Aug 05 2007

Should I get my own Domain for My Blog?

Published by Meg at 11:00 pm under .com.au, Australia, Australian Blogs, Australian Websites

When you first start blogging, more than likely you have no idea what you’re doing, whether your blog will be successful, or whether you’ll even stick with it.

You’ll probably read advice that it’s a good idea to start on one of the free platforms - like Blogger, WordPress or TypePad. It’s hard to dispute this advice, because they are an excellent platform for learning the ropes. However, for many bloggers there comes a time when they think, should I be thinking about my own domain?

Recently I’ve seen a couple of bloggers make this agonising decision. And it IS an agonising decision. The metrics used to determine how popular a blog is (and perhaps affecting your earning ability), are all reset. Technorati links, Google PageRank, Alexa Rank all fall to zero, and you have to start building them again. If you’re lucky, you can take your feed subscribers with you, otherwise you’ve got to cross your fingers hand hope they’ll update with the move.

I made this move three months ago - which I documented in the following posts:

Probably the most common regret from bloggers is “I should have done this sooner“. So if you’re just starting out or contemplating a move, please keep that in mind.

But moving on, you’re an Australian Blogger and you’re thinking about setting up your own domain. What are your options? I’ve written a little before about .com.au vs .com, and I suppose it really depends on what your focus is going to be. If you’re focussing on a global appeal, then there’s probably no need to look at the local options - just register a dot com or other variation, and you need not be particularly concerned where your blog is hosted.

Australian Domain Choices

Arising from discussion on “Why Australian Bloggers are “Under-represented“”, it became apparent that there is a bit of confusion about the domain registration options in Australia, and the rules behind each.

Background

Domain name registration is policed by the Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA). The auDA “…develop and implement domain name policy, accredit and licence registrars, implement consumer safeguards and facilitate the .au Dispute Resolution Policy.”

Registry - this is a data base of all registered domain names. The registry is AusRegistry, but they do not have direct contact with people who want to register a domain name (called registrants).

Registrars - are businesses who are accredited to issue licences to registrants, and they determine if the application adheres to policy rules. Registrars have access to the registry, so they can process registrations (and renewals) from registrants (clear as mud ;) )!

See auDA for a list of accredited registrars.

Resellers - may be appointed by registrars to handle customer service. The are not licenced or accredited, nor do they have access to the registry. They process registrations and renewal through their registrar.

So here I will attempt to outline the rules and regulations of registering domain names in Australia (the .au domain - called a “ccTLD” - is broken down into second level domains or 2LDs). I am going to skip over dot org dot au (.org.au - as these are for registered charities and “not for profit” organisations) and dot asn (.asn - as these are for incorporated associations).

dot com dot au (.com.au) and dot net dot au (.net.au)

To be eligible for these domains you must meet one of the following criteria.

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

To register one of the above domain names you will need to provide an ABN, an ACN, or your registered business’s identification number (see the Business of Blogging for more information about ABN’s and business registration). Furthermore the domain name must;

a) exactly match, acronym or abbreviation of the registrant’s company or trading name, organization or association name or trademark; or:

b) be otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant.

dot id dot au (.id.au)

To be eligible you must be one of the following

a ) an Australian citizen; or
b ) an Australian resident.

Further requirements for the .id.au domain names

a) exactly match the registrant’s personal name; or

b) be an acronym or abbreviation of the registrant’s personal name; or

c) be otherwise closely and substantially connected to the registrant, because the domain name:

(i) is derived from one or more words of the registrant’s personal name; or

(ii) includes one or more words of the registrant’s personal name; or

(iii) is a personal name by which the registrant is known.

Dot id.au domains are cheaper to register than .com.au and .net.au, and registrations for all .au domain names are issued in 2 year blocks. I visited half a dozen or so registrars and found 2 year prices ranging from $45.95 (NameScout) for .com.au and $28.95 for .id.au up to $140 and $99 respectively from Melbourne IT. This would suggest it pays to shop around.

Note: I also came across a few websites selling “au.com” domains. I couldn’t find out too much information about this, but I’d suggest avoiding it, as it would be awfully confusing.

Registering a domain name is a separate process to hosting a website. You do not need to use the same company who you register the domain name with, to host your website. Without going into too much depth, a host is someone who provides a computer (also known as a server) that is connected to the internet, and the files that make up your website are hosted on that computer.

Make sure you keep emails sent to you regarding your domain name registration (and print hard copies and keep them safe). You will be issued a registry key, which is like a password. Having this key allows control of your domain.

You should also ensure that you keep all your contact details up to date, or else you won’t get notification of a pending renewal. Also, make a note of when your domain is due to expire, and don’t rely on being contacted when your renewal is due. You don’t want the registration to lapse.

If your registration does lapse, your website will no longer appear on the internet, and you will have a 30 day period in which to renew your registration.

Other Peculiarities

Rod, a regular commenter here (no link supplied), pointed me to some interesting policy considerations regarding Australian domains.

a) the registrant must not, directly or indirectly, through registration or use of its domain name or otherwise, register a domain name for the purpose of selling it; and

b) the registrant must not in any way transfer or purport to transfer a proprietary right in any domain name registration.

