Location, location, location. Everyone knows that choosing a great location is crucial when buying real estate. The same is true in the digital world: choosing a domain name is an important choice for a church's online presence. If your church is just starting a website, this is one of the first decisions that you will need to make. Your domain name is what you will build your presence upon, from the web address to email addresses. For example, the domain name of the CRC is crcna.org. Following are guidelines and unspoken conventions for choosing a domain name for a church:
- Descriptive. Ideally the domain name that is chosen should be identical or close to what your church is formally or informally called. Abbreviations or acronyms are suitable but whatever is chosen should be recognizable as belonging to the church. Using just an acronym can be confusing and non-descriptive.
- Memorable. Choose a domain that is memorable so that if someone sees it in the bulletin, they can remember it when they try to go to it when they get home.
- Not too short and not too long. Just like real estate, good locations are hard to find or expensive to purchase. You will not be able to find a domain that is only one or two words, so you won't be able to have a short domain name (less than five characters). On the other side, you do not want a name that is more than fifteen characters; not only will it be harder to remember but it will be a lot more for people to type!
- Spell it out. If your church name includes a number, spell it out to avoid confusion. First Street CRC should not be 1ststreetcrc.org but instead firststreetcrc.org or something similar. Its uncommon to find numbers in domain names.
- No dashes. If your ideal domain name is not available, do not add dashes to work around this, instead change a word or something else. If firststreetcrc.org is not available, don't buy first-street-crc.org instead. Most likely people will go to firststreecrc.org the first time anyway. Dashes are also uncommon in domain names, so stay away from them.
- Easily spoken. Whether its the church secretary speaking an email address to a caller or the pastor mentioning the church website in an announcement, it should be easy for the listener to understand the address.
After you decide on a domain name you need to register it. There are many places that you can purchase them from, however be mindful that if the price is too good to be true, it probably is. Usually a low price is contingent on purchasing add-ons. Here are some items to consider when placing your order:
- Buy all three. You have the option between different Top Level Domains such as .com, .org, and .net. While there is some debate about which one is best for a church, it does not cost too much more to register all three. By registering all three you eliminate possible confusion for visitors. If you're in Canada, also buy .ca.
- Register for many years. If you took the time to choose a good domain name, it will be used for decades, so register your domain name for several years. Not only will this save effort, but the more years you buy, the lower the annual cost.
- Private registration. The contact information you provide when registering is publicly available (example), so it is prudent for individuals registering to opt for private registration. However this is not necessary for churches as the church's contact information is already public knowledge, so don't purchase private registration.
- Good contact information. Not only is the contact information you provide published online, it is also the way that your registrar will use to notify you when your registration is up for renewal. Provide an email address that will be in use when the domain needs to be renewed. If you register your domain for multiple years, like you should, you possibly won't remember to renew. Or it's possible that someone else is in your role and might not check when the domain is up for renewal. Fortunately, you can easily check when your domain registration expires here. If a domain is not renewed and expires, then your website will stop working and you might have to pay high fees to restore it. If it's been more than 30 days to six months you will lose possession and a squatter might purchase it and force you to buy it back at a high cost.
- Secure passwords. The password for your domain controls the foundation of your website, so if it is compromised, anyone that obtains your password can redirect your site anywhere. Choose a good password and do not use it for anything else.
If you keep all these items in mind when deciding on a domain name, and when registering it, you will have a great foundation to your church website and you will have secured your little section of 'real estate' on the net.