Time to Think Of Your First Domain Name and Registrar
The area of domain registration is made far too complicated by those involved probably to deter the DIY approach and overcharge for services (certainly true in our country South Africa).
Heres a bit of vitally important advice which Ill cover a bit later in more detail but for now take my word that you should NEVER EVER register your domain with the same company that hosts your website. This was re-emphasized to me just a few days ago when I needed to change hosts.
Make sure you know what DNS is and take total control of it.
WHATS IMPORTANT ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES?
A website domain name is vital because after working on a website for some time all links are created to that domain name. For example if after 2 years you decide you dont like that name you chose 2 years earlier you can certainly change it but every link will no longer work, and all those people who like to visit your site will get error messages (called 404 errors). Yes of course the old website domain can have a redirect programmed into it quite easily but this does not help one iota in terms of search engine ranking. Your well earned SERPs are only based upon the domain you had first registered and of course these pages based upon the old domain name will have disappeared.
Its important therefore to understand a little about domain names and what must be seriously considered to avoid serious mistakes.
WHICH EXTENSION IS BEST?
To be able to decide whether you should register a .com, .co.za, .co.uk etc you must make a fundamental decision which also will have a basis in the keyword work you did.
Answer this question first where is your future market? In this regard let me use South Africa as an example to explain the answer.
1. Your market is South African, only South African and always will be South African then register a .co.za.
2. If your market is only UK and South Africa then I suggest you register a .co.uk and seriously consider hosting in South Africa
3. If a major chunk of your market is USA and general International get a .com without any doubt.
Lets take the South African only scenario. In this case there are real advantages in having a .co.za site because local search engines including Google.co.za and Aardvark give priority to .co.za sites. It is easy to confirm this if you have .com and .co.za sites as I have. There is no doubt therefore if your website is a .com aimed at South African searchers your chances of ranking on Aardvark and Google local is dramatically reduced. Ananzi does not seem to penalize .com sites just because they are .com.
There is an exception to what Ive just said Aardvark and Google.co.za look not only at the extension but also the actual host server location. This means if you have a .com site but the website is hosted on a South African server (i.e. located in South Africa not just sold to you by a South African host) it will be considered as being of more interest to a South African searcher. This is why in case 2 above I have made the suggestion of a .co.uk domain and a South African host or vice versa.
If you expect a chunk of traffic from the US and the world in general get a .com domain and host in the US or other International location. There are four good reasons for this recommendation
Much reduced cost for both hosting and domain registration
Top class hosting compared to that generally available in South Africa and other countries.
Most USA searchers expect to see .com results (for .com read American) and would be reluctant to click on any other extension.
Registering a .com domain is really simple and quick compared to the drama, cost and difficulty of doing this for a .co.za
Avoid extensions like .net, .usa, .biz because most people think (and type) .com almost instinctively.
Of our 200+ websites only 40 or so are .co.za, some .co.uk sites with most being .com
YOU MUST UNDERSTAND DNS & HOW TO CONTROL YOUR OWN FUTURE
DNS does have a meaning but think of it quite simply as the place or name of the computer where where your website is going to be stored. Heres the real world equivalent
If you owned a whole range of valuable consumer goods you would store these in a warehouse where you had control and kept the keys under your control so that if you wanted to move and protect your valuable products you could without any hassles like being locked out of the warehouse and so on.
This same level of control is needed for your website which after some time becomes a valuable and complex set of web pages ranking in all important search engines.
Well if you (you as an individual or you as a company) dont control the DNS for your domain then its like giving somebody else your ONLY keys to your warehouse and they could in practice lock you out temporarily or in some cases permanently. This happened to me 4 years ago so believe me I know it happens.
THE BEST PLACE TO BUY DOMAIN NAMES
For most domains godaddy.com is the best and cheapest. Unfortunately not for .co.za. You can also buy from Hetzner (Superb choice) and other local hosting Companies such as Afrihost.
WHY REGISTRAR CHOICE IS IMPORTANT
Godaddy is recommended for its overall service and the fact it gives complete control of DNS to the domain owner. You can if you want also make your ownership private so that nobody can easily discover that you are the owner.
WHAT GOOGLE THINKS ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES
Nobody knows but a quick look at any SERPs shows that Google is able to identify the keywords for a search in the domain name. My view is that the keyword in the domain name is important.
WHAT OTHER SE’S THINK IS IMPORTANT ABOUT DOMAIN NAMES
Yahoo and others probably also attach importance to keywords in domain names. Some time ago research was done that proved that Yahoo results were influenced by keywords in domain names and also file extensions to a domain name.
Im also convinced that searchers also prefer to see domain names bearing important and RELEVANT keywords.
NEVER ACCEPT A FREE DOMAIN
The offer of a free domain is made by many hosts. Dont accept for reasons stated earlier always separate the host form the domain registrar. The fine print relating to free domains is probably a trap of some kind anyway. My only experience of accepting a free domain turned out to be a disaster as indicated earlier.