TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – April 2003

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SeinfeldAre You the Master of Your Domain?
A Step-By-Step Guide to Establishing Your Online Identity
The year is 2003. Do you have your own Internet domain name yet? No? What are you waiting for? It's never been easier or cheaper. For $150 a year or less, you can not just
reserve your very own domain name, but host a nice professional web site too. Studying The Urbach Letter subscriber list, I see that many readers do not yet have their own domain, or are using an employer-supplied email address. It's time you took control of your online destiny. Does anyone still doubt, in the future, email and the Internet will play an ever larger role in our business and personal life? If you already have your own personal or business dot-com name and web site, please feel free to skip the rest of this article. For everybody else, let me show you exactly what you'll need to do.

(1) Get a personal name domain. I own urbach.com (as well as the variants urbach.net, urbach.biz, etc.). My name isn't that common but if I didn't grab it several years ago, it wouldn't be available now. If your last name is uncommon, there's a chance it's still available. Click this link to check it now: BetterWhois. If the coveted *.com domain isn't available, you can try the variants, but you're probably better off registering your full name instead: "johnsmith.com." I believe, in the not too distant future, having a personal domain will be as important as a personal phone number.

(2) If you own or control a small business, get as close a matching domain name as you can. However, please know you're awfully late to the party. Very few single-word dot-com names are still available. You may have to get creative to find one that works. Try hyphenating, adding Inc or Corp, or use a compound word set that describes what you do (MortgageDoctor, InsuranceMaven, PainlessDentist, etc.) or some unique aspect of your business (for a construction firm: "weshowup.com"). If you find that your desired name isn't available as a dot-com domain but a dot-net, dot-org, or dot-biz domain is, I'd suggest NOT going that route, especially if your competitor has the dot-com. Peoples' fingers "automatically" type the com extension and, as a result, you'll just drive your clients to your competitor's site.

(3) Register your domain. There used to be a single source for dot-com domain registrations: Network Solutions. They charged $35/year and gave terrible customer service. Luckily, the regulations changed and suddenly hundreds of alternate registrars came on the scene, with much better pricing and better service. I use BulkRegister.com and GoDaddy.com and recommend them. For do-it-yourselfers, GoDaddy is particularly good. They charge only $8.95/year for registration, have great support, and offer lots of online tools.

(4) Decide how you'll use your domain name. At a minimum, you should use it for email. Once you own the domain, you can make up your own email addresses. For example, if you've registered "smithfamily.com," you can have "fred@smithfamily.com," "sally@smithfamily.com," "rover@smithfamily.com," etc. As long as you keep the domain registered, this can be your email address for life. People who use their employer's email account and then change jobs, discover what a pain it is to notify everybody – and have them to update their address books. Likewise, many people who use an AOL or MSN or other email account feel they're prevented from changing to a better Internet provider because their email address is being held hostage. You can avoid this mess by using your own email address and "repointing it" to your new ISP when you change providers.

(5) Build your own web site. It's not hard. There are great tools like Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia Dreamweaver that make creating an attractive web page easy. If you can format a document in a word processor, you already have most of the skills you need to create a personal web page. But why would you want to? While I'm not a huge fan of personal "vanity" web sites, they're a great way to learn some of the technical details of "life on the web." As important it was to be computer literate in the job market ten years ago, that's how important being web literate will become five years from now.

(6) Build a working web site. Even better than a personal site is your own "working" web site. It doesn't necessarily have to be for your job or business. Perhaps you have a hobby or you support a not-for-profit organization. There's certainly an area where you have a lot of knowledge others could benefit from. The learning process of "capturing" your knowledge and using it to build a working site is invaluable. Also, for many professions, having an in-depth personal site can be important to your future career development. If you're in career transition, having a personal resume site can set you apart from other job applicants and open new doors for you.

It all starts when you decide to take control of your online destiny… by registering your personal Internet domain. Don't settle for less. And do it today. The name you want could be gone tomorrow.

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(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
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