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An Introduction to Domain Names (and Web Hosting)

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This article is a partial reproduction of the [MG|BG]0104 document sent to clients as part of our Growth programs. It introduces some considerations necessary during domain name and web host selection.

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Introduction

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is simply a string of characters that points to an IP address on your web server that serves your website. Simply put, it’s easier to communicate a domain name to people instead of an IP address, such as https://123.456.789.123. In another document we send clients ([MG|BG]0401) we introduce ‘Smart Numbers‘ which work in a similar manner. For example, 1300 BELIEF is easier to remember than our full phone number of 1300 235 433. Similarly, a domain name is like an alias of an IP address; it’s easier to remember a domain name than a string of numbers. When a user enters your website into their browser, a request is sent to a DNS server that resolves your domain name into an IP address before connecting you to a destination website.

Domain name registration is very different to website hosting, with both being required before you can serve a website on the internet. The domain name simply provides you with a name to access your website.

What is Website Hosting?

Websites are hosted on an always connected and purpose-built computer (or server) – usually connected to a high-speed network – that serves your website to users and often manages your email and other features. You essentially rent a small space on the computer for a monthly fee.

The cost of hosting is predicated on the bandwidth, storage, processing power, and other features that are assigned to your account. Some companies host a website for as little as $5 a month but you’re usually sharing a server with thousands of other sites… and if one of them engages in nefarious practices or consumes large amounts of processing power then their behaviour potentially impacts upon the performance of your website.

Note: Server reputation is reasonably important. As detailed in our [MG|BG]09XX series of manuals (sent to clients), sharing a server that also serves extremist content, hate speech, pornography, spam, or other content that encourages illegal, immoral or unethical practices may also impact upon your SEO and compromise your email deliverability. In the case of almost all ‘budget’ web hosts your website will be hosted on the same computer as a number of others, so when selecting a website host you should locate a company that limits the number of websites hosted on each machine, strictly scrutinises what kind of material they permit to be hosted, and one that guarantees a portion of server resources are allocated to your site. Australian web hosts with servers in Australia are usually a better choice than anything located offshore for quality purposes. BeliefMedia hosts only client websites.

Belief operates our own dedicated servers in Sydney. For security reasons we’re very strict with regard to access so our hosting isn’t for everybody (while we provide backend access to websites, we do not currently provide FTP access or any direct access to hosted files). We limit the number of sites on each machine based on their processing needs so one website isn’t affected by the performance of any other. This rule is enforced because we host numerous financial websites and our server may have (encrypted) records of financial clients.

Our website hosting is generally charged at around $30 per month for smaller businesses and increases to around to $200-$1200 per month for premium dedicated hosting (all paid yearly in advance to avoid pesky invoices).

Note: Dedicated hosting is often required for franchise businesses that require high-end server capabilities to cater for their downline stakeholders (multiple business websites, tightly integrated and shared resource, and a dedicated marketing platform, usually dictates a need for more powerful IT infrastructure). We provided dedicated servers for as little as $200 per month.

While you may (in principal) host your website on your own computer network it’s a seriously messy and unreliable proposition. You’ll need a dedicated IP address attached to your high-speed internal business network; you’ll need to have a dedicated computer with hosting software installed; and you’ll need to install systems to protect your network from abuse and downtime. You will also need to take appropriate measures to ensure security is maintained. Generally speaking, hosting your own website or internal public server is a bad idea.

There are times where a non-critical Intranet or extranet with low traffic can be hosted within your office network environment. A common NAS drive that can be accessed externally for internal business resources is an example of a non-critical piece of web-connected infrastructure (a domain name or sub-domain may be used to access this password-protected resource). Syncing data to a business-hosted resource may also be suitable for some businesses for maintaining nightly backups. Again, this imposes serious security considerations that are usually outside beyond the comfort level of most smaller businesses.

Belief provides 12-months of web hosting with most of our packages. We do prefer hosting client websites because our server has modules installed to support some of our marketing efforts.

Note: As part of the majority of our programs we give away a website at the rate of about one site every three months. Most of these websites do not include a hosting fee while others may incur a small charge to cover associated costs. For example, our BSB number search website does not have an associated fee while our ‘Quotes’ website has a cost of around $18+GST per month (as a result of massive storage requirements). These costs are introduced when each website is provided.

