Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

In this full-length webinar I demonstrate the process of finding and buying a domain, and setting up hosting, email and Wordpress.

This recent Ask Leo! webinar covered a topic that I'm asked about frequently. Building on a live presentation I did a couple of months earlier, I walk through the process of:

  • Coming up with an available domain name
  • Registering a domain name
  • Signing up for shared hosting
  • Connecting the registered domain to the hosting server
  • Setting up WordPress
  • Setting up email accounts and forwards
  • Answering attendee questions

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Transcript

Welcome to webinar #11, 'Mastering Your Own Domain'. What I want to cover today is basically the process of registering a domain name like ask-leo.com or notenboom.org or Microsoft.com or setting up some hosting for it. Maybe connecting some email up to it; basically understanding how those pieces all fit together. What I'm going to start with is actually something that is a step in front of that process. I'm not sure if this will take the entire hour or not. This is actually built off of a presentation I gave live to a conference a couple of months ago.

I actually did everything you're about to see here in about 35 minutes so I'm certainly going to be open to questions as we go throughout, but if we don't fill up the entire hour, actually that's going to be OK because normally, we take these webinars and cut these into segments. I'm not convinced that this is a webinar that's going to make a lot of sense as a bunch of segments. So if it turns out to be less than an hour that's OK for the people who are going to come along behind and view this thing online.

So with all of that out of the way...Master Your Own Domain! The place that I want to start with is actually a service called Bustaname.com and in fact, let me highlight the name of that. B-u-s-t-a-n-a-m-e is just a web service. It's the one site you can go to that will help you work through some of the possibilities of finding a domain name that's actually available. Now, I actually have this live in this other window.

Here's the concept behind the tool: we all know that good internet domain names are things that are typically words or combinations of words that come together and make sense for whatever topic you might want to be setting up a website about. The way this works, I'm going to throw in a few words, 'star wars', 'trek' and 'duck'. So these are four words that might relate to a website that I might want to put together.

What Bustaname's doing is it's actually going out and finding out which combinations of those words are available in the .com domain and you can see that right away trekduck.com is available. So if that, you know, rings your bell, if that's the thing you're looking for, then you're done. Scrolling down a little bit, they have additional options to do things like use three-word combinations. So now all of a sudden we end up with a list of additional domain names that are all available.

They are all being sorted alphabetically, so right away we can see that startrekduck.com is available so if that's the kind of thing that you want to go off to. The one that surprised me is, gosh, there was one available when I ran through this this morning, that just surprised me, oh yeah, startrekwars.com. There's a domain that I would have expected would have been picked up long ago.

So, the idea here is that and you can see here that you can actually search the .net domains as well; you can have it include dashes, check with hyphens, and you can see with all of these different options. Now all of a sudden based on these four words that I've thrown in, there are all of these domain names that are available, that you could (if it speaks to you, the domain name for whatever you're putting together) - you could then go out and purchase.

So this is a tool that I like to come back to from time to time when I'm trying to come up with a domain to consider for a site or a project. Obviously, if you're looking for a domain name that's based on your name, you can do the same kind of a thing here. I could throw in 'Leo' and 'Notenboom' and see what kind of options are available for me. Fortunately, the ones that I care about that, I've already purchased.

But that's the idea here. Just to get some ideas for what kinds of domain names are available. It's a place where I see a lot of people get stuck. So having done that, you can buy the name through Bustaname if you want to and in fact, it's one of the ways that they support this free service. I'm actually going to walk us through doing that separately. So here in this example, I used the three word phrase 'ask leo books'. You can see that there were a bunch of different options that were available.

askbooksleo, askleobooks.com are all available. I decided to go with askleobooks.com. So, my next step is to purchase the domain name. Now purchase is a misnomer. What you're really doing is renting or leasing the domain name for a period of time. We've already seen that askleobooks is available. I come here to my regular registrar. I use simpleurl.com. I've used them for many, many years. They are not the cheapest. They are going to be a couple bucks more than some of the other registrars that are out there.

But I have all of my domain names here so I continue to add names to it and the reason I stay here is they have support. There is a person, George, I've probably mentioned George before. If I have a problem, if I have a question, I get a response from George; it's great. They are actually a reseller for another domain registry called enom and I use this as my example only. Obviously, I trust, support, and recommend simpleurl, but if you would prefer to go to a different registrar that's fine too. Enom, GoDaddy, NetworkSolutions: as we'll see in a moment, there are many, many ways to actually purchase or lease your domain name.