Furthermore

2. PROHIBITION ON SALE OF DOMAIN NAME BY REGISTRANT

2.1 There are no proprietary rights in a domain name. A registrant does not “own” their domain name, instead they hold a licence to use the domain name for a specified period of time and subject to the licence terms and conditions.

2.2 Because the registrant does not have a proprietary right in the domain name, it is not legally possible for the registrant to “sell” the domain name. By offering to sell their domain name to another party, the registrant is in breach of the Registrant Agreement.

2.3 It is possible for a registrant to transfer their domain name licence to another party, but only in the circumstances set out in auDA’s Transfers Policy (Policy No 2004-03). A registrant who attempts to “sell” their domain name licence should be aware that such a transaction will not fall within the circumstances set out in the Transfers Policy, and therefore the domain name will not be transferred to the other party.

It seems there are certain situations that do allow for the transfer of a domain - usually associated with the sale of a business, or because of a legal requirement (eg a dispute). So technically, you are not able to sell a domain, but you can sell a business and transfer the domain name licence (provided the new registrant meets the eligibility requirements).

What is somewhat contradictory is that the NSW Office of Fair Trading, for example, states that “If your business trades only via the internet you do not have to register and display a business name in New South Wales”. But if you don’t register a business name, you would have to apply for an ABN (in order to meet the eligibility requirements for a .com.au domain name). You could apply for an ABN if you are trading under your legal name, which would mean that you could technically only register a .com.au or .net.au that contained your name, or a derivative of it. Obviously this would seriously reduce the number of “John Citizens” who you could potentially transfer your domain to (ouch, my head hurts).

Long story short, if you think you might be able to “transfer” your website down the track, it would be a good idea to register a business name, so you have something to sell.

Disputes

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has been accredited by the auDA to provide domain name dispute resolution. There certainly have been some interesting cases.

WIPO have heard 35 disputes from the .au domain since 2002, and found in favour of the complainant 20 times (57%). A few of the most interesting:

Whitepage.com.au (in favour of complainant)

Seekbusiness.com.au (in favour of respondent)

Yellowbook.com.au and Yellowbook.net.au (in favour of respondent)

Truelocal.com.au (in favour of respondent)

Global Domains

Looking a little further into domain name registration on the .au country domain level (also referred to as ccTLD), makes me appreciate a little more the flexibility afforded global domains (gTLD), which are managed through Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

.com, .net, .info, .biz and .org global domains can be registered by anyone, there are no restrictions. And it appears you can “sell” these global domains.

Whilst they do not identify the country from the URL, these domains can still be hosted in Australia, thereby appearing in “pages from Australia” searches. So if Australia is your target audience, I’d recommend paying a little extra and hosting here.

Have I missed anything (apart from pretty pictures)?

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19 Responses to “Should I get my own Domain for My Blog?”

  1. Snoskredon 06 Aug 2007 at 3:55 am

    Another great article Meg :) brilliant work!

    Snoskred
    http://www.snoskred.org/

  2. Colin Campbellon 06 Aug 2007 at 5:42 am

    Excellent information Meg. It sounds a bit stuffy, the way these are handled. I think I will stick with blogger since I have no plan to monetise. I do think that it is too bad that there is no link to Australia and I know that you and others have discussed this. I reckon the if it is good they will come, regardless of technorati…..

  3. Megon 06 Aug 2007 at 10:47 am

    Hi Snos and Colin

    Thanks for your feedback :)

    Colin, I agree that people don’t visit based on Technorati rank - it just affects other things like inclusion in lists, earning potential etc.

    Probably the hardest is loosing “authority”, as far as Google (and others) is concerned, and not showing up highly in the search engine results. This reduces the opportunity for people to find you…

  4. Rodon 06 Aug 2007 at 11:25 am

    Great write up Meg, well done.

    Just for extra reading it’s interesting to read some of the submissions relating to recent review of the .au space (found this later, sorry!):
    http://www.dcita.gov.au/communications_and_technology/consultation_and_submissions/

    (follow the second link on the page)

    There seems to be a consensus to change section 2, lets hope.

    Regarding blogger you can also custom domains (free) which solves a lot of issues:
    http://buzz.blogger.com/2007/01/blogger-custom-domains.html

  5. Megon 06 Aug 2007 at 11:44 am

    Hi Rod

    Glad you enjoyed. Many thanks for the links (& impetus for the post). Will check out the new ones! :)

  6. Billyon 06 Aug 2007 at 9:38 pm

    Definitely go with your own domain instead of using the free platforms for blogging. When you are first starting out, it may be good to give it a test run on the free blog platforms, but after a while, running your own domain will allow you more freedom to add better plugins to jazz up the blog.