Before we host your website you’re required to purchase a domain name.

Website hosting, cloud hosting, and internal networking is something we discuss with our clients as part of our onboarding process.

Selecting a Domain Name

Introduction

Your domain name is intrinsically connected to your branding, it’s the face of your email presence, and it is the doorway to your website. Your domain name is extremely important to your business.

Before we start working with a business we’ll make sure that our clients are the custodians of a domain name that resonates with their brand and best represents the service for which they provide. A good domain name is a trust indicator that does improve upon conversions.

Note: In document [MG|BG]0303 (sent to clients) we introduce broad branding concepts. The manual is designed to do nothing other than have you think about how your brand is best represented online by way of your name, style, colour palette, positioning, phone number, website, and so on. Part of this looks at your domain name and the impact it has on your online identity. Generally speaking, we’re looking to use a primary domain name that tickles neurological sticking points and contributes towards your trust (and like) score.

The Tail Wagging the Dog

There are times when your primary business identify may be determined by domain name availability… so it’s often easy to fall into the trap of basing your business name on an available domain name (out of frustration) rather than one that actually has purpose – don’t fall into this trap.

When I first started my finance company iChoice back in 2004 – and despite being the sole director of the company – there were other stakeholders that were on board early in the process and expected to write loans under the eventuating business. When it came time to register the company I landed on iChoice for a number of reasons – not the least of which was my work building EzyChoice and a number of other ‘Choice’-style of brands as their marketing agent (the ‘choice’ name-recognition had played its part at a time when eChoice was a rising star). The ‘i’ component – already an established online prefix – later garnished more recognition by way of Apple’s line of products, and I attribute the choice of name to one of many reasons the business became a success.

The influence from others that had invested in the business (as brokers) was toxic; they were pushing a number of other names that included TV Home Loans. Yes, you heard it right. They’d confused a product or promotion for the primary brand… and in their minds they’d committed the business to return a TV to each client after settlement. Despite their objections, I obviously ignored the static noise, registered iChoice Pty Limited, and the rest is history. Needless to say, we never gave away a television.

The only issue that might have prevented the iChoice name was domain name availability. A previous iChoice did exist but was newly de-registered, and their domain name continued to be registered to the now defunct brand. It was almost a full-time job sitting in front of a PC checking for domain name availability every couple of hours until the name was released back into the market. The business might easy have being called Home Choice Pty Limited. So, in my case, the domain name was a mitigating factor in business name.

We’ve since worked with countless businesses in their early branding efforts to establish a powerful and persuasive business name that is supported by an available domain name. However, once again, it’s not the domain that should dictate your brand identity.

What to Look for in a Domain Name

A domain name should have the following general attributes:

  • As short as possible (connected to your primary brand). For example, if you operate XYZ finance, the best name might be xyzfinance.com.au. If it was available, simply XYZ.com.au may be more appropriate. Brand you domain name with simplicity, perhaps novelty, and memorability in mind.
  • Your domain should be easy to remember.
  • Don’t limit the scope of your business. Avoid one product type in your domain name that comes at the expense of others. For example, is it worth having ‘home loans’ in your domain name when a good portion of your business is derived from equipment finance? ‘Finance’ is a broad word that may work best for your business (we provide all our clients with a complimentary equipment finance website so they will usually choose to register a purpose domain for this product type).
  • Your domain name should be easy to communicate (if you have to spell it out over the phone you’ve made a mistake). We’ve fallen into this trap (in a very minor way). We often have to spell out BeliefMedia.com.au because many confuse it with BelieveMedia. We’ve got one client that has Bureau in his name, and while an excellent name, it’s probably a challenge for an average audience to spell (the Flesch Reading Ease score we introduce to our clients in [MG|BG]0302 also applies to domain names).
  • Avoid numbers and hyphens. There are occasions where a hyphen might be necessary but generally speaking they should almost always be avoided. They’re confusing, unconventional, and unnecessary. Numbers are a particularly bad choice; you’ll spend your life missing emails, and you’ll constantly be telling people “it’s 1 written as a number”. Never use a number as a letter alternative.
  • Avoid using filler words, prefixes, or suffixes. While often promoted, words like ‘in’, ‘the’, ‘by’, ‘group’, or any other word that expands upon an already registered name and alters it so becomes available is usually just going to direct traffic to your competitor (or whoever owns the better domain). Broadly speaking, this technique merely diminishes the value of your name and assigns value elsewhere. Avoid using words like ‘group’ or ‘network’ when it’s not necessary.
  • Research existing businesses and trademarks to ensure your domain won’t be challenged. It’s easy to fall into this trap – particularly when you’re registering a name that you might use for satellite websites and products. A gentleman once registered ‘TheFinanceGuy’ only to have it challenged by another individual that traded under that name. The name was lost, and all previous investment into SEO and link generation was lost. There was a clear financial cost associated with the purchase and renewals that was essentially wasted.
  • Generic names aren’t necessarily best. While they’re often a great asset, in many cases the single generic names aren’t nearly as descriptive as you might want them to be (such as loans.com.au or finance.com.au – the latter simply wasted on a financial news aggregation service returning Yahoo! news indiscriminately). A generic name was once a ranking factor for Google but the practice was abandoned in principle because the name itself was often associated with spammers and poor quality content. Content is still king and a website full of valuable resources is more valuable than a domain name in isolation. The idea is to create a brand and give your name purpose; when’s the last time you visited shopping.com? How about Amazon.com?
  • Consider making up a name (Silicon Valley is full of nonsensically-named start-ups). For example, Google didn’t exist before it was first registered (it’s actually the incorrect spelling of Googol)… and now it’s a dictionary word and common verb. Have you ever visited Reddit.com (one of the largest sites on the web)? Reddit is a play on “I Read It”… although many claim it is Latin for “render”, meaning “to submit for consideration or approval”. Either way, it wasn’t a dictionary word until Reddit forced themselves into everyday vernacular. A recent financial start-up in Australia has branded themselves as ‘86400‘– the number of seconds in a day, or their ‘opening hours’.

    Sometimes it’s okay to be a little creative but in the case of ‘made up words’ your marketing should normally be supported by a budget that supports the introduction of your brand.

  • This point introduces what to really look for in a domain name. Consider the following domain names:

ItsCrap.com – IT Scrap
Penisland.net – Pen Island
WhorePresents.com – WhoRepresents
TeacherStalking.org – TeachersTalking
TheRapistInaBox – TherapistInaBox
ChoosesPain.com – ChooseSpain
WinterSexPress.com – Winters Express
BiGalsPets.com – BigAlsPets
BigBustyCoons.com – BigBusTycoons
Tits.ac.in : Website name of an education institute.
mp3shits.com: mp3sHits
SpeedoFart.com : Speed of Art
DicksOnData.com : Dickson data
KidSexChange.net : Kids Exchange
BendOver.com: Ben Dover
LadRape.com : La Drape!
HireaTease.com: Hire at Ease
MasterbaitOnline.com: Master bait & tackle
NYCanals.com : NY Canals
ExpertSexChange – Experts Exchange (they’ve now introduced a hyphen)

Have you chosen domain name scrutinised by friends and family to verify there aren’t offensive elements.

  • While it may be an idea to register geographically relevant names, avoid using limiting geography in your domain. If you were in Queensland and you came across FinanceVictoria.com.au would you seek their services? Branded geography is a barrier to entry that should be avoided. There are times, such as when appealing directly to a local market, where a satellite site might be built to cater specifically for a particular local group but this is the exception rather than the rule.
  • Brand consistency is important. Belief operates via a large number of domain names, a branded Belief 1300 phone number, and as @BeliefMedia on the majority of social networks. Consistency makes it easier for people to find you in ‘other’ places. To be picky, the 6-character business name lends itself to the 1300 phone number aspect and branded vehicle number plates. As discussed in [MG|BG]0401 there are times when businesses have used their phone number as their brand name (something we’ve done with other services we operate). 1300HomeLoan, for example, uses 1300HomeLoan.com.au for their primary website (they also paid well over a million dollars to acquire the phone number).
  • In Australia it’s always better to use a .com.au domain for your primary website rather than the top level domain equivalent. People like doing businesses in Australia and your domain name should convey this. Additionally, .com.au domains come from a safe and well-regulated domain space with a good reputation. For national SEO the .com.au tends to always work better. The .com.au space works better than .net.au (the latter extension which might be considered ‘settling’ based on availability).
  • It’s a good idea to protect your name via registration of other available domains (such as the .net.au, .com, .net and possibly the ever-growing ‘other’ domain extensions). Some of the lesser-utilised domains provide for good ‘novelty services’ – such as belief.media (one we use for promotions and short URL truncation).