But I want to use this as an example as a standalone registrar that I've been very happy with. So, we start with a search for askleobooks.com. We have to do a search, even though we already know it's available and you can see that right away that simpleurl tells me that all the variations of askleobooks.com, .net, .org, .info, etc are all available. In this case, while I'm really only going to do is click on askleobooks.com and add that checked domain to my order. Once you've placed your order, you then need to provide domain contact information.

Now, I've blurred out a bunch of information here that's because LastPass that you can see at the top of my screen there, filled in a bunch of private information: my name, my address, my phone number, and so forth. The problem is you want to go in and change all of that information. When you register a domain, you're going to provide I think it's four or five different sets of contact information. Most frequently, they are exactly the same; all of them are exactly the same.

But you have the option of having it be different. What's important to realize about that is that unless you take additional steps later, that registration information is public. You can do a lookup on any of the domains that I own and you will find the information that I've listed here. I'll describe why this matters and what you can do about it in a moment.

I've taken on specific approach here and I want to discuss that in a little bit more detail in a moment. So, you'll have to fill out this information about contact information for this domain. You will then choose how long you want to register it. I register new domains for at least three years. My reasoning has to do with Search Engine Optimization. You may not care about this, but I do. It is my belief that if you register a domain for the minimum term which is typically one year, then the search engines (mostly Google) don't give it quite as much authority, or relevance, or weight as if you were to register it for something longer.

I default all of my purchases for three years; I buy it for three years. For domains, I know I'm going to have, as far as I know, forever. Then I will go for whatever the registrar's maximum term is and recently, I think it was last year, I ended up extending the registration on ask-leo.com for a full 10 years; the maximum that they allowed me; notenboom.org, a full 10 years. I mean that's the, I'm gonna own that domain until I die.

So, pick a term that makes sense for you. If you're just dipping your toes in the water, you're just trying to try things out, you don't really care about search engines and that kind of stuff, go ahead and do it for a year. In a year, you'll have an opportunity to renew and at that time, you can choose a longer term if that makes sense for you.

I want to talk specifically about WhoIs protection which is what I was alluding to earlier. Let me zoom in on this real quick. WhoIs protection is basically a way of hiding that registration information that I showed you earlier. Remember that I said that the registration information is public information; anybody can go to any of several different web services and look up the registration information for a domain and that registration information will be presented.

There are two approaches: one is to pay a little extra for something called WhoIs protection, which is what we're looking at here at my options at simpleurl. You end up paying a little extra for that; I think it ends up being a couple bucks a year, and what they do instead of listing your contact information, they list their contact information or the contact information of a third party, an intermediary.

The deal is then that third party has your real contact information and when contact is attempted, should it ever happen, then they forward the information, they forward the contact with them on to you. Now this is important in both, regardless of how you do registration information because if the contact information is invalid (in other words, if you put in a bogus phone number, a bogus address, or a bogus email address), you can actually lose the domain.

It is required that the domain contact information be a way of contacting you. So that's why if you're not doing what I do (which I'll describe in a moment) and you want to make sure your information is not posted publicly, WhoIs protection might be something you want to look into.

Now, I don't use WhoIs protection; my approach has been slightly different. I have a PO Box which then removes my mailing address, my home address form all of this registration so it's a PO Box in Woodinville. I'm not shy about saying I'm in Woodinville. It's a big enough city. So, PO Box 2841 is an acceptable mailing address for domain registration.

The phone number that's listed on domain registrations is not my home phone number. It's actually my Maxemail.com phone number which is my fax number which takes voicemail that is then emailed to me. So it is a valid way of getting in contact with me. It's just not associated with my house; it's not associated with the telephone that I actually pick up.

So that's the other approach to doing this. If you don't want to go through a WhoIs protection type service, you can look into creating information that you feel comfortable having publicly posted. And, the bottom line is if you're comfortable having your home information or whatever your business information is not uncommon... if this is a business, having your business information part of the registration, on public record, then fine, you don't need to worry about this at all.

But particularly for people who are registering domains for the first time who don't realize necessarily what's going to happen with this information they are providing, this is something that I think is important to be aware of.

Now, domain email - domain forwarding, in this particular case. Different registrars offer different service. In this one, what I believe they do is after you've registered the domain, if you do nothing else, all email sent to any email address on that domain can be forwarded to an email address that you specify.

