If you are a photographer, you need to get online. Whether you are looking to share your photos on Smugmug, Zenfolio, Photoshelter, ShootProof, 500px, Squarespace or use a free service to blog like Blogger, you need a place to call home on the internet.
This is also the first step in search ranking. The domain name age factors into the “trust” Google will give to your url. So while you may not be ready to jump off and start up your own WordPress website just yet, you can use your custom domain name within many on the online sharing sites and start building your brand and trust with SEO ranking.
So your convinced, now what? Here are some tips.
1. Pick your Top Level Domain wisely.
The last letters behind the “dot” is called the top level domain or TLD. The traditional generic ones are .com, .gov, .org, .edu. There are a lot of new top level domains coming out like .photo, .party, .pro, .photography, .etc. The choice of a TLD is a bit overwhelming now. So what TLD should you choose?
Google has stated their algorithms do not give preference between the different domain names like a traditional .com versus a .photo, or .house or .tips. So Search ranking considerations suggest you should just pick what works for you.
However, some of these new TLDs are being exploited by spammers. Some folks have blocked the 4+ TLDs, or 5+ TLDs from their email servers. So if you plan to send email at some point, you may want to stick with the .com if available. The annual cost of a .com is typically cheaper than the .photo and .photography too.
Before researching, I registered the .link domain for my bit.ly links. Turns out .link is specifically used by spammers. I do not use it for email, but I am still researching the potential impacts.
Here is a blog post that discusses the TLD choice in more detail from Iwantmyname.com.
2. Don’t overthink your domain name.
If you are just starting out in photography, your interests now will evolve. When I first registered my domain 9 years ago, I was looking for something nature related. Nothing was available, BUT I am not a nature photographer now. That domain would have been too narrow. I settled for using my name, deezunkerphotography.com, and I am glad I did.
If you find your domain name is taken, and not currently associated with a webpage, check out the contact info for the domain in the ICANN WHOIS registry. You may be able to get your dream name.
3. Check Google before going to check it at a registrar.
Do a search on your domain variations in Google to help you narrow down your choices. You may find your name or a variation is used by another site, and even if you found a url, there could be confusion in searches for your name.
4. Find a safe place to search for your domain name.
Do not do a domain search from GoDaddy, or probably any of the other highly advertised domain registrars.
I searched for dz.photo at GoDaddy, saw it was available for $39 / year. I went to look for a cheaper price. Found out it was the same price everywhere, went back to GoDaddy 30 minutes later, and the domain name was no longer available. GoDaddy was ready to help facilitate a purchase of the domain for $69 / year.
I am not sure if this is GoDaddy, or some service that watches the GoDaddy site, but this happened to me twice. The first time I thought it was just a coincidence because it was a family name with .house. The second time made me quite leery.
I recommend going to Iwantmyname to do your searches. That is where I have all of my domains.
5. Keep your registration separate from your hosting.
Hosting companies offer a free domain on many plans. I recommend keeping this separate, so when you need to change hosting companies, you do not have to worry about your domain name getting mishandled. I will cover my experience with hosting in another post.
6. Pick a single registrar for ALL of your domains.
Pick a registrar that handles all of the TLDs. Some hosting companies will offer domain registration, but only for a handful of TLDs such as the regular .com, .org, .co, .info, etc. If you find one that handles them all, you will not have to jump around when looking for something special like that new .party url.
Using a registrar that handles all TLDs, allows you to keep them all in one place. So when you get the spammer emails about renewing your registration before you lose it, you do not panic.
7. Use the privacy option for the domain for the first couple of months to minimize spam.
Domain registrars will offer a privacy option to conceal your contact information on your registration. All urls with the associated contact info can be viewed on the ICANN WHOIS registry. Marketers are watching the new domains, and you will be inundated with calls and emails.
The privacy option allow you to conceal your contact info. I recommend this for a short time period after registration to minimize the marketing onslaught.
8. Don’t act like a spammer.
Spammers use the privacy option to conceal their urls. When you act like a spammer, this can play a role in the “trust” that Google assigns your url.
I know I just told you to use the privacy option, but after a couple of months, you can open it up again.
Frankly, you may be more comfortable with the privacy on. , and I do not know how big a factor the privacy is in SEO ranking. It is just one of many signals.
So these are my tips. Do you have any questions or some tips of your own to share?