WEBSITE BASICS -- Do We Need a Domain Name?
This page offers some introductory basics on domains and related topics for the benefit of the church pastor, church board member or a ministry who is eager to set up a website. Webmasters will need much more detailed information in order to setup a website.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name (e.g. mychurch.org) is a registered web address referred to as a URL (Universal Resource Locator). Domains revert to the registry that owns them if you don't keep up your payments. In that sense you don't actually own the domain.
A church is hosted by a classic web host (webHost) and appears on the internet in at least one of two different ways:
1) www.webhost. org/mychurch or mychurch.webhost.org
The first is illustrative of what someone gets from their host with a basic membership. The second way listed above uses a domain listing, which your web host will facilitate. Domain listings are readily available and inexpensive. Hosting the domain usually costs more than the regular service, largely because it comes bundled with several features such as domain-based email.
The advantages of a basic membership are that it is easier to set up and costs less. Most of your visitors will be delivered to your site by search engines, so you could argue, what difference does it make?
Everything in option #1 above must be spelled correctly, with upper/lower case done exactly. In contrast, option #2, the domain listed identity, is much easier for people to remember and identifies much better with the church or ministry. Spelling it MyChurch.org or mychurch.org works equally well. It is much easier to remember and get the internet address correct with a domain—something you want to feature in your church bulletin, business cards, etc.
Email is also associated with the domain. You can set up email accounts and automatic forwarding aliases:
Be sure and have your webmaster read up on SPAM-proofing Your Website before implementing your new email system, regardless of which approach you use.
In most cases, you can start out with the basic membership and can upgrade at any time in the future. Your site will then be accessible both ways because traffic arriving anywhere at webHost/mychurch is automatically redirected to the mirrored mychurch.org address. When a visitor arrives at the webHost/mychurch address, by way of a search engine still using the old address, what they see in the address box is the domain-listed address, ready to be book marked.
When my church upgraded from a GeoCities free hosting service, complete with commercials and slow performance, to TAGnet (now netAserve) hosting, I placed re-directing code on all the important pages to seamlessly forward the old site over to the new site. It took months for the search engines to completely abandon the old site, so I waited a year before depopulating the GeoCities site.
While .gov and dozens of other extensions are restricted, there are no limitations to claiming any one of the extensions listed below. For that reason, many churches and ministries buy up .com and .org domains if not the entire set, not wanting an anti site to claim one of the others.
.com -- commercial
.net -- internet
.org -- non profit organization
.biz -- business
A domain name should be short and memorable. MyTownAdventist is recommended while MyTownSDA is not.
Choose A Domain
Most web hosts will provide a domain service as well. You can usually enter a domain idea that you wish to try (e.g. DomainIdea). At this point it makes no difference whether you use .com, .org, or no extension at all. The next screen will generally tell you which .extensions are available. Then you can decide which domains you wish to purchase. In some cases--such as netAdventist and netAserve, you will need to purchase your domains through a separate registrar and then point those domains to your netAdventist/netAserve account.
Beware of cheap domains, as companies do go out of business. The domain registry owns the domain that you rent from them. This can be a problem if they go out of business.
Primary Author: David Buxton