In many cases, that may be enough. If you're attempting to purchase a domain simply for email so that people can always know that this email address that they have that is your domain will never change regardless of what email service you happen to be using whether it be Gmail or Hotmail or whatever, then email forwarding may be sufficient.

It may be enough to say, 'You know what, when email comes into this domain of mine, send it to my Hotmail account and I'll deal with it there; send it over to my Gmail account and I'll deal with it there.' Other registrars may go so far as to provide specific email boxes, so that you can actually set up specific email address on your new domain that will then forward to specific email address, so this default that I use as a catch-all; any email address on your domain will get forwarded to an email address that you specify.

The next level is to be able to specify specific email address on your domain that then get forwarded to specific email addresses that you specify. In the case of simpleurl, I believe that's an extra cost fee.

Website. By default, when you sign up, when you purchase a domain, if people go to that website, for your new domain, what they will land on is a parking page. It's a parking page that in this case says, "Hey, you just purchased a website from simpleurl; the owner hasn't set it up yet, but here it is." So there's a website that's kinda sorta hooked up.

Many registrars will also offer actual web hosting. In other words, you can host your website with them. They'll provide a place for you to put whatever it is on your website. I'm going to separate that out here because I want it to be clear, what parts of the process can be separated out or can often easily be separated out. So in this particular case, after we purchase this domain, it's simply going to go to a parking page, until we do something else.

Naturally, we're purchasing something here so here's my summary from simpleurl. In this particular case, I'm buying askleobooks.com. I'm buying it for three years. It's going to cost me $35. I'm not specifying where to forward web traffic and I'm not specifying where to forward email because those are things that we're going to be handling here in a few minutes with some follow along steps.

And, of course, they want your credit card information so that you can actually pay for this and no, I'm not going to show you mine. Now, like I said, this was done in real time originally. This in the case of some registrars, is almost instantaneous. You make your payment; they verify the credit card and you get your domain right away. Simpleurl- there's actually like a three to twelve hour lag between (they say it's 3 to 12 hours. In my experience, it's on the order of 20 minutes to maybe six hours) to actually process your purchase.

So, for the purpose of this example presentation, I have been purchasing askelobooks for the duration of this example, what we're going to be looking at is askleopodcasts.com, which is a domain I purchased the day before I actually did this presentation.

So now we own a domain. We'll get a notification. Yep, here you go, you got your email, you got your domain. It's askleopodcast.com. It's yours. You're ready to go. Well, you're ready to go where? Now, we need to go and figure out where that domain is going to live and by where it lives. I mean what server will the domain's website be hosted and what server will the domain's email be processed? If you don't want to do it by whatever options that are offered through the web registrar, what you're looking for is hosting.

Now, I use and recommend BlueHost. There are a number of hosting services, like BlueHost. There's DreamHost, there's Host Gator, there's One and One; there's a bunch of different web hosting services and I'll describe exactly what this means when I say this kind of hosting. You'll notice that when I took this screenshot, they had discounted their $6.95/mo to $5.95/mo. In reality, as we're recording this, they're down to $4.95/mo. So things have gotten pretty cheap.

To make a purchase with BlueHost, in our case, we've already purchased a domain name which is we're in the center under this part that says 'I have a domain name.' I enter the domain that I already own, askleopodcast.com. Many of the hosting companies, obviously BlueHost is one of them, will also act as a registrar. They will also offer to actually allow you to purchase your domains through them. If you feel comfortable doing so it's a perfectly valid way to purchase a domain name.

I definitely want to be clear here about what pieces of this puzzle don't need to be tied together. So we have a domain name so we'll enter it in there, askleopodcast.com. Click on Next. Once again, you're asked for information. Now this is your account information with the hosting company; this is not public information.

Notice that they are also offering an upsell. And we'll actually talk about this several times. Simpleurl, one of the reasons why I like them is when we purchased the domain, there were very few, very low key upsells; things that might actually make sense if you wanted them, but they're not in your face about them. They're not throwing things at you that you don't need.

Many other registrars are very aggressive in what they try and sell you along with your domain. Hosting is actually no different. In this particular case, you can see that as we're entering our account information, we're also offered to say, "You know you've also got askleopodcast.com but did you know that .net, .org, .info and .biz are also available? And would you like us to register those for you?'

