I have a domain name…now what?

As with any line of work, when you’ve been creating websites for a while you can get a bit blase about how the whole thing works. You end up assuming that everyone has a pretty good idea of stuff that seems quite basic to you. This was brought home to me recently by an exchange I had on Facebook. Someone had purchased a domain name, but had little idea what else was needed in order to create a wordpress-based website.

After a bit of a chat I put her on the right track. But then I wondered just how many other people out there have the same issue? So, for the sake of anyone who’s ever wondered, here’s what you need to do to create your website.

Registering a domain name

First off, you need to choose an appropriate domain name. Now before you rush off and register the first thing that pops into your head, you need to know that this can be a pretty important decision. One of the main determining factors in choosing the right domain name is how important search engine optimisation (SEO) will be for your website. If attracting high levels of traffic from the likes of Google and Bing will be crucial, then ideally you’ll need to incorporate keywords into your domain name. This one topic alone could spawn a series of blog posts, so I’m not going to cover it now. However, I can certainly recommend the services of Jo Dodds in this are if you’re serious about SEO. We have been working together for a little while now and her team can help you make all the right decisions.

Assuming SEO isn’t a huge priority, then you could and should try to get a domain name that reflects either your business identity or what you’re planning to do. If you’re planning to use that domain name for email addresses as well as your website, then brevity is also desirable. No one likes having to type jimmy@the-best-little-antiques-shop-in-the-west.com too often!

Finding out what domain names are available isn’t too difficult either. Most domain registration sites, including ours, will offer a domain checking facility so you can make sure your domain name is free. Before you go ahead and register the domain, though, you need to make sure that you will be able to makes changes to the DNS for the domain, as this will be important for website and email hosting.

What is DNS?

DNS stands for the Domain Name System, and is a means of translating URLs and such like into the way in which all devices on the internet are identified – IP Addresses. For instance, if you want to go to this website, you might type https://fourlakes.co.uk into your browser’s address box. DNS translates that URL into an IP address, This IP address is then used by your computer to request the relevant information it needs to display the Four Lakes home page.

DNS can actually contain many different types of record, used for translating different types of service. A few of them are listed below:

[table id=6 /]

Using DNS effectively

The great advantage offered by being able to manage your DNS, is it allows you to decide where your website, and indeed your email, is hosted. It’s normal for domain registration companies to offer web hosting services (which in turn almost always have email hosting bundled), and this gives the convenience of a single bill for everything related to your website. But there is an argument for separating the two. For a start, it can be a little cheaper to use a different company to register your domain. In addition, if you are registering a domain from another country (including .com if you are not in the USA) then you may want your website hosting to be with a different, local company.

In the same way, you can have your email hosted somewhere different to both your domain registration and your website. One of the services offered by Four Lakes, Google Apps, is enabled in this very manner. The MX records (and some CNAME records) are pointed at Google’s servers so that all email for the domain is delivered there.

Choosing a Website Hosting Provider

The upshot of all this is you have the ability to use the web hosting provider that makes most sense for you. Simply by registering for a hosting account and setting your A record appropriately, you can direct all web traffic to your chosen website hosting provider. But what criteria determine the best provider?

You should certainly be considering the following when choosing a hosting provider:

  • Quality of support
  • Location – if most traffic is from a particular country then the site should ideally be hosted in that country
  • Uptime – the better providers will be happy to display uptime stats on their website
  • Recommendations – Personally, I put a lot of weight on recommendations from people I trust, so ask around
  • Auto-install – if you’re planning to run a WordPress-based site, then a provider with a one-click WordPress install script is essential

Of course, Four Lakes meets all of the above requirements 🙂

Once you have chosen a provider and signed up for an account, you simply need to change the A record on your domain’s DNS and, once the change has propagated across the internet, you’re good to go.

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