Choosing the right address for your website is very similar to choosing a site for your farm -- it needs to be flexible for any future changes you may make, you want to know if there were any harmful toxins used there in the past, and you'll be spending a lot of time there, so you better like looking at it!
First, let's talk terms: URL is the entire address of the website, for example this site's URL is: http://www.ourheritagefarm.com. The "domain name" is the part of your address that identifies you uniquely - in our case "ourheritagefarm.com".
Many free website services will offer you a URL with a subdomain, such as www.alpacafarm.earthlink.com or similarly, some people list their Alpaca Nation site as their primary web site address: www.alpacanation.com/alpacafarm.asp . From a business standpoint, these practices do not promote the fact that you are serious about raising alpacas so you may want to reconsider using either one of these. From a technical standpoint, if you ever want to switch to a different web service provider you will have to change your address and tell all your visitors about a new address. Needless to say, all past bookmarks to your site will be broken. Think long term and spend a few dollars to get a solid domain name that represents your farm and lets people know you are serious about your business.
So how do you go about getting your own domain? It's really a simple and inexpensive process. Only one person on the Internet may own each domain name, so if you have a common farm name you will need to be creative. For example, when we were investigating using HeritageFarm as our domain name, we found that heritagefarm.com and heritagefarm.net and several other extensions where already taken. The domain registrar we use was helpful in suggesting several alternatives. We chose OurHeritageFarm because in conveys that the farm is part of our heritage, which it is. You will also want the domain name to be very flexible to accommodate any new areas your business may explore. For example, if you currently own only suri alpacas and you call your site heritagefarmsuris.com, what happens in five years if you decide to breed and sell huacayas as well? Perhaps a better choice would be heritagefarmalpacas.com. You get the point.
It is important to include strong keywords in your domain name because search engines look at domain names, among many other factors, in returning results for search queries. In our example, it may have been more effective to use the domain "heritagealpacafarm.com" because when someone queries a search engine for "alpaca farm", ours would place high in the returned list.
There are several sites that allow you to search for available domain names. To start, try:
A domain name registration for one year should cost about $10, which you can complete from any of the above sites.
O.K. you might be thinking why should I go to the bother of registering a domain name if I don't even have a personal farm website yet? One reason is to plan for the future and secure the name you want before it is taken. Another reason is that there is a cool technique called "Domain Forwarding" which allows you to connect to any other URL when your personal web address is entered into a browser. This means that if you currently have only an Alpaca Nation site (or any other public site), you can map your personal web address to your URL on that site or. This gives you the flexibility of re-mapping whenever your build your own site and your customers and web viewers won't have to learn a new URL.
Now that you have chosen your strong, flexible domain name you need to think about hosting - that is, how will your information be delivered to a visitor when they type your URL in their address bar? I will cover this aspect of farm web development in the next installment of "Farming the Web".
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