Again, I'm one of the rules of thumb that I will suggest that you walk away with from this presentation is if you're not sure that you need one of the upsells. You don't. Just say no. These are always things you can get later if you need them. But do realize that it is common practice to share an offer, all sorts of things, and we'll see more as you go through this process.

In order to get that $4.95 or as I was doing this, the $5.95/mo package you do have to go up front for 12 months. I chose 24 because I'm going to be doing this for awhile. Again, there are upsells: sitelock, sitebackup - don't need them now, get them later if you decide that they turn out to be something that you're interested in but not necessary and of course, credit card.

Once again, more upsells as you leave. If there's a couple of them here; they're showing you sitebackup pro that we declined on the first page. Things like dedicated IPs that you don't need; an SSl certificate that you don't need. SEO is one of those things that domain hosts love to try and offer you as an extra cost and add-in. Even if you cared about SEO, I strongly suggest you not choose the offers that are made by the domain hosting companies as you purchase a domain.

SEO has changed so much in the last 12, in the last 12 to 5 years. It's just one of those things where you can typically do it yourself with just a couple of rules of thumb that will save you a ton of money in the long run and you're not really guaranteed that any of this SEO stuff would even pay off.

And for the record, SEO stand for Search Engine Optimization. Search Engine Optimization is the process of trying to essentially get your site to rank higher in the search results when people are searching for something. There's a bunch of techniques: black hat, white hat, but the bottom line is you don't need it here.

You've got an account; you've got it created. You now have something at Blue Host; you have a place to host your website. They give you an option for a tour of there offering. That certainly something you might want to consider the first time around. We're not going to do that here because in reality we're going to focus on just a couple of very basic and very simple things.

But, the bottom line is that you now have a place to host your website! What you're looking at here is the control panel. It's actually the product name that they use is called CPanel; you can see it up there in the upper left. CPanel is what's called server management software. And in fact, not only do you find it on shared hosts like this but even on dedicated hosts. CPanel is the server management interface for example, that I use for ask-leo.com. It's where I set up everything you're about to see here that we'll walk through.

So, we have a domain that's registered and now we have a server that's ready to host that domain. Next we need to connect the two. So, down at the, in Blue Host's case, on the left hand side, down the bottom is the place where you find something called the shared IP address.

Zoom in on that real quick so you can see what that looks like. It is a IP address. It is the IP address of the server on which your website will reside. It is the IP address of the server that will process emails sent to your domain. Now, why is it called shared? That goes back to when I talked about this being a common type of hosting. One of the things I did yesterday was to quickly look up and see how many other sites are on this same server.

Sameip.org is one online service that will basically take an IP address and tell you what other domains are mapped to that IP address. I will warn you that all of the services I've found are notoriously inaccurate. So I wouldn't necessarily use this for a economical list of the domains that are on that server but it does give you a concept of what's going on here.

Shared hosting is just that; there is a box, a server; it's nothing more that a PC; probably a pretty powerful one, along with thousands of other PCs in a data center somewhere, and you are sharing that box with somewhere 10, 20, couple hundred; I've seen as many as 1000 different websites all sharing the same server. That's why shared hosting is so cheap because you're sharing this hardware, a costly resource, with a bunch of other people.

The downside of shared hosting is, normally for most people, not a downside at all. The server isn't going to be as fast. If you suddenly get a large amount of traffic, it may not be able to handle it as quickly as some of the other options. The other side of it is some other site that shares the server gets a sudden influx of traffic, that could impact people's ability to get to your site. By and large, it's not a problem.

Things are typically distributed in such a way and controlled in such a way that for the money it's a great value and it is a good way of getting inexpensive hosting for a website. So all of the hosts that are in this category of shared hosting when I've talked about BlueHost, DreamHost, Host Gator, a bunch of others, that's what they're doing; they're all doing this kind of shared hosting.

There are other types. There is dedicated hosting where you can actually rent a full PC for yourself. I did that for Ask Leo! for many years and there's also now virtual machines, virtual private servers they're called which is essentially a combination of the two and that's what Ask Leo! has right now. It's a virtual machine that is a complete dedicated server to you except that since it is a virtual machine it may be on a piece of hardware that has more than one of these virtual machines for other customers of the hosting company.

But those are the kinds of things you would look into only if you really had high traffic, high load and high complexity website. For the average small business, for the average home user, shared hosting is absolutely the way to go.

