Categories
technology

Custom domain names and email

Godaddy & Google AppsToday, we’re going to talk about getting a custom domain name and email. The two basic points here are:

  1. Register a unique domain name with godaddy.com (approx $10 per year)
  2. Use Google Apps to set up a custom email address ($free!)

The first, and most important, piece of your website is your domain name. Your domain name is your brand. Your decision here influences your audience’s perception of you and/or your business.

Some people are fine having a myname.blogspot.com website URL or a bigguy1975@hotmail.com email address. But those names aren’t very professional. The key is to have a meaningful domain name that describes your site or business. So pick a name that is meaningful. Ideal names include your name (barackobama.com), your business name (apple.com), your book (fourhourworkweek.com) or some other important concept (google.com – this is no longer just a company, but is also a verb!).

Make sure you pick a name that is meaningful. And stick with a .com address. .com is still the default web address. .ca or another country specific domain name is an appropriate additional name, but make sure you have the .com as well. The rest of the domain name space is very specialized but not overly critical to secure. At most, get the .com and .countryname where you operate and maybe consider the equivalent .org if it makes sense (typically used for a non-profit or other similar type of organization).

You may find that your name is already taken. My biggest IT regret is not buying dow.com (my last name) when I was first experimenting online. Dow Chemical Company picked up that domain really early on. It would have been perfect for me, but, not the end of the world. I simply got creative: toddhdow.com. If you do find that your preferred domain name is taken, there are a few options here:

  1. find a more creative domain name – combinations of your name, your specialty, etc.
  2. buy the domain name from the current owner – approach the domain owner directly and ask – you never know what value the current owner has assigned to the domain name, or
  3. participate in an auction – in some cases, investors buy domains so that they can resell them. These people are sometimes affectionately known as domain squatters. Sex.com was reportedly sold for $14 million in 2006. Most domain names can be purchased for much less than that. I recently saw a domain name for a friend of mine (his first name and last name.com) for about $1,000.

Personally, I’d prefer to find a creative domain name that doesn’t benefit a domain reseller, but, if you’re set on a name, negotiate your price. Domain brokers are a good idea if you don’t want to tip your hand – for example, it would be a bad idea to try to buy todd.com by using my name. The seller will know that I am biased towards the name and could increase the price accordingly. A domain broker could help make the negotiation less personal and offer the seller less information to assess the value that the buyer may be willing to pay.

How do you actually get a domain name though? You use a domain registrar. I personally use godaddy.com but there are many other reputable domain registrars including namecheap.com and 1and1.com. These sites all make it really easy to purchase a new domain name for about $10 per domain – the sites walk you through the process in just a few easy steps.

From there, your next step should be to set up a custom email address. Something like todd@wirepaper.com is more professional looking than rockstar99@yahoo.com. Google offers Google Apps which is a great service that allows you to set up custom email, calendaring, document management, sites and more. Google Apps is free for up to 10 user accounts. It’s a bargain as it can power the communication and collaboration needs for most small businesses – all at no cost! Google Apps allows you to set up your own custom email addresses associated with your own domain name (todd@wirepaper.com, for example). And, the best part is that it uses exactly the same interface that Google’s public tools use (Gmail, calendar, etc.) so it’s bulletproof and instantly recognizable to anyone that has used those tools in the past.

You’ll need a bit of technical expertise to set all of this up. The domain registration and Google Apps registration are straightforward. Answer a few questions and pay using a credit card for the domain registration and you’re all done.

Setting up the custom email will require a bit more work. You’ll have to:

  1. verify that you own the domain; and
  2. set the MX records and custom domain URLs;

I personally set the following custom DNS records for my domains:

CNAME calendar ghs.google.com.
CNAME docs ghs.google.com.
CNAME mail ghs.google.com.
MX 5 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
MX 5 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
MX 1 ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.COM.
MX 10 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.
MX 10 ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.COM.

So yeah… today we’ve talked about setting up a custom email domain and custom email. Next up, we’ll talk about WordPress – the great equalizer in terms of publishing on the web.

Talk soon!

Todd

Categories
technology

Set up your tools

This is the first part (of four) in my series entitled, So You Want To Start Blogging…

Electricians, mechanics, doctors and carpenters all invest heavily in the tools of their trade. Publishing on the web is no different. You need a set of tools to help you communicate with your readers. In this section, I’m going to walk you through the tools you need to set up in order to start talking to your audience.

  1. Custom domain name and email
  2. WordPress
  3. Twitter
  4. Facebook
  5. Google+
  6. Mailing Lists
  7. The shiny new thing that just came out last week!

Sit tight and enjoy the reading. And do let me know if I’ve missed anything or if you disagree with any of my advice.

Todd

Categories
technology

So you want to start blogging…

So you want to start blogging? You’re in luck. There’s never been a better time to blog than right now. The costs are low. The tools are easy to use. And the rewards can be great. Sit back and relax as I walk you through the basics of blogging.

But first, what is a blog? According to Google, a blog is “A web site on which an individual or group of users record opinions, information, etc. on a regular basis.” Blogs were originally created as a mechanism for people to publish their thoughts. Blogs were seen as a fringe tool used by average Joe’s to share their opinions online. But over time, blogs have become dominant websites on the internet.

Alexa provides a great list of the top sites on the internet. You’ll see that many of them are sites you use every day: Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc. No blogs here. These are transactional sites that serve multiple purposes.

But, when you look at some of the top media sites in the world, you’ll notice an interesting trend. Pingdom, an internet monitoring company, has provided an interesting snapshot: WordPress completely dominates top 100 blogs. This report mentions a bunch of sites that most of us instantly recognize: The Huffington Post, mashable, various Wired Magazine, New York Times & CNN blogs, etc. The key thing to understand here is that these are HUGE sites with TONS of traffic. And what do they all have in common? The publishers communicate with readers via stories (called blog posts). Readers interact with the content by reading, commenting and sharing that content with their friends.

All of this reading and writing and sharing generates tremendous website traffic, which translates into premium content sales (ebooks, subscriber only access) and ad revenue (sponsorships, display and text ads wrapped around the stories).

What does this have to do with you and blogging?

A lot – actually. These tools that are used by large multi-national, multi-million dollar organizations are available to each of us. And most of the same features are available for free. And the remaining features are available at a nominal cost. So, with a little bit of talent and a whole bunch of effort (don’t fool yourself, writing well is tough), each one of us can build an audience and reach our blogging goals.

Stick around… over the next few posts:

  1. I’ll give you a tour of the “tools of the trade“;
  2. I’ll teach you how to “build your Tribe”;
  3. I’ll show you various methods of monetizing your blog; and
  4. I’ll show you how to measure the success of your blog;

Talk soon!

Todd