Identify Your MarketBefore doing anything else, we'd recommend choosing your market. Whether you're going to target the whole market, or a more specific niche will have a significant influence on the way in which you choose a domain name, build a site and develop traffic to it, so having a clear idea where you're heading from the outset is a very good idea.
Setting Up Home On The WebWith some ringtone reseller systems, it's possible to sign up without actually having to have your own website - the provider instead gives the reseller a sub-domain of their own which can be promoted directly, or through a transparently redirecting domain name belonging to the affiliate. It's perfectly possible to make an income from this type of arrangement, however, if you're serious about building traffic, we'd recommend avoiding it - instead registering a domain name and hosting a site yourself. This can help avoid penalties applied by search engines against affiliate sites, allows the content to be tailored by the site owner, and means that the site can be heavily geared towards a specific market niche where appropriate.
Choosing A Domain NameIf you're going to host a site yourself, a domain name is an essential. Site addresses such as http://www.hostname.com/~yourname tend not to be attractive to site visitors, and there's no real prospect of promoting a brand without a domain name for the site visitor to remember.
Domain names aren't expensive these days - typically it costs less than £10 ($20) to register a .com domain, and regional domains are often even cheaper. Finding the right name can however be pretty difficult. Mobile content is a large and lucrative market so, unsurprisingly, thousands of domain names have been snapped up by content resellers and people looking to speculate on the domain names themselves.
There's much speculation amongst the search engine optimisation fraternity as to whether keywords within domain names have an influence on the way that the site ranks with search engines. It's unclear as to whether this remains the case (it has certainly been true in the past), but we would strongly recommend choosing a name with at least some keyword content within it, unless you intend to make a very large scale assault on the marketplace. If you intend to become the next big name in mobile content, then www.yourcorporatename.com may well be a wise choice - but in most other cases, www.tradenameringtones.com or similar is probably a better idea.
We'd recommend avoiding excessively long domain names. This may however pose a problem as more and more domains become registered. If you struggle to find a good domain name, we'd recommend downloading a copy of DomainInspect from Antsoft (free trial direct download). DomainInspect allows you to enter a number of keywords, which the program then assembles into differing domain name variants. You can then search for unregistered domains under virtually any international or regional top level domain.
Registering And Hosting Your DomainOnce you've found a domain name, you'll need to register it as soon as possible, and have it set up to point at an account on a web server. Where possible, we'd recommend registering through the same company that you plan to host with.
Website Hosting RecommendationsFinding the right hosting provider can be difficult simply because of the huge number of companies out there to choose from. There is also a huge array of choice when it comes to the services and technologies offered by the hosting account itself. Which of these are important will depend on how seriously you intend to develop the site, and the degree to which you plan on getting involved in custom coding.
If you're just planning on setting up a simple site using IFRAMES from a content provider, then a basic account may well suffice. However, we would recommend picking a host which either offers a wide array of services by default, or which has a simple upgrade procedure. A basic hosting package may well meet your immediate needs, but you may find that your needs increase as your site develops.
Some of the features and facilities we would recommend looking for include*:
- Linux / Unix hosting. Microsoft may well have developed their server technologies, but we have seen far too many MS hosted sites failing on a regular basis to consider MS based hosting at this point in time. A server running Apache on Linux still seems to be the sensible choice where serious uptime is concerned.
- PHP support. PHP is an active scripting language which can be embedded into HTML, allowing it to be extended to provide more advanced features and server interaction. PHP also tends to be by far the best way to interact with a SQL database (If you end up using a Microsoft based server, then ASP support can provide similar functionality to PHP).
- MySQL support. If you plan to block import data from a content provider, then you'll need a reliable database server to work with. MySQL provides a reliable and flexible platform with which to do this, and is widely supported by content providers.
- FTP User Accounts. A server account which allows you to set up FTP users, and to limit the directories which those accounts to access can be useful. Some providers (ie. Laiwa) offer whitepage site setup for non-technical users, with the site then automatically created via FTP. The ability to create limited FTP accounts means you can use automatic update features of this nature without having to give the provider your main FTP account login username and password.
- Page rewrting engine. Dynamic URL rewriting allows complex queries such as www.yoursite.com/script.php?page=1&file=2&user=4 to be remapped to a cleaner URL such as www.yoursite.com/1_2_4/page.php. This can help significantly with search engine optimisation and site map creation, but can place a serious load on the server, so needs to be used with caution on high traffic sites.
- Multiple Domain Name Support. You may well just be planning your first site, but the ability to flexibly add more sites with other domain names may well be useful once you start to progress with your business.
We use 1&1 for all of our hosting and can thoroughly recommend their services on all counts - uptime is impressive, they offer a simple upgrade procedure when you need more features, and they allow you to register multiple domains on your account - all for a very competitive price. Their Home or Business account will generally meet the needs of anyone just starting out, and it's a simple task to upgrade when the time comes - right the way up to your own dedicated server with root access.