By Lauren Lao, Marketing Communications Manager, Public Interest Registry

As a part of our ongoing Domain Industry blog series, we are excited to introduce a new theme focused on debunking common domain industry myths. Before we get started, make sure you are caught up on our previous two series, part 1 Domain Lingo 101, and part 2 A Domain Insider’s Guide to the Industry.

While you may think many domain names on the internet are already taken, don’t fret – you’ve got options! Thinking outside the box – creatively and strategically – not only applies to a selecting a domain name but also your selected domain extension. In fact, choosing the right domain extension is just as important as the domain name itself. In the content below, we’ll walk you through some important considerations in the process of identifying a domain name and creating your home online. Continue reading for tips on selecting, purchasing and creating a website around your new domain name, as well as suggestions for what to do if your preferred domain name is unavailable.

What is a domain name?

Before we dive into identifying a domain name, let’s refresh your memory on what a domain name is. A domain name is what you type into your address bar in your web browser to bring you to the website of your choosing. It can be just about any word or combination of words and comes before the dot in the complete domain name (ex: our domain name is “PIR” referencing our organisation’s name). After the dot is known as the domain extension (ex: the .org in our full domain name of PIR.org).

As you consider the domain name that will best represent your brand, organisation or even your organisation’s mission, remember to make sure the name is easy to remember and type. Avoid words that have more than one spelling, slang terms, and unnecessary symbols or numerals.

Once you’ve decided on a name, pick a domain extension and check to see if the full domain is available or currently in use by someone else. It’s a good idea to research domain names that are similar to yours to recreate the potential places your visitors could end up if they mistype. While you’re looking into domain names that are similar to yours, also consider researching what their sites are known for to prevent your site from being associated with a negative one. If your research shows that a similar domain has negative content, it might be better in the long run to consider choosing a altogether dissimilar name to avoid any potential association.

For more information on domain names and domain extensions refer to our Domain Lingo 101: Let’s Start With The Basics blog.

What to do if your domain name is taken?

If you’re having trouble finding a domain name or the domain name you desire is unavailable, check to see if there is a help section through your preferred registrar, which is an organisation that works with you to register a domain name and any other services you might need to establish your domain name into a fully functioning website. A help section can provide more information on domain name availability and, in fact, most domain registrars have a search engine that lists available names similar to the one you want. You can also consider checking the status of the name on different extensions – say you’re interested in water.org and see that it is already taken, you might consider also checking to see if water.ngo is available.

If the domain name you really want is not available, you might be able to acquire it on the aftermarket. Domain investors acquire domain names that are attractive and invite offers or put them up for auction. Your registrar can help acquire a name that is already taken, or it might be available in a public auction. If you feel someone has registered a domain that impinges on your trademark (sometimes refered to as “cyber-squatters”) there are alternatives such as legal action or the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP) which is managed by ICANN.

Why you should seriously consider different domain extensions.

Not all domain extensions are created equal – but this is a good thing! Domain extensions create unique spaces online and can become strong branding opportunities in your favor. While you’re researching your optimal domain options, take a moment to think about how aligning with different domain extensions could prove to be the cherry on top or exclamation point of your domain name. The domain extension you choose should align with your underlying mission or purpose of what you’re trying to achieve.

For example, while .com may be the first choice for the commercial community and .attorney references lawyers and legal professional services, the .org domain extension brings associations of social good or mission-driven organisations to your domain name availability. The .org domain extension is a great option that is trusted by organisations, businesses and community groups with a social good mission or even individuals that want to do good on the internet.

Where to purchase and host your domain name?

Using the guidance above, we hope you have now successfully picked an available domain name. It’s time to make it yours! As discussed previously, domain names are available to register from a registrar.

After you’ve registered your domain name you will need to purchase a hosting package that provides you with a designated space for your website on the internet. Sound like a lot of work? Don’t worry, look for a registrar who can bundle or package these items together instead of using separate providers. Many people also use different hosting providers outside their registrars, depending on your requirements.

It’s also important to note that you can register a domain name through a website builder, such as WordPress. However, the domain name will be branded to the website builder (i.e. www.apple.wordpress.com). This type of domain name is referred to as a sub-domain or a “third-level domain”. It is registered by the website builder and cannot be switched to another service provider. With that, there are a few benefits to using a website builder. It’s a one stop shop for hosting, design and management capabilities at the click of a mouse. It can also be helpful if you need a bit of help with the technical side of design and management of a website. In addition, you can register a domain with any registrar and use hosting services provided by a third party hosting or website building service without having a third level domain.

To learn more about registrars and hosting providers check out our Domain Insider’s Guide: Registrar Edition blog.

As you can see there are several considerations and options when choosing a domain name, and steps to making your domain name accessible to the public. We hope this information is helpful in identifying and obtaining the perfect domain name for your organisation or brand. Don’t forget to come back next month for the second Debunking Domain Industry Myths post which will provide more insight into the steps of creating a website.