So, you’ve got a new small business and you need a website and a professional email address. Just go to Google and search for “domain names for small business”. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately, there’s way more to this process than meets the eye. Thankfully, I’ve been doing this for over 15 years. I’m going to share everything you need to know about getting your first domain name for your small business and how to do it right.
And, I’ve written it in Plain English for non-techies.
This article will cover topics like:
- How to not get harassed by overseas call centres after you purchase our domain.
- How to pick your domain name if someone’s already got your name.
- Whether to get a .com or a .com.au domain name.
- Where to buy your domain name.
- How to only spend money on the things you need for your domain name – i.e. how hosting companies try to trick you to spend more than you should.
- What happens after you’ve bought your domain name – i.e. do you automatically have an email address and website.
How domain names for small business work
I regularly teach small business owners everything they need to know about online tech. The majority of them come from backgrounds where tech has been something they can avoid, or have never been able to understand. My challenge, is to have these people be empowered by technology and use it to grow their business.
The way that works is to explain it all like this…
What’s a Domain Name?
A domain name is like title or deed to a vacant shop. The title is usually a piece of paper to say you have to rights to use the shop, but it’s not the shop itself.
What is hosting?
The hosting is like the physical shop. Every month you pay rent for the shop. You can do whatever you want with it, within the bounds of the title.
Where does a website fit into all of this?
A website, is like the shopfront. Without a website, the shop is an empty room with four walls. When you build the website, it’s like giving the shop a fitout. We’ll cover more about shop fitouts later in this article.
Your website needs to physically sit on a computer somewhere in the world so that people can view it. So when you’re paying for hosting, you’re actually paying rent for a computer somewhere in the world. You’re also paying for security to prevent hackers from getting to the computer, you’re paying for the network that it runs on – just like you pay for internet at home and you’re normally paying for customer support, in case you need a hand with setting something up or if something breaks. This is the same as paying for security services as part of rent in a shopping mall plus maintenance people.
What about email?
The shop must have the capability of handling this type of service. As an example, in a physical shop, you might offer free Wi-Fi. This is only possible if the shop is fitted out for Wi-Fi.
If your hosting is not capable of handling email, then you need to find somewhere that does. We’ll cover this topic later in this article.
What’s DNS, or how do people have a different domain provider, web hosting and email provider?
Say someone sends a letter is sent to “The Manager, Shop 52, 100 Jones St, St Leonards NSW 2065”. Somehow, magically, that letter arrives on the manager’s desk 24-48 hours later. How does this happen?
DNS is an acronym for Domain Name Service. It’s like a postal sorting service for the internet that knows where everything is.
When you type a website into your web browser, or send an email or use Instagram on your phone, some magic happens in the background that knows exactly where they website lives, where that email address should end up and how your latest photo shows up on your Instagram feed.
DNS has a bunch of settings that translate human readable text, e.g. www.apple.com into a bunch of numbers that computers understand. So when you type in www.apple.com into your web browser your computer asks “where is the computer that has the Apple website on it?” DNS then tells your computer where it is. Your computer then sends the request to view the website to that computer and the computer sends back the website to your web browser.
This is also true for an email address. When you press send on your email, your computer talks to DNS and asks “where is the computer that handles emails for Apple”. DNS then tells your computer where it is. Your computer then sends that email to that computer.
This means, that your web server and your email server can sit on two completely separate computers, in separate countries. All that needs to happen is that DNS needs to be aware of it. We’ll cover this later in this article.
How to get a domain name for your small business
I see a lot of business owners get this wrong and pay for it in the long term. Let me give you an example. Fred has just opened his own electrical business named “Fred’s Commercial Electrical Services”. He’s been told by a mate at the pub to get a .com domain name because it looks better. So Fred jumps onto a cheap domain registration that’s selling .com domain names for $5. He rushes in and purchases fredcommericalselectricalservices.com. 12 months later he’s a bit worried that nobody’s really going to his website, so he tries to start some advertising for it. He speaks to an expert and finds out there’s a few big problems…
Step 1: Choose the right domain name/s
This step is very, very important. To do this right you will need to answer the following questions:
- Are you going to be a global business? If so, get a .com domain name AS WELL AS a local domain name, .e.g. a .com.au, a .co.nz or .co.uk. Google gives preference to domain names that are LOCAL unless you’ve been up and running for a few years.
