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
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
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
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.
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
Happy hunting, and may your new identity bring you joy.
Next: How to Banish Broken Links Forever!