| Who needs Domain name???
So you say you've got a web site. Congratulations. Okay, what have you got? A few pages linked together, some graphics, perhaps a few sound files and, of course, the ever present banners. You're proud because you've done a good job - the best that you know to do.
Guess what? You're not done yet. You want the site to not only look professional ... you want to to BE professional. Check your list: Loads fast, yep. Looks clean, yep. Good content, yep. Lots of interactive features like guestbooks and forms, yep. What could be missing?
Could it be that your site URL is something like (this is made up): "http://www.geocities.com/athens/1040/"
But wait a minute ... that's a perfectly good URL, isn't it?
Yes, it is, but this is not a professional URL. A URL like this (or any number of other similar ones) is a sure sign that you have not yet risen above amateur. In fact, it does not matter how good your site is ... if you do not have your own domain (a custom URL which you "lease" for a period of time) you are considered an amateur and your site will be viewed as such.
Getting your own domain name is not expensive by any means (this is called registering a domain). I believe that the highest you should pay is on the order of $20 a year and you can do much better. Some hosts will charge a small fee (anywhere from $10 to $100) for the convenience of doing it from their own site. My advice is to find a host that will register the domain name for free (you still pay for the domain but not for the service from the host) ... most will.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of places on the web to register your domain name. Personally, I prefer good old Network Solutions, although they are slightly more expensive than most. Since the fee is so incredibly small for a single domain (the equivalent of a couple of large pizzas), I would stick with them unless I needed dozens or hundreds of names.
What kind of name should you get? Something that reflects the theme of your site. If it's about chocolate then choose something along that line ... perhaps i-love-chocolate.com or chocolate-lover.net. Notice that you can include dashes if you want (no spaces, though). You can also use ".net", ".org", and ".com", or a host of other top-level domains (that's what those characters after the final dot are called). If you really want, you can even use a foreign top-level domain such as ".to" (Tonga, an island in the Pacific) or ".uk" for United Kingdom (you have to find a company other than Network Solutions for that, however).
You can also choose a long domain name if you want. Some people say this is important because you want to include a few keywords (specific terms related to your site's contents) in the domain name. Thus, if your site was about making money, you might get "making-money-get-rich-dollars.com". The theory is that the search engines use these keywords to list your site higher ... meaning you get more visitors.
But wait a minute, you have a site on, say, Bizland.com called "mysite.bizland.com" and you want a domain named "i-collect-madonna-videos.net". How do you relate the two?
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That's handled when you create the domain (or transfer it, which means changing it from one host to another). You simply indicate that any references to the domain name are to be directed to the address that you specify. The magic of the internet naming system takes care of the rest.
There's a little bit more to it, though, if you want to get more complicated. When you lease a domain name you also lease a few other components. One of the most useful items is email ... you can have access to the email server address.
What does this buy you? Well, for example, I've got "internet-tips.net" as my domain name. My host also handles emails that go to that domain by forwarding them wherever I want. I've got access to EVERY single name that I can think of in front of the "internet-tips.net". This is great for determining where an email came from (each ad can use it's own email address, for example, allowing me to track effectiveness of an ad).