine results. In research for an article I wrote for my Internet Gold-Rush site (incidentally, the best place you could go for free info about domain names...) in June 1997, I found that domain names were relevant to your site's ranking on both Excite and Open Text (the former a very significant search engine, the latter becoming less so)

Since then, the search engines have tightened up their policies and improved the algorithms (processes) they use to decide which sites appear first in a search. Some search engines will ONLY list sites that have their own domain names. Other search engines are clearly heading in that direction, by for instance limiting the number of distinct URLs (such as http://www.pr2.com/) you can submit to them for indexing. There are indications that Yahoo! (a major search engine and one of the most important promotion resources around) favours sites that have their own domain names.

Their reasons are many and various... but it really doesn't matter WHY the search engines are doing this. The important thing is that they are, and from now on you can only expect the situation to deteriorate for sites that do not have their own unique domain name.

Domain names show professionalism

Rightly or wrongly (and my money is on wrongly), there is a perception that sites hosted under their own domain names will somehow turn out to be more professional than other sites. The reasoning behind this, I believe, stems from two facts: all the really large and famous sites have their own domain names... and there are a lot of junk sites hosted by free website hosting services. This is because, being free, they appeal to MLM marketers, spammers, con artists and other denizens of the darkness.

"HEY!" (I heard your shout from here...) "There are thousands upon thousands of great sites hosted on free hosts such as GeoCities or Tripod." I agree. But it honestly doesn't make a great deal of difference what I think, or what you think, prejudice has already built up against free sites... so while you CAN be successful with a free site, I am sure you can be MORE successful with your "own" site.

Domain names are memorable

Which of the following is easier to remember?




I would hope the latter. In fact, with Netscape Navigator 3+ and Internet Explorer 4+ it is even simpler... just type "pr2" (without the quotes, Mr. Smart Alec) in the Location box and you will get to this site. That's because those programs automatically fill in the "www." and ".com" parts by default.

In Conclusion

I firmly believe that your own domain name is one of the best investments, if not THE best investment, you can make in your site. Of course, you may have to change your website hosting company, especially if you are currently using a free service, in order to take advantage of your new domain name. But I think your efforts (and the money you spent) will be rewarded ten times over.

If you are just hosting a personal page for fun, you can probably relax and just enjoy your site wherever it is now. If you are on the Web for BUSINESS (and no matter how small a client base you have, or how meager your resources are), two things are a must: a non-free server and your own domain name. A free server gives your clients the image that you are so poor, and your business so underfunded that you cannot even afford to pay $10 a month for site hosting... for more info on where to host your site, see the previous feature.

You can register a domain name free at http://freedomain.register.com/ but you WILL have to pay the $70 registration fee to InterNIC, the organization that controls the allocation of most domain names. The site I mentioned just takes care of the registration process for you, a service most other sites charge extra for!

You can register a domain name free (except for the $70 as above) and host your site for $10 a month at IperWeb (described in more detail in this feature). So the barriers of entry to a more professional world are very low indeed.

If you need more information on domain names, I would really recommend a visit to igoldrush.com since I have spent over 2 years making it the best place to find information on domain names. You should also check out the Resource Center entry on domain names.

Happy hunting, and may your new identity bring you joy.

Next: How to Banish Broken Links Forever!

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