So we have an IP address. Now we need to go map our domain to that IP address. That brings us back to simpleurl, our registrar. They are the ones that manage, at a very basic level, the DNS (Domain Name System) entries for your domain. You can see here that they have towards the middle of the screen, something called the domain manager and that's where we go.

For a domain manager, what happened here is in simpleurl's case, it lists all of the domains that I own, and yes, I've got a few. But for each domain there is then a control panel. The control panel then is where you specify the DNS entries for that specific domain. In this case, all we're really going to do, the most important thing is edit DNS hosts (you can see where the mouse is hovering).

The current settings are what control simpleurls' parking page, in other words, there the entries are set up by default so if somebody tries to go to, in this case askleopodcast.com, they will actually end up on a page that's provided by simpleurl.com/parking, a parking page.

What we do instead is we edit the host records and instead of them being frame records, we change them to be what are called 'a' or address records. So it's really simple. All you're really doing is setting up www.yourdomainname with an address of the IP that was given to you by your host and then @ sign in this particular case is used as catchall for nohostname. Again, set up an 'a' record to go to that IP address and then update host records.

What that does now is that tells the world that askleopodcast.com, if you want to go to askleopodcast.com, here's the IP address of the server that claims to host that site, this is where the data for that site comes from. Now there's one other record that I'd also like to change. It's optional but I suggest in general that you do it. It's ok to skip it if you're overwhelmed.

It's again, one of those things that's easily gotten to later. I also set up set up what's called an MX record and in simpleurl that's a little bit further down the page. But what this is doing is it's telling the world that if you have mail for askleopodcast.com that is handled by askleopodcast.com. So it seems like that would be the only possible answer but in reality, it is not at all uncommon for email for a domain to be handled on a server that is not the website for that domain.

A great example is I can absolutely tell you with 100% certainty that the email for Microsoft.com is handled by a completely different server or potentially set of servers than the website for Microsoft.com. And this is how you do it; this is how you do that. Now this is a default, if there isn't one of these records, we'll end up going to askleopodcast anyway. I'm kinda anal, I like the safety of being able to say 'yes'. I really mean that email for this domain goes to this specific server. And at that point, if we now go to askleopodcast.com, in fact you can see it in the upper left. We've now gone to askleopodcast.com.

We're still seeing a parking page but this time it's the parking page provided by BlueHost. You can see BlueHost's banner across the top. So what we've successfully done so far, is we've purchased a domain, we've set up hosting and we've actually connected the domain name to the hosting server. And the server is now serving up the web pages for the domain that we just purchased.

Now, this is where you'll end up making some choices. You can, at this point, if you like, simply edit HTML and upload HTML files to your website. And, in fact, a little later in the presentation, I'll give you a little pointer to the file manager that will let you upload files, download files, to and from your website.

One of the approaches that was relevant for the original audience for this and I think it's very relevant for most people is to allow the hosting service to set up for you automatically a content management system like, in this case, WordPress. WordPress most people think of as blogging software. And if you've ever been to glossary.ask-leo.com or mailyourinterview.com or my personal blog leo.notenboom.org, these are all done with blogging software; they are all done with WordPress.

In reality, ask-leo.com is also done with blogging software although it doesn't happen to be WordPress. This kind of tool is actually a very nice way to let you get a website set up; set up fairly quickly; have it look fairly decent and let you focus on what you need to focus on - the content. The stuff you want to say rather than the mechanics of how you want it to look.

So what I'm going to walk through here is a quick install of WordPress. That will actually allow you to have a very quick install of WordPress. I clicked on that and that came to this page, which basically talks a little bit about WordPress. We're going to click on 'install a brand new version'. Once again, there are some options, some upsells I see three there for plug-ins and themes I suggest you turn them all off. Particularly with WordPress it is extremely easy to add any of thousands of different plug-ins later.

In step 1, we definitely always want to be using the most current, stable version of WordPress. In this case, we're also installing WordPress to be the default content provider for the entire site. In other words, I'm not going to put WordPress in a folder, it's going to be right there at the front of the site when somebody comes to visit.

And of course, there are the terms and conditions down at the bottom that we never read but click that we have any way. And that's it; WordPress is installed. If you'll notice on this screen, what they have provided then is the site URL which is of course exactly what we told it. The login URL. WordPress has set up for you an administration account and that's the URL to go to it. And they're also telling you the username and password to log in as to manage your WordPress installation.

