by Arun Sinha

You can set up your own site on the web. Just follow the steps below, and your customers will soon be able to reach your business online.

1. Create a name for your website.

Your website's name is called a domain name. It's what a user types into the address bar of their web browser when they want to reach a particular website. Example.com and ibm.com are examples of domain names.

A domain name is also referred to as a web address or URL (Uniform Resource Locator).

Give some thought to picking your domain name. Here are some pointers on creating an effective domain name.

  • Use your company's name as your domain name. This helps keep your brand name consistent between online and offline media.
  • Alternatively, make the name descriptive of your product. For example, if you run a home healthcare service, try to get home and healthcare in the domain name.

    Many businesses name their companies with a descriptive domain name in mind. This makes the domain name do double duty — it identifies the company and describes its business.
  • Make a list of about 10 alternative names in order of your preference. You may find that the name you wanted has been taken by someone else. If your first choice is not available, you'll need to register one of your alternatives. (See step 2 on how to register a domain name.)
  • Select .com as your domain name's extension. Most web users expect businesses to have a .com after their name. If you absolutely must have a certain name and can't get a .com extension for it, try .net or .biz, in that order.

    If your business is a non-profit, choose .org. It almost always indicates that the website belongs to a non-profit.
  • Keep the domain name as short as possible.
  • Make sure it's easy to understand when spoken. Avoid domain names with hyphens and numerals.

2. Register your domain name.

To register your domain name, search on the web for domain registering companies. You'll come across several firms. Choose the one you like best and follow their instructions for registering your domain name.

During the process of registering your domain name, the registering company will tell you whether the name you want is available. If it isn't, select one of the alternative names you wrote in step 1. You will need to pay for your domain name with a credit card.

Domain names with .com, .net, .biz and .org extensions typically cost about $10 per year. Some companies may charge higher rates. Others may register the domain free or at a reduced price if you host your website with them. (See step 4 on hosting.)

3. Build your website.

If you want to design and build your own website, you can do so with special web design software like Dreamweaver, Expression Web, NetObjects Fusion, or any other web editor of your choosing.

When designing your website, pack it with informative copy (or content). Read our article on how to write copy for your website. Your design and copy must work together to form a persuasive and results-generating website.

Optionally, you may choose to hire a web development firm to take care of the design and technical aspects of your website.

4. Select a web hosting provider.

Your website consists of several computer files. These files reside on a server connected to the web. Small businesses and individuals typically don't have their own servers, and hence rent space on servers that belong to web hosting companies. Godaddy.com, 1and1.com and hostgator.com are examples of web hosts.

When you buy web hosting service from a web host, you are renting space on their server for your website's files and letting the host handle the myriad administrative and technical details associated with keeping a site on the web. The web host also enables you to obtain email addresses that include your domain name. For these services, it charges you a monthly fee.

Web hosts typically offer several hosting plans. Different plans have different features and prices, so choosing the right plan requires care.

Even the least expensive plan from a reputable web host can have a generous feature list. You can usually start off with the lowest- or second-lowest-priced plan and still find the services you need for your initial website.

Later, as your business grows and your website expands, you can upgrade to a higher level hosting plan.

If you hired a web development firm to build your site, ask the firm to select a hosting plan for you. They will comb through the options and find the one that best fits your needs and growth objectives. Some firms provide their own web hosting services.

5. Load the website onto the web.

Let's review your progress so far. You've got a domain name, you've selected a web host and you have a website – or rather, all the files that make up your website. You need to take one more step, and then your site will be on the web.

You need to get your website files from your computer to the web host's server.

If a web development firm created your site, they will transfer the files to the host. You may have to provide them with your username and password for your web hosting service.

If you built your website yourself, you will need to get a program known as an ftp client. An ftp (file transfer protocol) client enables your computer to speak to the web host's server and exchange files with it. You can download free or paid ftp clients from the web. Popular free ftp clients include FileZilla, Core FTP LE and SmartFTP.

Look up your web host's instructions on how to transfer files via ftp. Some hosting companies also allow you to transfer files without using ftp.

6. Start selling!

That's it! Your brand spanking new site is up on the web. You now have a new way to connect with your customers and delight in higher sales.

Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit http://www.accessc.com for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.

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