    Domain name squatters (sometimes called “cybersquatters”) often register a domain linked to your company in order to redirect visitation to their own service. While illegal, it’s not uncommon for competitors to leverage your brand and take advantage of organic browser traffic. We’ve also seen cases where a disgruntled customer might also engage in this practice. Many cybersquatters will routinely an Australian business database and compare the name against available domain names for the purpose of selling you the name at a seriously inflated price. Protect your brand!

  • There are restricted words that are not permitted in a domain name without first obtaining requisite consent from APRA. Such words include bank, banker, and banking. Using any restricted word (in Australian domains) is a bad idea – avoid them.

Domain Name Cost

While we are resellers for a few registrars we’ve found that GoDaddy and CrazyDomains provide an acceptable service (the former is a first pick). They’ll normally charge around $10 – $20 per year for most domains. Avoid companies such as MelbourneIT.com.au and others that charge around $140 per year for a far inferior service – the industry is full of extortionists (and MelbourneIT qualify in this category).

As with a number of other registrars, GoDaddy provides ‘suggestions’ to your name that are available for registration. Don’t be suckered into buying something with a suffix, prefix, or any other filler words that don’t add value to your online real-estate.

Avoid registering a domain name with a website builder service such as WIX or Squarespace. The features will always lean towards their own hosted service and often provide far fewer features for domains that are hosted elsewhere.

Premium Domain Names

There are domains that are purchased for the sole purpose of reselling them at an inflated price… sometimes a seriously inflated price. For example, InvestmentProperty.com.au was sold by NetFleet for $137,501. Was it worth it? Given that their website is mediocre I’d tend to suggest that their return won’t be realised by their very ordinary online presence… although it’s a great name. Even CreditCards.net.au (a .net.au domain!) was sold for $24,202, and the slightly better credit.com.au was sold for $20,009. It’s not uncommon to see domains sold on the open market for well in excess of a million dollars.

We recommend against purchasing a domain name on the open market unless your marketing budget and purpose supports the investment.

Avoid ‘back-ordering’ domain names. This service normally claims that a domain will be registered when it becomes available, except when multiple people back-order the same domain you’re essentially competing in a lottery.

Additional Domains

Our programs introduce ‘satellite’ websites to our clients as a means of building their digital assets and providing them with more of an online footprint (satellite websites shouldn’t be confused with a PBN, or Private Blog Networks – frowned upon by Google). In providing you with additional websites you have the option to register a brand new domain (recommended) or hosting under an existing website subdomain. The sites we provide you with often develop a significant resale value.

We recommend registering all available names (and sometimes other names such as product names or those of your IP) that are associated with your business in the primary namespaces.

There is no limit to the number of new Australian or other web addresses you can register. For clients, the mechanism for redirecting inactive domains to your primary domain without adversely impacting upon your SEO is discussed in [BG|MG]0901 (usually via a 301 or 302 redirect). While it may seem obvious, never duplicate the same website under different domains (and use Canonical URL for any duplicate content within your primary domain).

Email Hosting

When you register a domain and have it hosted with us you do have the option of having us host your email as well. However, the email is the lifeline to your business and should be supported by a top-notch network. We recommend hosting your email (only) with Microsoft as part of an Exchange or Office 365 package (normally ‘Business Essentials’, costing around $7 per month).

We have seen clients use one domain name for their website and another for their email. The idea is that they’re “spreading their risk” by disconnecting the two. However, and as we’ll discuss shortly, if we host our email with Microsoft we disconnect the relationship between web and email meaning that the potential website downtime invariably experienced from time to time won’t affect email deliverability (your website and email don’t have to be hosted by the same company). It’s always better to rationalise your brand and maintain consistency with your primary domain name.

No independent host can compare with the premium service provided by Microsoft.