If we don't even do that; don't even go to WordPress administration or anything, we just go back to our site, askleopodcast.com, and hit refresh, what was once a parking page, has now been replaced with this WordPress generated content. At this point, you have a blog. You have a website.

We can go login to WordPress which as you can see from up above is that url: askleopodcast.com/login.php. You can login with the username and password that you were given. You were given the administration interface to WordPress that will allow you to start playing with (if you want to) the look and feel or you can just get down to work and start posting content.

So, you've got a website; you've got a blog; you've got something online on the internet. Let's talk about email real quick because this is actually one the other approaches, one of the other reasons that people often look towards wanting their own domain name. If you've not used any of the email forwarding options or occasional hosting options back at your registrar, you can use this type of scenario to set up your own email accounts.

All I'm doing here is setting up an email account. Quite literally, an email account. I've set up leo at askleopodcast.com. I've given it a couple of passwords and I'll hit create account. What that allows me to do then is once it's been set up, you can again, BlueHost, CPanel, configure email client, that then provides you with the information you need to configure your email program.

So what we have here is an email account on my own domain name, askleopodcat.com that I can go now grab Thunderbird or Outlook or any number of different email programs that run on my PC or email services that say, run on your phone and tell them, 'You know what, download email from mail.askleopodcast.com'.

Send email through mail.askleopodcast.com and here are all of those settings that you would normally need when you're configuring an email program. They do have some auto configuration links up above but you get the idea that the information you need to actually start using a real, honest email account on this domain that you've just purchased, is now all available and ready for you to set up.

There is one assumption that CPanel makes that I don't like that I'm going to point out here. You'll notice that they say 'incoming mail server as mail.askleopodcast.com'. You can either ignore that and use askleopodcast.com instead or you can go back to your domain registration, your DNS entries, and actually create another entry that looks exactly like the www entry except instead of www it says 'mail' and that will then define this sub-domain called mail.askleopodcast.com and point it as the same server so that these instructions will actually be correct.

So what we've just described is a real email account. I call it 'real' email account because what happens is email sent to you is collected on your server until you download it with an email program or access it with an email program. And when you send email it is sent through your server; your shared server. The other approach that many people find preferable in some cases, is to do what's called email forwarding.

So, there are forwarders that can be defined. What I've done here is I've defined leonot at askleopodcast.com to automatically forward to a different email address; to automatically forward to my Gmail account. What that allows me to do is have this domain but now have to rely on it for any email services.

And in fact, if I've got a Gmail account that I'm using anyway, this is often a very effective way to get spam filtering. As I've said to several people, Gmail is perhaps the most effective spam filter, that I'm currently aware of. So forwarding your email to Gmail and letting it handle all of those details is actually a pretty effective way of both using email but protecting yourself from the gobs of spam that are out there.

So what will happen here is email will get sent to leonot at askleopodcast.com will get sent to my server but then my server will then immediately say 'Oh, this needs to go to leonot at gmail.com' and just forwards it on. The good news is also that you can configure Gmail to send from leonot at askleopodcast.com; you can actually configure it to use your address as the 'from' address rather than the Gmail address.

You can also it configure it to send through your server as well. I mentioned file management earlier. Not everybody wants to run WordPress; I get that. And there's certainly lots of tools besides WordPress from a beginner's point of view, I absolutely suggest that WordPress is a fine, fine way to start. If on the other hand, you already have HTML files.

You kinda, sorta know what you're doing in creating a website, then what you would probably want to end up using is the file manager. This was just a click on that CPanel homepage that brought me to this file manager which looks like a lot of file manager; it looks like Windows Explorer in many ways. You can see that we've got the folder Public_Html open. That is the folder that contains your website.

The files that we're looking at here, everything from CGI Bin on down through Index.php, WP activiate and so forth, those were all provided by WordPress. I'm sorry, CGI bin wasn't but the other files were all provided by WordPress. You could replace those with your own; you could put your own .html files here and that's you could go about managing your website.

I just wanted to point this out for people who aren't necessarily ready to plunge into something like WordPress but who did want to at least be able to upload simple HTML files. So, that's it in a nutshell; that was a very fast overview of setting up a domain and by setting up I mean we started by investigating what the possible domain names that were available was; we then went and purchased the domain; after, purchasing the domain we went and purchased hosting for the actual server that would host both the website and process the email.

