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The domain name for my first company was V3.com. We hosted one of the first ‘redirect services’ in the world and offered people shortened URLS using the domain names Go.to, Come.to and Listen.to (and 400 other similar short domains). For years you could reach me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. But then in 1999 we sold the company and pretty soon I stopped using these addresses. A few years later I started a company called HubHop and I changed my address to email@example.com. In 2005 we sold that company, and predictably, I stopped using that address too.
Since then I have probably been using more than 30 different email addresses. With every new project we start I get a new email address, and often I will use it too. Yes, this is a mess and it can be annoying for people who are trying to stay in touch with me.
Now I might be an exception, but I think this is becoming the norm. People don’t generally stay at one company their whole life, and more and more people realize that just a CV of LinkedIn profile isn’t enough anymore, and invest in building their personal online brand.
To handle the mess I got myself into, I decided to register my personal domain name in 2002. I figured it would be good to have a personal page that I wouldn’t sell, that wasn’t hosted on a service that might get sold itself or disappear and that I could use to promote my personal brand. I even registered an extra personal domain to use for the stuff I share on social networks, at Boris.to, which gives me more control than just using Twitter’s own photo service.
Of course your data is safe at Facebook. But you won’t be 100% sure, right? So why not invest just a little bit of money (domain names are cheap) and secure a name that will last a lifetime? Here are a few tips and considerations that might help you:
Memorable and timeless
Try to avoid using something funny. Look at it like this: you want this name to last you 50 years. Use your last name, or a combination of your last name and first name, and keep it simple.
Pay it forward
Generally domain names and hosting is cheaper when you pay in advance. Go for the full 5 year if you can afford it. This will save you the hassle of renewing each year.
If you handle this well, your new personal platform, over time, will become the number one search result for your name on search engines. Make sure you spend some time optimizing it for that. Display your name in the title, first paragraph and footer.
A dependable platform
The first site I built was based on basic HTML. I added some PHP later, and as I started adding stuff the whole thing become overly complicated. At once point it became too much of a hassle to add or remove things. At one point I switched to WordPress which was all, and more, than I needed. It is also free and easy to use. No more hassle with HTML and PHP if I wanted to add a simple page.
It’s a family affair
If you use a family name as your domain name, set up your family with pages and email addresses too (e.g., YourDaughtersFirstName@YourSurname.com). They will love you for it, and if you get a hosting contract with a basic email management system, it should be easy to manage.
A lot of people who start with a personal domain name promise to start blogging every day. Don’t do that. Within 2 months you might get bored with it, and then drop down to once a week. Why not just start with an update every week, and see if you enjoy it. Or don’t even start a blog but just build a good-looking profile page? It is easier and timeless. A service like About.me or Flavors.me can make this easy.
Once you have your personal domain make sure you tie it to your Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter profiles. Link and back and forth from your profiles to your personal domain. Consider your domain the central hub between everything so people can go from Twitter to your hub, and then to LinkedIn, and back again.
Private or professional
It might make sense to get two personal domains, but focus one on your professional life and the other one on your personal life. You could use your personal holding name for the professional domain and your family name for your family stuff. I don’t really make a distinction between the two, but that might be very different for you.
Once upon a time a domain name was an expensive thing that only professionals owned. These days, you can get them virtually free. It also seems that having a complete online profile will help you promote yourself better, and that’s good no matter if you are looking for a new job, or want to start a new company. My advice would be to spend a few hours thinking about getting a personal domain name, think about what you would want to do with it, and then do it.
And once you’ve signed up for your domain name, why not post it in the comments here so we can all take a look?
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