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Monday, July 20, 2009

Websites & Artists Part 2 - What's in a Domain Name?

Websites & Artists Series
Part 1 - Considering Your Audience
Part 2 - What's in a Domain Name?
Part 3 - Search Engine Optimization
Part 4 - Describing Art Online


In the last part of this series, we discussed considering your audience and what things you need to think about when designing an artist's webpage. This time round, let's consider the strange and weird world of domain names.


What's in a Name?

Or a domain name, specifically. There are several approaches for choosing an artist's domain name. Many artists go the easy route and simply use their real last and first name (ie. www.angelasasser.com). If your real name is taken, you can try your first initial (ie. www.asasser.com). Or even hyphenate (ie. www.angela-sasser.com). You might also try your name plus the word art (ie. www.sasserart.com). Some folks are wary of using their real name, but if you intend to be a public figure involved with the community as most self-marketed artists are, you will have to overcome the fear of identity theft and simply be cautious about the information you post online. Unfortunately, presenting your real name to your audience is the first step to getting to know them!

Still others decide on a studio name, which is the path I've chosen for my Art Nouveau and angel art. A studio name can help build a sort of brand identification, especially if you can think of a quirky name that defines you or your real name is unusual and difficult to spell or remember. I decided on Angelic Shades years ago as a play on my own name (Angela) and the multi-faceted quality of the word "Shades". Not only can 'shades' signify shadows and all the ephemeral imagery shadows entail, but it can also represent varying values of a single color or indicate multiple colors in an image, which works perfectly as the name for an artist's studio.

The downside of building a brand, however, is that you limit yourself to one overarching theme. Having a single theme, though, is not necessarily a bad thing when you're trying to market yourself professionally. Plus, there's no rule saying you can't have multiple websites on the net (which I actually have two additional sites for my character art and artisan crafts).

A note of warning! Check your studio name on Google, or your preferred search engine, and make sure that your studio name is not similar to anyone else's! You wouldn't want the same studio name as a porn studio, would you? Not quite the audience you want to drive to your site (or is it?). And yes, this has actually happened to major businesses before!  I recall reading about a church whose domain name was bought by a porn company and whose name was very similar.


The Many Names of Net Domains

There is no need to settle for a single name. It's easy enough these days to register multiple domain names and domain suffixes (.com, .org, etc) that it has become common practice to register multiple names to cover all possible ways that a web surfer might arrive at your website. I can buy www.angelasasser.com in addition to www.angelicshades.com for $20 a year or lower and set them up so that they both lead back to my main website. This way of forwarding addresses is useful for funneling your web traffic back to your site OR to different sites, if you have different venues set up on the net to present various aspects of your art.

Also, be aware that some domain names imply a certain type of website, such as .biz and .eu, which are respectively reserved for businesses and websites associated with the European Union.


Don't Forget Sub-domains!

There is also a facet of domains called sub-domains which allow you to create an address within an already established domain. For example, I have set up a forwarding address with the sub-domain blog.angelasasser.com which links to my art blog. This subdomain is a part of my main domain, angelasasser.com, and can be setup with my website host, which allows me 99 sub-domains to do with what I will.

The advantage of creating this sub-domain for my blog is that it associates my blog address with my main address and appears more professional and succinct. You can do this with all facets of your online identity, from your forum, blog, professional portfolio, licensing portfolio, and more!

Examples:
My Blog - http://blog.angelasasser.com
My Shop - http://shop.angelasasser.com


How to Register a Domain Name

The most common method is to check the availability of your domain name at www.whois.com. Once there, you can also register domain names for a fee. Additionally, you can check and see if your website host offers package deals where you can register a domain name for free.  For example, my web hosting package with www.oneandone.com came with a single domain name with free registration.  Squarespace also has a similar deal.

A word of caution about registering with Godaddy.com as I've heard really terrible things about the headaches that come with transferring your domains from them.

Now go forth and register!

Next up: Search Engine Optimization and why you need it!

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