Let me get you up-to-date with things. A little more than a week ago I started a new series here. The series is going to take you through all the main steps of building and launching a new WordPress site. And it doesn’t matter if you want a simple blog, or a full-blown corporate site (or anything in between). WordPress can handle everything.
In the first part I talked about the reasons… The reasons why you’d even want to build a website. Your goals. The main element of the site. Your target audience, and why would they want to visit your site. “What the money is going to be made with.”
All this is only the first step. But the first step is actually the most important one, and that’s why I’m emphasizing it again so much. Anyway, let’s move on to the second part … the foundations.
What do I mean by foundations? Nothing fancy, actually, your domain and web host.
Selecting a domain
Hold on! Don’t stop reading here. Choosing a domain name is not as easy as it seems.
I know that everyone gives it some thought anyway and doesn’t go with a random name, but let me list some of the important aspects of a great domain name.
Essentially, your brand is your most important asset online. Or, more accurately, it will be your most important asset. That’s why you need to select a domain name that has some branding potential.
Now, what I mean by that. Every big site these days has a recognizable name, a name that’s unique and individual. Of course, the name wasn’t a big success factor for sites like Google, Mashable, or TechCrunch, but it surely allowed them to stand out from the crowd.
Here are some hints on how to come up with a brandable name:
- Easy to memorize. Don’t use difficult or unintuitive character sequences. For instance, if you’re targeting an English speaking audience, make sure to use a name that people can easily read in English.
- Unique. Get something no one else is using. To test this you can do a search on Google. If there are no accurate results then you have yourself a unique name.
- Simple. “Google” is simple. “ICanHasCheezBurger” isn’t … sorry, it just isn’t.
- Has no meaning. The point here is to find a phrase that has no meaning in the language you’re targeting. For instance, “Google” had no meaning before Larry and Sergey came along. OR. You can take an existing phrase and give it a new meaning or a new sense (like, “Facebook”).
It has to be short
In most cases, long names are simply too difficult to memorize.
Additionally, if you have a long name it will be more difficult for you to advertise on platforms like AdWords (precisely, it’s about displaying the URL in the last line of your text ad).
Nothing more to it, really… If your domain is 20 characters or more then it’s too long.
Get a .com
There are a lot of different TLDs you can choose from: .com, .net, .org, .co, .your-local-tld, .info, .biz, and so on.
However, .com is the clear winner here. People simply enter .com by default when they’re trying to visit your site directly. At least until you become popular.
Unfortunately, .com is also the most crowded TLD. If you want to use a popular keyword in your name (more on that in a minute) then it can be quite hard to find something available.
Actually, there’s one case when going with a different TLD would be a better idea than .com. That is when you want to target a local market, like UK-only, for example. In such a case, selecting a .co.uk domain is probably a better approach.
There are various tools for checking domain availability online. My favorite is DomainTyper. It checks for a domain as you type, no buttons or delays, and you can customize it to check local TLDs as well.
Keywords run the internet. A bold statement, but it’s true.
People use keywords when searching Google, and that’s good enough reason by itself why you should pay attention to them when building your next site.
One of the main on-page ranking factors on Google is the domain. If it contains your main keyword, you get an additional advantage over your competition. Of course, a domain name alone won’t get you rank, but it can surely help.
You can start by going to Google Keyword Tool and searching for some relevant keywords there. I mentioned this a number of times before in my various posts, but let me give you a quick summary of what a quality keyword is.
Two main factors:
- Popularity. A good keyword (or phrase) is one that has more than 11,000 searches a month. If you manage to rank for such a phrase on spot #1 in Google, you can hope for around 150 visits a day (just simple math).
- Competition. You can check competition by doing a search on Google with your keyword in quotation marks. Keywords with more than 100,000 competing sites can be difficult to rank.
Now, just because a keyword has a small number of competing sites doesn’t mean that this competition isn’t strong. If these are all well optimized sites you can still find it hard to rank.
Once you have your main keyword, you can create a branded name around it. Or use the keyword as the brand in itself. For instance, if you were to have a domain like pizza.com, what other branding would you need, right?
Hyphens and numbers
Generally, I advise not to use hyphens or numbers. But there are hundreds of successful sites around the internet that do. So I leave it to you, then.
My point of view is that domains containing hyphens are more difficult to memorize. And domains with numbers may not seem that believable and credible.
(But who am I to argue, as I have a domain name containing a number myself…)
Registering a domain
For local TLDs you can search for a registrar in your country. Most often, they will be able to offer you some additional services for a reduced price.
Getting an existing domain name
Until now, we’ve been talking about registering new domains only. However, you can get an existing domain too if you want.
One thing though … it will be always an approach that’s more expensive.
If you like a given domain you can either try contacting the owner directly, or the registrar if it’s a parked domain.
There’s also a possibility to get an expired domain. Feel free to read this to find out how to do it: How to snatch an expiring domain.
Selecting a web host
If all goes well with the domain, now it’s time to get you a hosting account.
First of all, forget about free hosting. There’s really no point. You’ll just find your site not working for the most time, or stuffed with ads.
There are a couple of solutions when it comes to hosting a WordPress site. You can get one of the typical hosting plans: shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated server, or cloud hosting.
For new sites, shared hosting will do just about fine, until the site reaches a given size and popularity.
When it comes to individual hosting parameters, things to pay attention to:
- Uptime – the amount of time your site is guaranteed to be up. Usually shown as a percentage.
- Disk space.
- Bandwidth – in essence, how many people can view your site in a month.
- WordPress compatibility(!) – the most important factor here.
- 24/7 support – just in case anything goes wrong you need to have a way to contact support immediately.
I, personally, recommend one of the following two companies for hosting a WordPress site.
You can get started for as little as $3.96 per month. For that price you get:
- 99.9% uptime guarantee,
- unlimited disk space,
- unlimited bandwidth,
- 24/7/365 support,
- 45 money-back guarantee,
- 1-click script installs,
- an additional $100 Google AdWords credit.
This company specializes in WordPress hosting. It has optimized servers and staff highly trained in dealing with any WordPress issue imaginable.
You can get started for $4.95 per month. This package is said to be optimized to handle less than 30,000 monthly visitors to your site. This should be more than enough to get you started. Then if you need more later on, you can always upgrade your package.
You also get a 1-click WordPress installer, an easy-to-use control panel system, and a free migration service.
No matter what hosting account you end up signing up to, you’ll always get the best deal if you sign a one-year or a two-year contract. Besides, I’m sure you don’t want to launch a new site just for a couple of months anyway, so it shouldn’t be a problem after all.
The support team at your web host will get you through the signup process, so let me stop here and move on to other things.
Now, both of these companies provide the possibility to have WordPress installed in a flash, so you don’t even have to take care of this on your own.
However, I want to keep this guide complete regardless of the hosting account you’ve chosen, so next part is going to be all about installing WordPress and setting it up properly.
The fact is that there’s more than just one way of installing WordPress on your domain. Depending on your preferences you will find some of the methods more sensible than the others.
That’s it for now. Well, one more thing, actually. What are your thoughts about my tips on how to choose a domain name?