Domains as a Business

Domain ‘real-estate’, not unlike bricks and mortar real-estate, and despite a domain representing no real tangible value, is a real business asset (in a sense it is kind of like a ‘type’ of cryptocurrency). The custodians of Koala.com.au, for example, purchased it before Koala mattresses had entered the market, and they eventually sold the name for $50,000. While it’s the shorter generic names that tend to have most value, it’s not uncommon for ‘longtail’ (or multiple word) domains to have significant value attached to them (for example, compareloans.com.au sold for $17,820, and CarLoan.com.au sold for $200,000).

Not unlike real property, a domain is worth what anybody is prepared to pay for it.

Belief owns a number of generic domains in the .com.au and .com/.net space that are all worth 6-figures. Interested? Talk to us.

Don’t fall into the trap of registering multiple domain names without a good reason (as we have done). They soon become a drain on finances with no real tangible return.

Selecting a Short URL

We’re a digital marketing company so it’d be negligent if we didn’t touch on short URL truncation services and the choice of a short domain name.

Introduced to our clients in [MG|BG]0801, a short URL is one that takes a loooong URL and shortens it into fewer characters so they can be more easily managed for dissemination or distribution over the web. The linked URL won’t break apart or line wrap in text emails, it fits nicely into SMS text messages, it’s far easier to remember, it’s easier to share, and it preserve precious space when using character-limiting microblogging services such as Twitter. The most significant argument for their use (regardless of URL character length) is the statistical marketing data that can be captured when the user is redirected through the service.

Some examples of short URL services in the aviation space might include qant.as, emirat.es, singa.ir, asia.na, etih.ad, jetbl.eu, flygir.ly, virg.in or vau.st (these domains were the subject of a White Paper that saw all the mentioned domains being registered) . There are literally hundreds of combinations made up via the reasonably large choice of domain extensions. The most popular generic service you’ve probably already encountered might include bit.ly, youtu.be, fb.me, and goo.gl.

All our clients receive access to shor.tt and fat.ly as shorteners although we’d ideally like to see our own clients take ownership of their brand and eventually host their own service (supported in full by our marketing platform). A small cost is associated with a custom client setup.

Eligibility Criteria

COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, AND .BIZ

.com, .net, .org, .info and .biz domain names can be registered by any organisation or individual; including in Australia, with .com having the best recognition and therefore the best choice for non-Australian domains. Should your preferred domain name be available in the .com domain space it would be wise to secure it as soon as practicable while it is still available.

.COM.AU AND/OR .NET.AU

A .com.au name is the primary Australian website address real estate for businesses. It has the best level of awareness and trust in Australian online shoppers.

To be eligible to register com.au or a net.au domain name, registrants must be:

  • an Australian registered company; or
  • trading under a registered business name in any Australian State or Territory; or
  • an Australian partnership or sole trader; or
  • a foreign company licensed to trade in Australia; or
  • an owner of an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or
  • an applicant for an Australian Registered Trade Mark; or
  • an association incorporated in any Australian State or Territory; or
  • an Australian commercial statutory body.

.ORG.AU AND/OR .ASN.AU

Domain registration available to “non-commercial organisations” only. To be eligible for a org.au or .asn.au name, the registrant must be;

  • an Australian incorporated association
  • an Australian political party
  • an Australian Trade Union or organisation under Workplace Relations Act 1966
  • an Australian sporting or special interest club.

.ID.AU

To be eligible for an id.au domain name, registrants are required to be:

  • an Australian citizen; or
  • an Australian resident.

Note that .id.au names cannot be used for commercial purposes – they are strictly for personal and hobbyist use. 

Conclusion

Avoid domain name regret – the name will be with you for a long time. To ensure you get the right name ensure that Belief assists with domain selection and registration.

It’s very easy to develop a tunnel-vision when searching for a name, and just as easy to form a confirmation-bias out of frustration. Don’t get too invested in a particular line of thinking – introduce a group to the mix to generate alternatives.

While a little outside the scope of this document, never host business resources under a domain name that doesn’t belong to you (such as ClickFunnels, Leadpages etc.). This includes landing pages and hosted files. The notion that you’ll send your clients off-site diminishes trust, pollutes your SEO, and adversely impacts upon your brand value.

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