Choosing the right domain name can be tough. Should you get a .nz or a .com? What about .cricket or .pizza?
Your domain name is an extremely important part of your online presence. Clearly it represents your brand, but it’s also a critical component of your IT infrastructure, email, website or ecommerce store.
So what is a domain name?
In the simplest terms, a domain name works a bit like a name in a phone directory. If you know the name, you can find the correct phone number to get in touch.
With websites, a domain name is translated into an IP address via a system called DNS and the connection is made.
Similarly, to deliver an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, DNS is used to find out which server handles mail for address.co.nz and the email is routed there.
How do I choose a good domain name?
Once upon a time your customers would need to write your website address down, then type it into their computer later. A short and memorable name was essential.
With the rise of digital marketing and search engines like Google which (hopefully!) bring customers directly to your site, your exact choice of domain name is arguably not as critical as it used to be.
However it’s still good to pick the simplest option you can, if only because you will have to live with it. You will inevitably end up typing it out or spelling it over the phone a few times!
Try to avoid hyphens and anything else which complicates your domain name, but sometimes these variations are necessary if your first choice is already taken.
After you figure out the first part of your domain name, you need to decide which TLD you want. (TLD stands for top-level domain) The TLD is the bit on the end, like .co.nz or .com.
The full list of TLDs is weird and wonderful, but the two main factors to consider when choosing a TLD are availability and credibility.
Availability means you can actually get your desired domain.
Some TLDs are restricted to certain countries, governments or organisations. Ideally your desired will be available for registration immediately, but if it has already been registered, visit the address and see whether it’s in use, or potentially for sale.
If you do have to buy the domain from its current owner, they can pretty much name their price. Voice.com sold for an eye-watering US$30M in 2019!
Credibility is much more subjective, but think carefully before using a newer, ‘novelty’ TLD.
Old-fashioned ones like .com or .co.nz are well-recognised as part of a website or email address, but a TLD like .site can start to look a bit like a typo.
Would your customers immediately recognise mycompany.click is your full web address?
Buying and managing a domain
For common TLDs you can usually take your pick of domain providers, but it pays to do some reputational research first.
Certain TLDs are only available from certain providers, and some of those have a less-than-stellar reputation when it comes to customer service and general business practices.
It’s very important to use a stable, monitored email address when registering your domain, especially if you register it 3-5 years ahead.
I have lost count of the support requests I have dealt with for domains which lapsed because the renewal notification was sent to an email address which no longer exists.
Should I have multiple domain names?
It’s quite common for businesses to purchase a number of variations of their brand domain names.
The main reasons for doing this are offering different websites or online stores to different markets, or simply preventing anyone else from registering them.
Given the relatively low annual cost of registration for most TLDs, it may be worthwhile claiming that virtual real estate around your brand.
That’s it for this quick run-down on domain names. Remember, treat your domain contact and login details with care as they are some of your most important IT credentials!