We then went back to our DNS entries and connected up the registration of our domain with the physical hosting so that when people looked for our domain they are directed to the correct server. And then once on our server, we set up content management system, in this particular case, WordPress as a very quick way to setup a powerful way to manage content that you might want to present on the internet.

At this point, after I get a little bit of water in my throat, I want to open it up to questions. If you have any questions about this process, I would be very happy to answer them now. Just go ahead and type them into the question box.

So, did you say that WordPress is free? I didn't say it but WordPress is free. It is free software that comes with, in this particular case it comes with the hosting package, it is...a lot of the hosts I talked about the most are offering it in this one-click quick install kind of mode because it is a value for them to provide to their customers.

Even if they don't, WordPress itself is free. You can download it from WordPress...I keep getting 'com' and 'org' confused...I think it's WordPress.org where you can get the software and install it on your server and it's actually straightforward if you're doing it manually. But WordPress by definition is free. It's one of the reasons it's become so popular.

How about updating WordPress? Yes, updating WordPress is one of those things that you will want to be on top of. They do a very good job of notifying you when new versions are available. And on hosts like this, updating it is actually not that hard. I do recommend that you keep WordPress up-to-date. Typically, when websites get hacked when WordPress hosted, excuse me, when websites running WordPress get hacked, it's usually because they are running a very out of date copy of WordPress in which vulnerabilities were discovered and not patched.

What do you think is the best web host and why? I've gone back and forth on that. I obviously recommend and have demonstrated BlueHost here and if fact, I've got a BlueHost account. And I use it for a couple of clients. I'm pretty happy actually suggesting any of those big three that I've talked about: Blue Host, Dreamhost, Host Gator. You will always find horror stories.

The issue that you may encounter with shared hosting services of this ilk is that occasionally they'll have downtime. And they'll be sadly uncommunicative about it other than the fact that they're scrambling to fix whatever the problem is and the problem isn't even always theirs. The problem is that they have, you know, thousands and thousands of customers who are now all pounding on them for not being up. So, I would stick to those three, if nothing else. There's plenty of good hosts out there. I can't even say that I have a favorite at this point.

Let's see. I use Filezilla, you might want to explain a bit about using FTP to manage your website. I will simply say that you can use programs like Filezilla and other FTP programs to upload and download files. I didn't want to get too complicated in this overview.

Having a file manager is like having an 80% solution for a vast majority of users but as soon as you start dealing with lots and lots of files you actually want to do your management on your PC and upload lots of different things then you'll want to start looking into things like FTP programs to do that. In my case, I don't even use that. I use something called SecureFTP. And for the geeks in the crowd, BlueHost actually provides you with shell access; you can ssh into your BlueHost account which if you're a Linux geek is just all sorts of fun.

I'm a little bit unclear about setting up the mail server. Could you go over that a bit more? Especially the bit about putting in the DNS numbers. So I'm hoping I didn't confuse too much with the MX record. Let's forget about the MX record for a minute. As long as you have in DNS an 'a' record that points your domain, askleopodcast.com in our example, to your server then DNS is taken care of for your mail as well as for your website.

In the case of BlueHost, there's nothing you need to set up in the sense that the mail server is already running; it's there and it's ready to be configured. All you need to do is go in via it's interface. The circled part here is just the interface in CPanel that allows you to define your email accounts.

The server's already running; you've already got all of the nuances of whatever it needs to be a mail server already configured and going. All you're really doing now is saying, 'Ok, I want a mail account that says leo at askleopodcast.com; I want it to be a real mailbox on this server and when it comes time to configure my Outlook or Thunderbird, these are the settings that you would use.

It's really not that terribly complicated; I hope I didn't make it seem overly so. But there's just not a whole lot to be set up.

Does GoDaddy do the same general things that BlueHost does? As it turns out, they do. BlueHost is primarily a hosting service and there primarily about having servers and they also happen to allow you to purchase domains through them if you want to. GoDaddy's kind of the reverse, right? They started out as a domain registrar; their whole business was selling or renting or leasing you the domain names that you might want to have.

And they have since added a variety of services including actual web hosting. I do not have any familiarity with their actual web hosting. I don't know if it's done through something like CPanel. It would be done through some kind of server management interface. Whether it's CPanel or CPanel like obviously, I just can't say. I honestly don't know. The one thing I will say about GoDaddy is that a.) their prices are usually pretty good and that b.) they are one of the worst about trying to sell you things that you don't need along the way.

