How often do you see a nicely sign-written van or lorry featuring a company's website address? If you're like me and spend a fair amount of time in traffic jams, I'm guessing quite a lot. It's a good way of promoting your business and encouraging people to visit your website.
However, I often notice that some organisations who have invested in a professionally produced website, featured it in their advertising and on their vehicles then give a "free" email address as a way of contacting them. For example you might see something that urges you to find out more at www.acmewashers.co.uk but then the email address they use is [email protected] Compare this to the ad featuring www.whizzowashers.co.uk with an email address of [email protected] I don't know about you, but Whizzo Washers is already looking like a more professional organisation to me.
When you register a domain name, "mailboxes" that will let you send and receive email aren't normally included in the price. You typically need to either buy them as "add-ons" or buy a more comprehensive hosting package. In this situation, I can see why the free email option seems attractive. I've got nothing against free email addresses, they can be really useful, but if you have gone to the expense of registering a domain name then why not use it with your email address too? If you use a facility known as email forwarding, there won't be any additional cost.
Nowadays, any domain hosting package worth its salt should include free email forwarding. This will allow email sent to "your domain" to be forwarded to another email, address – even a free one. This is exactly what the folks at Whizzo Washers did, they invested significantly less than £10 per year to register their whizzowashers.co.uk domain and then used the inclusive email forwarding capability to forward all email sent to whizzowashers.co.uk to their Gmail address.
They're even using their whizzowashers.co.uk address for email replies. (When logged into Gmail, choose the "Settings" option, select "Accounts and Import" and click "Send from another address". This sets up and verifies the email address to use as the reply address.)
I would suggest that if anyone is producing a website for you and offering you domain registration and website hosting, then they should provide a solution for your email too. At the very least this should include the email forwarding which I have just described - at no extra cost. For more "business oriented capabilities" expect POP3 or IMAP mailboxes with webmail capabilities, or at the top of the spectrum, something that includes things such as company-wide shared calendaring, address lists and the ability to access your email using the ubiquitous Microsoft Outlook, webmail, mobile phone or tablet (but more about that later),
Just remember, whatever options you choose for your website. It's your domain and don't forget to use it wherever you can.