A domain name is a key component of website development, so it’s no surprise that we’ve covered the subject of domains in the past. We’ve written about key considerations when selecting a name, understanding the various settings associated with a domain (the DNS) and even the correlation between SEO and your domain name. Each day, however, we encounter dozens of questions from our clients surrounding domain names. Below we tackle some of the most common questions that we are asked during the website development process.
1. Can I capitalize my domain name or add spaces?
Domain names are not case sensitive; a visitor entering your domain name with all lowercase or uppercase letters, or a combination of the two, will still be directed to your site. Domain registrars do not allow for spaces in between words of a domain name. After learning this, people are quick to try to substitute spaces with dashes (which are permitted) but we generally don’t recommend this. Dashes can easily be forgotten by visitors, sending your clients and colleagues on a wild goose chase to find your site. Also, it’s important to note that most other punctuation is not permitted so forget about including an exclamation point or question mark in your domain name.
2. Do I need to type in www. every time I enter my domain name?
This is a great question, and in some ways the response is rather technical in nature. Your domain name really has two different versions one with the www. and one without (often denoted by the @ symbol). When you purchase a domain name with your registrar, you will automatically secure both the www. and non-www. version of your domain name. When setting up your website, your site developer should configure the domain name in such a way that one redirects to the other so regardless of what version of the domain name the user types in, he or she is automatically sent to your site. Now you may be asking, why do we want one redirected to the other? The answer ties into SEO. Essentially, we don’t want the search engines to see the www. and non-www. as two separate sites with duplicate content as this may be harmful to your placement in the results pages.
3. How do I find out if a domain name I want to buy is available?
All of the major registrars (GoDaddy, 1and1, Network Solutions, etc) have domain name look up tools where you can search to see if a domain of interest is available. We generally recommend that attorneys use who.is to search. This is a neutral third party site that allows you to easily look up domain names.
4. When registering a domain name, I see the option to set the registration to private, what does this mean?
The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers(ICANN) is charged with overseeing all domain registrations, and they require that the names and contact information of all domain owners be recorded (and verified each year). When registering the domain, you have the option to make your details public meaning that anyone who does a WhoIs search for your domain will be able to see your contact details. This can be helpful if you’re looking to sell a domain name and want interested parties to contact you. However, for most of the attorneys we work with, we recommend that they select private registration so these details are not included in the public database; this can help to prevent spam.
5. How often do I have to renew my domain name?
Most registrars give owners the option to purchase a domain name for a one or two year period but some do allow for longer terms. It’s important to note that you should only be paying an annual fee for registration, not any monthly charges. While fees can vary, most domain registration ranges from ($9.00 to $30.00 per year). At Omnizant, we always set our clients’ domain registrations to auto-renew to ensure the registration never lapses. We highly recommend that you do the same, if your registrar permits it.
It’s also important to note that there are many domain registration scams. The largest one that our clients ask about is run by the Domain Registry of America. Many of these scams involve a worrisome letter alerting you to the fact that your domain name is about to expire (the scam artists just pull this data from the WhoIs database) and tell you that you should renew it. If you read the fine print, however, it is a solicitation to get you to transfer your domain over to the new company before it expires. Be sure that you only renew your domain name through your current registrar.
6. Is my domain name the same as my URL?
No, not technically. A URL is the direct address to a page within your website so your domain is included in all of your site URLs. For example, our domain name is zolacreative.com but the URL for our contact us page is https://zolacreative.com/contact-us/
7. Can I have multiple domain names taking visitors to my website?
You sure can but we recommend that you work with a professional in getting this all set up as to not harm your place in the search engine results pages. Essentially, you should have one main domain for your website with all other domains redirecting users to this main domain name (the reasoning is the same as described in question two above).
8. If I own a domain, can I set up an email address with it?
Absolutely, and we highly recommend that all attorneys do this! It is much more professional (and important for brand recognition) than using a Gmail or AOL email account. Most domain registrars will require you to purchase an email pack at an additional cost to host email. At Omnizant, we set this up for our clients and it’s all included as part of our monthly hosting fee.
While we hope this helped to answer some of your domain questions, we know we haven’t tackled all of them. If you still have concerns, please give us a call. We’ve helped hundreds of law firms register and manage their domains over the past few years; you might even say we’re domain experts!