A crucial decision at start-up is who to host your site. It need not be the ISP you use for connecting to the web (though that is a convenience). In addition to price, you must consider two things: visibility and technical support.
Aside from being free, these companies help you build your web site, at least via templates. I have no experience with any of them. This may or may not be what you want.
If you are building a web site for a Bead Society that is just going to post information for its members, a free site may be just the thing. However, if you are looking to do business, you should look elsewhere.
By the way, another DLS is that people with URLs or email addresses with aol.com are routinely considered to be newbies. If you are, so be it. AOL has a very high turnover rate. I'm not trying to put you off them. They have a great business model and I wish I had bought their stock back when, but I'm just letting you know.
Technical support is crucial, especially at the beginning. My guess is that free hosting sites will help you build a site, but won't be much help afterwards. (If you've had experience with this, tell me about it.)
My site is hosted by my local ISP. Not only do I get a price break, but they are also especially good at technical help. If you are in upstate New York I recommend NorthNet to you. Otherwise, check here to find the best local prices and support.
Getting your own domain name
If you want a domain name you have to register it. The first step is to see if it is available. To do that, go to this page, type the name you want into the search box. If it is available (or not) this will tell you.
A common price is $25-$35 per year (you often have to pay for two years at the beginning). Be very careful to register your site properly. It is extremely difficult to amend information. I sadly know this first-hand and my experience is not unique.
Apparently all one-word domain names are taken. Your business name may also be taken. Give thought to your domain name, as it will identify you to everyone on the Internet. If the ",com" is taken, ".net" or ".org" are sometimes available. These two would be especially appropriate for Bead Societies, for example.
There has been a lot of noise lately about long domain names. In the old days you were restricted to 27 characters. Now you can register up to 63 (including the .com). A list of where you can do that is at http://www.domain-price-wars.com.
Some are touting this as the best thing since sliced bread. They claim that a long domain name packed with keywords (car-cars-used-cars-VW-fiat-fords-mustangs-toyota-SUV-jeeps.com) will rank high on search engines.
Others (including myself) doubt this. Search engines are pretty smart and even if such a name would rank high one week, it could be considered "spamming" and be droped like a stone the next week. Moreover, it is an ugly name and very difficult to remember.
It is good, however, that longer domain names are allowed in case you need them. Many of the shorter names are gone.
There is another possibility, using the name of your country as the extension. ".uk," ".fr" and ".de" are used for web sites registered in the United Kingdom, France and Germany, respectively. Every country is assigned a two-digit code (there is even a ".us"). Registration is done locally and is often cheaper than other ways. Still, ".com" is the most coveted extension and likely will be for some time.
There are now companies that make agreements with small countries to niche market their extension names as television (.tv; Tuvalu), doctors (.md; Moldova) and companies on the move (.to; Tonga). Some of these small countries have benefited from these arrangements, but there is hype going on, the worst being the "World Site" extension (.ws), which is really Western Samoa.
Some of these countries have gotten bad names from this practice, especially Niue (.nu), whose extension sounds like "new" to some people and "nude" to others. In general avoid these "cute" domain names unless you have checked them out.
Part Six: Updates
Small Bead Businesses | Beading & Beadwork | Ancient Beads | Trade Beads