In part one of this series we outlined a great use case for a small cloud environment–building a nonprofit website that can take donations via PayPal, and can also scale up if demand for the site increases. In order to do this from scratch, we will need some things from outside vendors: specifically a domain name and an SSL certificate.
Registering a domain name
To purchase a domain name, you’ll need to register the name you want with an organization called ICANN through one of a number of companies that acts as a domain name registrar. For example, if you wanted to purchase the domain name “jumpingjackflash.com”, you would have to go to a registrar, and pay a registration fee. That will give you the right to the name for a year, after which time you will have to renew it annually.
Many nonprofit websites make use of the .org top-level domain name (TLD) for easy recognition, there is no special designation for .org websites and anyone can register a name to this open TLD.
Tips for choosing a domain name
The domain name you choose for your site is important. This will be what your donors and visitors will navigate to or provide by word of mouth and email, plus it will be on all your promotional materials. While a domain name is not permanent and you can change it later, it’s easier to get it all set up right the first time. Here are some tips in helping you choose a domain name:
Smaller is better! It’s difficult to remember a long domain name, and the longer it is the more likely visitors are to mistype the name. Try to keep your domain name short and easily identifiable.
Google vs googl: Consider registering alternate spellings of your domain. Ever accidentally typed ‘googl.com’ into your browser and been re-routed to google.com? That’s because Google has registered googl.com in order to catch visitors who have likely misspelled their domain. Not only is this convenient to your site’s visitors, but it can also safeguard your audience from imposter websites waiting to capture visitor data or worse, route money to malicious actors with very slightly misspelled domain names.
Avoid dashes: Limit hyphens where possible. Most people are not going to add hyphens into a search engine in when searching for a site. One of the main focus points of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is helping to answer the search intent of the user. So if the user is not likely to use a hyphen then it may be best not to use a hyphen for your domain name.
Keywords aren’t necessary: Keywords in a domain name no longer provide a boost in SEO. There persists the idea that keyword domains are able to rank better faster than branded domains. Keyword domains are domain names that include words that identify the purpose or content of the site itself. An example could be: ‘buybillboards.com’. However, Google’s own John Mueller, has confirmed that Google has moved away from ranking results with consideration given to keywords. However, placing keywords in your domain name does have a role in branding–a unique and memorable domain like Amazon.com is nice, but a domain which also tells people what the website is about may even be better.
Country codes yield local search results: Country-code top level domains, such as .us, .ca and .uk will significantly affect your website’s ranking on a geographical search level. A search in Kazakhstan is unlikely to display many .us or .ca results, however it may give preference to domains with the top level domain of .kz.
Finding a domain registrar
Though this list is by no means comprehensive, here are some popular domain registrars you can check out for prices, features, and name availability:
SSL, do I need it and how do I get it?
If your website requests or stores any personal information, then you’ll need an SSL certificate to enable encryption of data sent between the end user’s browser and your web server. However, it’s also important to note that search engines are cracking down on all perceived “insecure” websites, regardless of what data gets sent to them. Chrome, Firefox and other browsers have begun issuing warnings when visitors go to any sites that don’t have certificates. More importantly, Google recently announced SSL as a consideration in their results rankings. So unless you have SSL, your site may be harder to find by potential visitors.
There are a number of SSL providers which will sell certificates to you. Below are some of the popular providers which charge for SSL certificates:
In addition to the sites above, there is now an alternative free option for purchasing SSL certificates: Let’s Encrypt. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. It is a service provided by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and is a trusted authority to the same degree as traditional, paid solutions. In this walkthrough, we’ll demonstrate how to set up Let’s Encrypt as your website’s SSL solution.
Now that we know what we’ll need to obtain through third party vendors, we’re ready to start building our cloud environment. In the next article, we’ll get started creating resources.