If you've never set up your own website before, the process can seem daunting.
From choosing the right domain name to figuring out how to host it, it can be hard to know where to even begin.
Related: Get help creating your new website from one of our web design providers
Choosing a Domain Name
Before you can start building your website or ecommerce store, you need to choose a domain name. This is the address visitors will use to find your business online. When picking out a name, follow these rules:
- Use your business name as your domain name if at all possible. If it's not available, try a combination of one or two of your branded keywords to make a unique name that will bring traffic to your business.
- Avoid the use of acronyms, dashes, hyphens, and numbers (for example, using "4" instead of "for.") Your domain name should be easy to say without necessitating any further explanation.
- Before you commit to a domain name, check Whois.net to make sure that your name won't commit any copyright violations.
According to Whois Source, more than 140 million domain names had been registered by the beginning of 2013. Over 100 million of those names use the .com extension.
Buying a Premium Domain
In some cases you may be able to purchase a domain that already belongs to someone, especially if they are not actively using the domain (aka "squatting"). If you have your heart set on a specific name, you have several options:
- Contact the person who owns the name to see if it is up for sale, or try purchasing the name on a domain name marketplace or from an online domain name broker.
- If your business is firmly established but your business domain name belongs to someone else, you may be able to dispute their ownership of the name on trademark grounds. Check with a lawyer who is experienced with trademark law to determine whether you have a good case.
- Use the Wayback Machine or another backlinking tool to ensure that the name hasn't been used for spam or online abuse, which can damage your business' SEO rankings.
Registering and Hosting
After you decide on a domain name and have ascertained that it is available, you need to purchase it from a domain registrar. Make sure they are a recognized and established domain provider, and be sure to compare prices across companies. Once you've acquired the domain you need to find a web host -- the company that stores your website on their servers.
- Before choosing a web host, you should know what technical requirements your web site will have. An ecommerce website with hundreds of products, photos, and graphics will require more space and bandwidth than a simple company website.
- If you intend to use your domain for ecommerce, you have several options for creating and hosting your site. You can purchase your domain name and web hosting service and then create your online store on your own (or with help from ecommerce software).
- Another option is to use an ecommerce hosting company. The company handles all the background and coding for your ecommerce site -- freeing you from having to perform any programming or uploading of your own. This can be a good solution if you aren't familiar or comfortable with building a website from scratch.
When buying your first domain, it's important to choose your domain name wisely. Compare prices between domain name registrars and web hosting providers. Remember that your domain purchase isn't forever -- you need to renew it every year in order to retain ownership. Sign up for automatic renewals to make sure that your website is always up and running.