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What’s in a (domain) name?

  • Opinion
  • October 14, 2015
  • David Morrison
What’s in a (domain) name?
Image: Kerryn Smith

Now more than ever, I believe businesses need to be thinking very strategically about their web presence as an ecosystem of channels working together to bring your potential customer to your physical or virtual storefront.

So what is a domain name?

A domain name is the bit that follows the www or http:// in web addresses or the @ symbol with email addresses. Domain names are translated by the Domain Name System (DNS) into an IP address; the location where your website or email server is found on the internet.

Why should I use one?

First and foremost a domain gives you control because it allows you to change your website and email hosting providers as your business needs evolve without having to change your address. 

Branding is the other key reason to use a domain name. If you are using a third-party service for your web presence as your online brand and it is using someone else’s domain name (for example, mybusiness.xtra.co.nz) then you are telling your customers that you don’t care about something as basic as your brand, and if you don’t care about that, then what else don’t you care about? Using a .nz domain name helps reinforce that you are an NZ business and you look more professional as well.  

I have a Facebook Business Page or a LinkedIn page, that’s enough isn’t it? Well, no. Social media channels are a fantastic way to engage with potential and existing customers but they should not be your ‘home’ on the internet because they limit who can reach you and how you can interact with customers. Link your various social channels back to your website so that they all have a common home. And don’t forget that today’s popular social network can be tomorrow’s forgotten website – who uses Myspace anymore?

What domain name should I use?

There is an abundance of choice when it comes to choosing a domain name. In addition to the country code top level domain extensions (ccTLD), you can now choose from over 800 (and counting) generic Top Level Domain (gTLDs).  Be strategic with your decision and consider what your customers will recognise and trust.

How do I manage my domain name – six quick tips

1.         Register it for as long as is practical. Terms vary across different domain extensions.  For .nz you can register for terms ranging from one month to ten years.

2.         Use accurate contact information when you register a domain name and make sure that these details are in your name or your company’s name not a web designer or consultant. If ever there is a dispute about the name, it is the official Registrant details that are seen as authoritative and many companies have found their web designers own their domain name and not them.

3.         Use a generic email address. Set up a specific email address such as domainnames@johnsplumbing.co.nz and ensure that several people (if appropriate) have access to this. This email address is typically used by Registrars as the primary communication address for important things like renewing your domain name

4.         Safeguard your details. Take note of the Registrar you used and website login details and put them somewhere safe where you can find them easily. The Registrar website site is where you configure how your domain name works for websites and email.

5.         Note your renewal date. Note down in your diary when the domain is next due for renewal. If the domain name is not renewed at the right time, you could cease to be the Registrant and someone else may register the name.

6.         If you need to, ask for help.  

This story was originally published in NZ Retail magazine issue 739, August / September 2015.

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