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Domain names

A domain name (or website address) may not seem important when you’re first starting out, but it’s the cornerstone of your online business. So if you want to maximise all the benefits of an online presence, you need to put some thought into a great domain name.

It needs to be unique, easy to remember and either close to your business name or reflective of the service you provide. There are a few tricks to the trade when choosing an optimal domain name – read on to find out more. 

What exactly is a domain name?

A domain name is a group of words used to uniquely identify your website. It comprises a ‘domain’ and a ‘top-level domain’. The top-level domain is the extension - .com, .gov,
.net, .org. This is often followed by a country code such as .au, .uk or .nz which identifies the country in which the website is registered. The ‘domain’ is the word that precedes the top-level domain. For example, in www.hia.com.au, the ‘hia’ is the domain, the ‘.com.au’ is the top-level and country-code domain. 

In Australia .com.au domain names are the most popular, and by default the .com.au is targeted to web searches made within Australia. So for Australian businesses, a .com.au top-level domain is your best option.

How do I choose a domain name?

Generally your domain name will be the same as or similar to your business name. Or it might describe the service you provide. So start by making a list of possible names you want to use – that way if a name you have thought of is already registered by someone else you will have some other options. 

Once you have your list of potential names, you will need to find out which ones are available. You can do this using the search function on any domain name registrar’s website. There are links to all Australian-accredited domain name registrars at http://www.auda.org.au/industry-information/registrars/, and select a registrar.

domain name registrarOne you’re on a registrar’s website, the search portal will look something like the example at right. 

Simply type in the name you want to register and it will let you know if the name is available or not. Keep trying until it tells you one of your chosen names is available.

Note: Just typing an address into your browser is not an accurate way to determine if a domain name is already registered, as the vast majority of names currently registered are not in use.

Things to consider when choosing your domain name:

  • Avoid long names as these can be difficult for customers to remember, and will make your email addresses very long. Technically, you are limited to 63 characters for your domain.
  • You cannot use spaces or ‘special characters’ such as ! @ # $ % ^ & < * ( ) { } | [ ] >. Dashes and numbers are okay. (EG: www.simons-1000.com.au is allowed.)
  • Contrary to popular opinion, domain names are not case sensitive. Try it for yourself – type www.hia.com.au and www.HIA.com.au into your browser – both will take you to the HIA website. This means that you can publicise your website as www.MichaelsPlumbing.com.au even if it actually registered www.michaelsplumbing.com.au
  • If possible, it’s wise to register several popular domain extensions including .com.au, net.au, and .com to protect your brand identity online.
  • If your domain name is easily mistyped or misspelt you may want to register additional domain names to accommodate this. One famous example of this is Qantas, which is commonly misspelt with a ‘qu’. So www.qantas.com.au and www.quantas.com.au will both take you to the correct website.

How do I register a domain name?

Once you’ve established that your chosen domain is available, it’s time to register it before anyone else does! You will need to open an account with an accredited domain name registrar – visit http://www.auda.org.au/industryinformation/registrars/ for links to Australian registrars, and stat shopping around. Specific services and fee schedules may vary from registrar to registrar. Prices start from around $15 per year to register a domain name.

What do I need to register a domain name?

During the domain name registration you will be asked to supply an Australian Business Number (ABN), Australian Company Number (ACN), State Business Number, Trademark Number or Incorporated Association Number to prove eligibility.

You can also use your domain name for your email address

Email also relies on domain names to work. Once you have a domain name, it is easy to create your own email address of yourname@yourdomain.com.au. This has many advantages for branding and professional communications. Many people register domain names purely to have their own email address instead of relying on Hotmail, Gmail or any other generic service.

Would you like more marketing tips? Just visit hia.com.au/sbg.