So, be careful as you are making a purchase through GoDaddy and when in doubt decline the offer of additional services. Chances are you really, really don't need it and even if you do, services can always, always be added later.

Would you consider doing a webinar on using WordPress or tell me where to go to get the info? I'll certainly keep it as an idea. I am not the world's most experienced WordPress user. I've only started using it extensively say within the last year. All of my new sites that I'm putting together are WordPress oriented. WordPress.org is probably where I would send you just to begin with. I'm sure I know there's a bunch of tutorials and information out there about it. I just don't have any links or such off the top of my head.

Do webservers charge per page i.e. do you only get one page without initial pages to link to when you start out with just a little site? Ok, so it's actually better than pages. BlueHost, the kind of account we just set up has unlimited pages, unlimited storage, unlimited bandwith, all for that base price of $4.95 or $5.95 or $6.95/mo, whatever it turns out to be.

Which is actually pretty darned cool and it's even better than that. The way that have things set up with CPanel, you can now purchase, go off to your registrar and purchase additional domains. So let's say I finally did get askleobooks.com. I can now host askleobooks.com in this account that I've already set up to host askleopodcast.com. They actually allow you to host unlimited domains in the same account.

For most people, few people are as nuts as I am. I've got 80 some-odd domains. Most people have less than half a dozen if they have more than one. That's a perfect solution; it's a great solution. There's a couple of nuances in how you set things up but the bottom line is that most the shared online hosting services do not, certainly do not charge by the page. If they charge by anything, they charge by the site and potentially they will then have restrictions on how big things can get in terms of megabytes or gigabytes.

In BlueHost's case, one of the ways that they differentiate themselves or at least advertise themselves is as having pretty much unlimited everything for that one account you set up.

When I started out, did I start out with just a little site? Well, sure. Ask Leo! like any site just started out as just a few pages. In fact, originally, it was a few pages on a server in a closet here at home, a Windows server as a matter of fact. And I moved on from there. Hosting at home is typically a very unwise, mostly for bandwith reasons and as well as management reasons. But, absolutely. I think you'll find that almost every site started out small one way or another.

Leo, will you ever do a webinar on the cost of SEO or advertising for the common nerd? I'll consider it. Again, the problem with talking about SEO is that it is a constantly changing landscape. There were white hat techniques that were advocated say five years ago when I was in the middle of three or four years into Ask Leo! that just no longer apply.

The problem is that all of the SEO techniques often end up getting abused by folks with less than good intentions to try and promote their own sites. That used to be, even before I started Ask Leo!, there is a tag in HTML that allows you to say, 'Ok, this site, this page, actually is all about these keywords' and I might use keywords like Hotmail and password, forgot and those kinds of things.

And in the early days of SEO, that was actually an important piece of information for search engines to pay attention to but then the spammers and scammers got a hold of that and they started doing what they call keyword stuffing which would just have a bucket load of keywords in those meta tags that were attempting to influence the search engines to say that this page, even though it's got a big old ad for body enhancement medications to say ok, it's about Hotmail.

So ideally, what they would want to rank highly for Hotmail and then try to sell you some drug. So, what's happened in the intervening years is that Google has done, and I focus on Google because they are the ones that everybody seems to be using and they seem to be the most relevant. They're focusing on really understanding what the content is about.

So in an ideal world from Google's perspective, you go to the search engine with a question and they understand the pages, the pages that best answer to that question and it's become so much more than just a few SEO tricks that the best SEO advice these days is to post consistently; post good, quality content (quality by any of several different measures) and don't play games that will get you into trouble. That's a huge a topic for, there are SEO nerds out there that will talk your ear off about this stuff. I am not one of them; I'm just focusing on getting people's answers.

Any other questions before we sign off for the day?

With that, I will call an end to it and say thank you for attending. We will be doing another webinar on the first, gosh, second Sunday? I can't even remember my own schedule! I'll be posting information about when our next webinar will be on Ask Leo! and of course on the homepage. It will be a little bit quicker since this month's webinar was delayed one week because of Easter last weekend. I look forward to seeing you here. Keep visiting ask-leo.com, listen to the AnswerCasts and leave your comments, I appreciate it. Take care everyone and have a great Sunday.

Article C5121 - April 17, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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