Beginning Web Developer Course: How To Get Your Business Online

By David Fiedler

This course is intended for people who have outgrown their "free" hosting, whether at a blogging portal or one of the few free site hosts left these days, and who are ready to set up a professionally hosted website...but not take on the technical challenge or financial investment in their own physical (or virtual) server. If that describes you, and you want to learn every step necessary to set all this up, while finding out how to get a full year's hosting for about the average monthly cost of your own server, read on!

Here are some of the topics we'll be covering in this series:

  • choosing a great domain name
  • how to buy your domain name and protect it
  • selecting an appropriate level of hosting
  • finding a good web host
  • should I run Linux or Windows?
  • setting up your domain on your own server
  • should I use a Content Management System or not?
  • how to upload and install software on your server
  • learning analytics: how to spot trends and maximize user interactions
  • how to promote your site using SEO and social networking
So let's get started!

A Great Site Needs A Memorable Name

It used to be an axiom - before the turn of the century and the Great DotCom Crash - that all world-class sites had to have a world-class domain name. And by that, they meant that the best domain name for news would be, the best site for pets would be, and so on. This seems rather a rigid way of thinking today, but at the time nobody questioned it. And so everyone in an entire vertical market would bid like crazy for that one magic domain name that would insure their success. This was great for domain name speculators, but rather expensive for the companies involved.

All this changed with the wild success of a startup search engine firm with the improbable name of Of course, Google's success was more due to its comprehensive and huge searchable database than its name, but the very oddness of its name helped it stand out in a world full of things like Microsoft and Oracle and (yes, Yahoo was first in the odd department, but that's actually a real word). A totally made-up name has a big legal advantage over a generic one: you can register it as a valid trademark.

Web 2.0 brought not only the concept of social and interactive media, but the rise of wacky domain names. More importantly, the general public's acceptance of wacky domain names for legitimate mainstream sites. So we've gotten everything from Ning to Zazzle, and these days nobody looks down on a site simply because its name has no inherent meaning; the work that the company does to create and promote the site gives it meaning.

What all this means to you is that you're no longer constrained by the literal descriptive names still available in your niche (which are likely to be few in almost every case), but by your own imagination, which is likely to be near-infinite. Starting up a site for lizard enthusiasts? is probably not available, but might be, and almost surely is.

TLC For Your TLD

We've been assuming by default that you'll be wanting a .com address, and if you're based in the U.S. and expecting to have either the general public or business people visit your site, that's still probably the best bet. The .com form of domain suffix is what's called a generic top-level domain (TLD for short); you're probably familiar with a number of others such as .org, .net, and .edu but there are many newer ones as well, such as .mobi (for mobile-oriented sites and services), .info (for plain informational sites), and .biz (for business sites). The official list of all TLDs is always up-to-date and available right here.

What all these TLDs have in common is that they're three or more letters. Two-letter domains are strictly reserved for countries based on their ISO codes (.uk, .fr, .us, etc.) and they are more or less popular depending on historical use and local pride. For instance, most companies in the U.S. use .com domains, whereas most companies in the United Kingdom use a hierarchical system, in which they end in (.co as an informal abbreviation for company, and .uk for the country code). Some countries won't let you use their domain unless you're physically located there, whereas other countries aggressively market their domains. The best example of the latter is probably the country of Tuvalu, which has encouraged many television-related companies to register using their domain, which is coincidentally spelled .tv!

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