A domain name is the unique name that identifies an internet resource such as a website, for example digitaljourney.nz

A strong domain name makes you memorable

Choosing a strong domain name separates you from the crowd and makes your organisation look professional and credible. A well-chosen domain name also makes you easy to find and easy to come back to.

Ideally, you’ll choose your organisation name and your domain name at the same time, to make sure they match well. Remember that it’s trickier to change either name later, once your brand is established.

Choosing your domain name

Each domain name has a main part (the name of your business, organisation, or initiative) and an extension (for example, .com or .nz). Use OneCheck at business.govt.nz to check which domain names are available. Make sure you choose a name that’s available as a website and on social media — it’s important to have a unified online presence.

Choosing the main part of your domain name

Choose a name that:

  • reflects what you do
  • is unique — doesn’t sound like anyone else
  • is short (6–10 letters for the main part is ideal, and 8 letters is perfect)
  • is easy to remember
  • is easy to pronounce (no abbreviations)
  • is easy to type (no hyphens)
  • can’t be misread (especially if two words run together)
  • isn’t trying to be too clever or trendy (for example, doooooooodle.com).

Take your time and choose carefully. You don’t want your domain name to be too similar to any other business name, trademark, web domain, or social media account. You don’t want customers to confuse you with your competitors, and you don’t want your competitors to contest your right to be online. For example, if your domain name is too close to a registered trademark, you may be asked to take your website down. 

OneCheck will help you make sure you’ve chosen a safe name.

Choosing the extension of your domain name

The extension of your domain name tells users something more about your organisation. For example, it might tell them you’re a national or international business, or that you’re a non-profit organisation. Or it might even indicate the topic you’re focused on.

Common extensions include:

  • .com — for international organisations
  • .co — for companies
  • .org — for non-profit organisations
  • .gov or .govt — for governments
  • .edu or .ac — for educational or academic institutions

Country-code extensions include:

  • .nz — for New Zealand
  • .au — for Australia
  • .uk — for United Kingdom
  • .in — for India

Topic-specific extensions include:

  • .photography
  • .movie
  • .bike
  • .cooking

When choosing your domain name extension, consider what your customers look for. If they see you as a New Zealand business, consider getting a .nz domain name. If you want to be seen as an international business, consider .com (or .global, if .com isn’t available).

You can use more than one extension, depending on what you want your domain name to indicate to your customers. For example, .biking.nz, or .co.au. If you’re an iwi organisation, consider .iwi.nz. 

OneCheck will give you more ideas for extensions.

Checking the history of your domain name

Once you’ve chosen your domain name and checked it’s available, make sure it’s never been blacklisted or penalised. Type your domain name into Wayback Machine to check.

Registering your domain name

Ready to register? Most domain registrars make the process quick and easy. Check the list of authorised registrars at the Domain Name Commission to choose a service that suits your needs. Some registrars only offer registration, whereas others offer website hosting and email services too. And they each offer different levels of customer service. Think about what you’ll need before deciding.

Linking your domain name to your email

Using your domain name for your email, as well as for your website and social media, is essential. Research shows that customers trust businesses more if they’re using a registered domain name for their email addresses.

If you’re already using a more general email address, such as @gmail.com or @outlook.com, link it to your domain name as soon as you can. 

Check out this guide to linking your domain name to your email address

Case Study

Hear why Survive-it use their domain name for both website and email by watching the video below. You can also read about it here. 

Using your domain name for your social media accounts

Make the most of your domain name by using it across all your channels. Just using the main part of your domain name is fine — you don’t need to include ‘www’ and your extension. For example, if your full domain name is www.cakeguru.co.nz, just use ‘cakeguru’ to name your social media pages. Some platforms let you choose a friendly display name too, so your page could be Cake Guru.

And of course, be sure to link to your website from each social media page, so people know for sure they’re in the right place. Check out our article about integrating your website with social media for more information. 

Registering more than one domain

You can register multiple domain names for the same website, to help target customers in different countries. For example, you could register .com, .nz, .au and .uk at the same time. However, be aware that you’ll be charged a fee for each domain name you register. Fees are normally charged annually. Some domain names also require a verified local contact address (eg, a street address or a PO box number) in a specific country before you can register them.

Need some help or want to know more?

If you have any questions or need advice, you can get in touch with the Digital Journey team at hello@digitaljourney.org.

Digital Journey works with individuals, businesses and organisations of all types across New Zealand. We provide FREE online digital assessments and resources, as well as training, coaching and project management services.

Our vision is to help everyone get the most out of the Internet, online tools and digital technology. Find out more at www.digitaljourney.org.

By Brandon Bradley