Our tour has thus far given you the chance to make interesting types of content and spread the word about it a little. I’ve mentioned along the way a “main web presence” that you should ultimately create. That’s the site that you’re going to funnel all your other web marketing efforts to. It’s the site you’re going to put on your business cards and that you’ll tell people is your web address when they ask you. Using the WordPress platform is one of the most common ways of making this site, so at least familiarize yourself with what it entails.
First I have one small bit of bad news: you will need to actually spend a few bucks for your dot.com domain name. Everything else I show you in this course is free or has a free plan, but unfortunately I don’t know of any way to just get a dot-com domain name for free (unless it’s bundled as a free feature with some other hosting plan or service that you pay money for). Actually, if you don’t mind your domain ending in something other than dot-com, you could visit http://www.getfreedomain.name and try for a free domain name that ends in something else. But most everyone you meet will expect your main web site to end in dot-com, so you’ll probably want to break down and pay for a dot-com name.
You’ve already did a search in the social media lesson at http://knowem.com for available names for social networking and domain names, so you hopefully have a dot-com name in mind. If you want to find suggestions for a domain name, there are lots of web sites like http://www.namemesh.com where you enter a few keywords and the site will return available names based on those keywords. This is especially useful if you have a common name like John Smith, and many variations of your name are already taken, so you need to find a unique dot-com name. Once you have a good dot-com name in mind, you need to go to a domain name registrar to secure the name.
There are many domain name registrar sites like https://www.namecheap.com that you can actually secure your domain name at. Whichever registrar you decide to go with, you shouldn’t pay much more than 10 dollars a year to renew your name. Yes, you will have to keep paying a charge for your name every year, or it expires and someone else can take it from you. As you go through the process of paying for your name on the registrar’s site, you will probably be asked to order all kinds of additional services, from hosting to privacy options. Just pay strictly for the domain name, as next you will look for a separate company to host your web site.
After getting a dot-com name, you want to look for a web host. Your web host is the company where all the files comprising your web site will reside, and when people type in your dot-com name, your hosting company will actually be the one that sends all your web page files to the visitor’s browser so it can be viewed. You have several options in finding a host that will house the web pages associated with your dot-com name.
To step back for a moment, let me add that, if you don’t want to choose a separate domain registrar and hosting company, some of the free web site creators you have used will let you pay them to register your domain name and host the web site you’ve created through them, as Weebly does at http://hc.weebly.com/hc/en-us/articles/201273693-Buy-Your-Own-Personal-Domain-Name. That’s part of how all those free web site creators make money, and if you are really sure you want to use one of the free web site creators to house your main presence, you can do that and not have to worry about paying a separate domain name registrar like Namecheap or a separate hosting company like Hostgator.
In fact, even WordPress has a free site creator at http://wordpress.com that works like this. You can make a WordPress blog for free at wordpress.com, but also you can pay for a premium version at http://store.wordpress.com/plans/premium/ which will include a custom dot-com name for you.
To give you the most control, though, it’s best to buy your domain name separately through a registrar like Namecheap. Then you can easily link your domain name to any web page on the internet in a process called URL forwarding (here’s an explainer video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkcdlliQqBM). That makes it easier if at some time in the future you want to have your dot-com domain name link to a different site.
This flexibility is one of the reasons why, when many people decide to set up a WordPress site, they buy the domain name through a registrar, buy hosting space through a separate company, and then the actual WordPress software can be freely installed on their own space in their hosting company. To get a feel for how this process works, take a look at http://wordpress.org, and in particular the “Wordpress for Beginners” section of http://codex.wordpress.org/Getting_Started_with_WordPress to see you would go about installing the WordPress software yourself through the separate hosting company you choose.
To get web space through one of these separate hosting companies, most people pay monthly for web space, but there are a few places where you can get free hosting like http://www.heliohost.org/home. A free hosting site like heliohost will offer more limited customer support. However, as long as the hosting company offers a user-friendly administrative interface like cPanel so you can manage your web space in a point-and-click manner, you should be okay. You can play with a demo of cPanel at https://cpanel.net/demo to see how it will work when you actually have your own version of cPanel at whatever hosting company you go with. Cpanel is also nice because it usually includes automatically installers for WordPress and other software. Or, if your hosting company does not help with automatic installation, the site http://www.wproller.com offers a free installer file that packages WordPress with the most popular add-ons.
Lots of other hosting companies charge you monthly in order to host your web site. Most charge around 10 dollars a month, and offer similar services. You probably know about the biggest hosting companies like GoDaddy or Hostgator, but many techies don’t recommend these companies due to perceptions of lackluster customer support. As a result, you can go to a site like http://reviewsignal.com/webhosting/ and compare the stats on different hosting companies. If you want to ask questions, you will want to read through some of the in-depth forums at http://www.webhostingtalk.com and participate in the discussions.
So (assuming you don’t want to pay one of the web site creators like Weebly to do everything for you) we’ve covered finding a domain name you like, a registrar to buy your domain name at, and choosing the hosting company that will serve your web pages to the world whenever anyone types your domain name in a web browser. If you are still confused by the process of having a self-installed version of WordPress, here are a few other resources (they all recommend Hostgator as a hosting company but again you should check out other options too). You can read a text overview of the basic process at http://lawyerist.com/34535/30-minute-wordpress-setup-guide, or view a short video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mgr8rnlKXDE, or a comprehensive video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DyARzdLKjKw&list=PLCn_9_7TVo1UbyvZ6XWFhrhzYXOriXvcF&feature=c4-overview-v. Don’t worry about the details in those resources about configuring WordPress after you’ve installed it on your hosting space, because that’s what our next lesson is about.