Choosing the right address for your website is very similar to choosing a site for your farm -- it needs to be flexible for any future changes you may make, we want to know if there were any harmful toxins used in the past, and you will be spending a lot of time there, so you better like looking at it!
First, let's talk terms: URL is the entire address of the website, for example this site's URL is: http://www.smallfarmcentral.com. The "domain name" is the part of your address that identifies you uniquely - in my case smallfarmcentral.com.
Many free website services will offer you a URL with a subdomain, such as thehoneyfarm.blogspot.com. From a business standpoint, I think this is unprofessional and I recommend against having a URL as a subdomain. From a technical standpoint, if you ever want to switch to a different web service provider you will have to change your address and tell all your visitors about a new address. Needless to say, all past bookmarks to your site will be broken. Think long term and spend a few dollars to get a solid domain name that represents your farm.
Only one person on the Internet may own each domain name, so if you have a common farm name you will need to be creative. For example, one farmer on the Small Farm Central network is Warren Farm -- when I was helping Heather Warren choose her domain name we found that thewarrenfarm.com and warrenfarm.com, so we chose warrenfarmnh.com because the fact that the farm is in New Hampshire. You will also want the domain name to be very flexible to accommodate any new areas your business may explore. For example, if you are currently a CSA farm and you call your site familyfarmcsa.com, what happens in five years when you have decided that you are only going to sell to high-end restaurants?
It is important to include strong keywords in your domain name because search engines look at domain names, among many other factors, in returning results for search queries. In Warren Farm's case, if a searcher types in "NH farms", the search engine will be more likely to return warrenfarmnh.com because she refers to "NH" in her domain name.
A domain name registration for one year should cost about $10, which you can complete from any of the above sites.
Now that you have chosen your strong, flexible domain name you need to think about hosting - that is, how will your information be delivered to a visitor when they type your URL in their address bar? I will cover this aspect of farm web development in the next installment of "Farming the Web".
Of course, you could just purchase a Small Farm Central membership and let me guide you through the whole process!
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Next week - Can't get there from here: Hosting Options