Update, June 2014: Free guide coming soon!
Things have changed since I wrote this post. Even more domain names have been taken; but more importantly, some of the services I recommend have changed too. At the moment I’m creating a guide on how to get set up with your own domain. It will be free to all subscribers to my newsletter. Sign up below to be notified first when it becomes available!
Before I start you should know, 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 – just one look. But as 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 ten of them!
With that guilty admission out of the way, right now we are the luckiest people to be alive, in lots of ways, but for this post, I’ll be focussing on domain names. No one else will ever have the domain name opportunities we have today. We have the opportunity to purchase, and hold for years, millions of desirable domain names, from our own FirstnameLastname.coms to good LocationBusiness.coms as well as good Singleword.coms. These opportunities won’t be around for ever.
While a great LocationBusiness.com is worth holding onto, just like a good Singleword.com, the most important domain name is your own FirstnameLastname.com; those are the ones I’ll be focussing on for this post. For example, the most “valuable” domain name I own is HarryGuinness.com. Neither of the other two Harry Guinness’s can have it; they’re going to have to settle for some alternative like TheOzzyHarryGuinness.com or maybe HarryGuinnessRandomJob.com; HGuinness.com is available but I’m seriously considering buying it as soon as this blog goes live. Whoever wants HarryGuinness.com is going to have to pry it from my cold dead, keyboard gripping, hands.
I was lucky that my name is rare enough that I was able to get its domain. Almost any more common name is gone. Things are only going to get worse. 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 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? Firstly, trust me, you need a domain name. You might not need it today but in a few years time you’ll want it. The way people think about websites is changing, more personal landing page services like flavors.me and re.vu are popping up – and they’re 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, while you can, rather than gambling on ending up with some god-awful domain name because it’s the only one that includes your name.
Secondly, 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 twylah, or one of the personal landing pages that I mentioned above. Set up Google Apps on it and get Firstname @ FirstnameLastname.com as your email address, it’s dead handy not to give out that ridiculous hotmail address you set up when you were sixteen.
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.
Okay so how google organises search results is pretty much voodoo, but there’s a damn good chance that it weights 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 what the first information they see is. Which 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.com 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 ten, 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, just 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 prescence that you have some control over is so imprtant. If you leave it to google to descide what people see when they search for you online, then someone can create a fake porn profile using real pictures of you that appears at the top page of google that you only find out about after a job interview.
Right now you can get a domain name for 7 quid 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.