Before I start, you should know that buying domain names is my dirty little habit. Some people smoke, others cheat — I go online in the dead of night and have a look at what domain names are available.
Image by Warren Goldswain (Shutterstock).
Just one look. But with all addicts, I can't leave it at a look, so I often buy a domain name... just the one... it's cheap — until you own 10 of them!
With that guilty admission out of the way...
We have the opportunity to purchase millions of desirable domain names, from our own FirstnameLastname.coms to good LocationBusiness.coms and Singleword.coms. While a great LocationBusiness.com is worth holding on to, just like a good Singleword.com, the most important domain name is your own FirstnameLastname.com; those are the ones I'll be focusing on for this post.
For example, the most "valuable" domain name I own is HarryGuinness.com. Neither of the other two Harry Guinnesses can have it; they're going to have to settle for some alternative like TheAustralianHarryGuinness.com or maybe HarryGuinnessRandomJobDescription.com; HGuinness.com is available, but I'm seriously considering buying it as soon as this post goes live. Whoever wants HarryGuinness.com is going to have to pry it from my cold, dead, keyboard-gripping hands.
I'm lucky that my name is rare enough that I was able to get its domain. But the odds are that someone shares your name somewhere in the world. No matter how uncommon it seems where you live, the chance of someone having it in a different country or on a different continent are staggeringly high. If you're curious, just plug your own name into a Facebook search and see how many others show up. That will search about one-eighth of the population of the world so it should give you some idea.
So I've convinced you that domain names are being snapped up like beer at a student party but why should you care? You don't even need a domain name, what would you do with one?
First, trust me, you need a domain name. You might not need it today, but in a few years time you will want it. The way people think about websites is changing, and more personal landing page services such as flavors.me and re.vu are popping up — and it takes a matter of minutes to set up. In a few years it may well be common to send a link to your online CV. It's worth future proofing yourself now, rather than gambling on ending up with some godawful domain name because it's the only one that includes your name.
Second, even if you never totally need it, it's damn handy. It doesn't need to link to your own website, you can forward it to Twitter, Tumblr or one of the personal landing pages that I mentioned above. Set up Google Apps on it and get [email protected] as your email address. Save yourself from giving out that ridiculous Hotmail address you set up when you were 16.
So that's why you need one, and what you can do with it, but what are the advantages of having your own domain name? Honestly, they're endless:
You gain control of what people see when they search for you
OK, so how Google organises search results is pretty much voodoo, but there's a good chance that it weighs the words in the domain name pretty heavily. If you're looking for Big Boys in Boots magazine, odds are BigBoysInBoots.com is the website. This means that when people enter Firstname Lastname into Google, you have a good chance at controlling the first information they see. This means that…
You make it harder to find those photos of you passed out in a gutter
We all know they exist. Those horrible photos of you dressed up as Peter Pan for a pantomime, that photo of you in a bear suit that your brother submitted to AwkwardFamilyPhotos and, yes, those photos of you engaged in a bit of one-on-one time with a friendly, and very supportive, lamp post. For every search result that you control, you knock those awful awful images one step further away from prying eyes. They're still there, but at least it's on page 10, not the top of page one! Also…
You prevent it being used against you
What happens if you piss off a tech savvy individual? I have to admit, on more than one occasion, I've had a quick look to see if the someone who's gone on my bad side was stupid enough to leave their FirstnameLastname.com available. If you don't have some control over what appears when someone enters your name into a browser and adds ".com", then you could rapidly find yourself in some awkward situations. Having an online presence that you have some control over is so important. Don't leave it to Google to decide what people see when they search for you.
Right now you can get a domain name for 7 quid (about $US11) a year. That's ridiculous. The price of a drink or two gets you endless benefits, an awesome email address, and control over your online image. How is that not worth it? If you don't have your own domain name, I urge you, go out and get one. Goto GoDaddy.com or any other domain name registrar and buy the best and most relevant domain name you can find. You won't regret it. And hell, if you decide after a year you don't need it, just let the registration expire.
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