If you’re never planning on going global, then get a local domain name.
- Is your domain name available? If you’ve chosen a domain name that’s already used by someone else then you might need to find a variant of your name. As an example if you’re running Hungry Hen’s Chicken Shop, you might want to look at hungryhens.com.au, hhchicken.com.au, hungryhenschicken.com.au or hhchickenshop.com.au.
If all of these are taken then you can look at whether you need to change your business name. If had to give up on business names because people have already grabbed the domain names.
- Keep the domain name as short as possible. A shorter domain name has two advantages. It’s easier for people to type in and it works better when using Google Adwords for advertising. Google Adwords has a limit on how many characters you can use in a website address.
- Include a word that describes your services. If possible use a keyword that describes what you do. As an example, chatswoodcarrepairs.com.au is much better than smithandsons.com.au. This comes in handy for SEO later on.
Step 2: Find somewhere to buy your domain name
If you Google “cheap domain names” then you’ll inundated with thousands of search results. To help you narrow down your search, we’ve shared the ones that we use.
Crazy Domains offer affordable domain names and have been around for a long time. They’re pretty reputable and have good customer support. The only thing to be aware of with Crazy Domains is that they’ll want to sell a whole lot of services that you don’t need.
To get started with Crazy Domains, jump to their website at crazydomains.com.au.
Net Registry is one of the originals in the domain registration business. They are more expensive than Crazy Domains but have a more professional appearance.
To get started with Net Registry, jump to their website at netregistry.com.au.
Step 3: Find hosting for your domain name
We’ll cover this in our next section. Please be aware, that once you’ve got a domain name there’s not really much you can do with it until purchase hosting.
How to get hosting for your website and emails
Hosting can be such a complicated beast. Luckily, I’ve immersed myself in this world for the past 20 years.
When I first jumped into website management in the corporate world we did our own web and email hosting. We literally had computers that sat under a bench with cables connected to our phone line that handled all web and email traffic.
Back then, it was way easier to run like this and hosted solutions were very very expensive.
These days the tables have turned. But, buyer beware – cheap does definitely not equal good.
The following needs to be taken into account for your website hosting:
- Buy somewhere that hosts locally. Google takes into account where your website is physically located when it serves and search results. A website that’s physically located in Sydney will show up higher in search results than one that is located overseas – all other things being equal.
- Get a hosting provider that offers local support. I’ve had my fair share of hosting companies that outsource their support and the experience has been absolutely abhorrent to put it nicely. If you want to do your research, simply call a hosting company’s tech support number and see how long you’re in the queue for and see who answers the phone.
- Host with a company that offers “cPanel” access to your website. This usually means that you will be able to give access to a web person to setup your website properly and to setup emails properly.
- Get hosting that is fast. Google takes note of websites that are slow to load and pushes them down the search results list.
- You need to pay for management services. Include this in your budget. This means someone needs to take ownership of backups, security and updates.
To setup your email hosting, there’s a couple more options:
- You can host off your hosting services. This works well if you’ve got a technical person to set it up for you. We offer this service for the majority of small businesses that we work with.
- Host of an email hosting provider. This option works really well if you want super reliable email services. The best options are Google and Microsoft.
Google offers email accounts from $5 per month through their GSuite service. This also gives you access to all of their google products as well as cloud file storage.
Microsoft offers email accounts from $15 per month through their Office 365 service. This includes the latest version of Microsoft Office.
We’ve done our research and recommend Digital Pacific for Australian-based hosting. To get started with Digital Pacific jump to their website at digitalpacific.com.au.
After you’ve paid for your domain name and your web and email hosting then it’s time to build a website for your business. I’ve been building websites since 1996 and will be sharing everything you need to know about them in our next article.
In the meantime, if you would love someone to do this whole thing for you, then take advantage of our special offer for our blog readers. Simply follow this link to spend 30 minutes with me, valued at $97.