  7. Leaon 06 Aug 2007 at 10:41 pm

    Ah, you’re back! Good! :)

    Good review! :)
    http://www.whatsinaname.com.au/ is a great resource for pricing - I believe Josh keeps it up to date. As you can see, there is a vast array of pricing. (No affiliation)

    I think my only problem with your review is that you make it sound like its ‘hard’ to get a domain name, which just isn’t the case - it takes about 1 minute to fill out the form, and then you just have to wait for the emails.
    Its not that its ‘hard’ to qualify, its just a matter of determining what class you fall into, then its easy.

    I also think you’ve missed some options for a .com.au, including where the domain name matches a ‘product or service’ that you offer (typically I can’t find the section on the AuDA site where this is described *sigh*)

    Basically, if you are in business then you can get any domain name you want *that matches your business*
    And if you are seriously in business - why you want something that had nothing to do wiht your business? :)

    Agree with the comments about starting blogging with a service and moving to your own domain as early as practical.

    IMHO

  8. Megon 06 Aug 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Hi Lea

    Grrr WP upgrade - took longer than expected :(

    Thanks - that is a great resource you linked to, I should have gone to them all…. it appears there certainly are a few cheaper. Amazing the markup.

    I’ve registered a few domains in my day, and as you say it IS a very quick process.

    You’re quite right about brands, Toyota would be able to register “Camry” for example, because it is one of their recognised brands. I can’t find the reference either, but I remember reading it.

    However, just because you successfully register a domain, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be able to substantiate eligibility if you’re challenged. And I truly don’t know how closely registrars look at the “eligibility” issue. You have an ABN & you’re in.

  9. Phillip Kingstonon 07 Aug 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Meg,

    Great article for bloggers and first time website starters in general.

    The disputes are always interesting - it must be hard in the courts to decide who fairly deserves the name based on some kind of “reasonable association” with a legal entity.

  10. Cellobellaon 07 Aug 2007 at 5:31 pm

    Hi Meg… a very interesting post. I started my website first before I knew about blogging… so I’ve always had a domain name. And it is a dot com because that was the cheapest package I could find at the time (it isn’t now, five years later).

    Your post made me think I should get a dot com dot au redirect… or maybe host my blog in Australia… hmmm requires thought…
    :)
    CB

  11. Megon 07 Aug 2007 at 6:35 pm

    Hi Phillip and CB - Thanks for your comments.

    I really should look at some of the hosting options in Australia. I’m sure there would be a big price difference to overseas - another barrier to local blogging.

  12. Leaon 07 Aug 2007 at 7:25 pm

    I generally use a .au domain + foreign hosting.
    It works out cheaper, for comparable quality of hosting, than .com + domestic hosting.
    There are, however, a huge number of hosting companies here. Quite stunning.

    I don’t think the registrars do worry about eligibility beyond ‘What is your ABN/ BRN/ etc’. I think they are relying on the lessor stating they are eligible - the ones I have used all have a tick-the-box thing for what category you are eligible for the domain under.

    The final thing we’ve not mentioned is that AuDA now allows one to get a domain for the purpose of ‘monetisation’. I haven’t seena definition of what they mean, but have assumed that its to park and stick ads on.
    With that in place, I can’t see *anyone* getting challenged for a legitimate domain purchase (ie you haven’t hit a trademark, or something equally dodgey)

    IMHO :)

  13. Megon 07 Aug 2007 at 7:43 pm

    Hi Lea

    “.au domain + foreign hosting” - that’s pretty much the conclusion I was coming to, which would appear to be most cost effective in the long run. If you already have a .com though you’re a little limited with options if you want to target the au domain.

    Yes, you’re right about monetisation - the policy is at http://www.auda.org.au/policies/auda-2006-03/

    Quoting a chunk:

    “4.1 It is acceptable to register domain names under the close and substantial connection rule for the explicit purpose of domain monetisation within the category “a service that the registrant provides”. The “service” being provided by a domainer is the service of providing users with information and advertising links about the subject matter of the domain name.

    4.2 In addition to their obligations under auDA Published Policies and the Registrant Agreement (domain name licence), domainers must comply with the following conditions of use:

    a) the content on a monetised website must be related specifically and predominantly to the domain name; and

    b) the domain name must not be an entity name, personal name or brand name in existence at the time the domain name was registered.

    4.3 The condition in paragraph 4.2a) is intended to ensure that the close and substantial connection between the domainer and the domain name is visible and meaningful to users. If the content of a monetised website does not relate to the domain name in any discernible way, then the domainer is not providing the service described in paragraph 4.1 and the close and substantial connection rule is not satisfied.

    4.4 A “reasonableness test” is used to determine whether the content on a monetised website satisfies paragraph 4.2a), ie. would a reasonable person regard the content as related specifically and predominantly to the domain name? For example, a monetised website at www.shoes.com.au would need to contain information and advertising links about shoes and/or shoe manufacturers and suppliers. If the website contained information and advertising links about clothing in general including shoes, then it would not be acceptable under the close and substantial connection rule.

    4.5 The condition in paragraph 4.2b) is intended to ensure that domain monetisation is not used as a cover for cybersquatting or other misleading or fraudulent activity. ”

    So essentially the content must be relevant to the registered domain name….

  14. Steven Snellon 09 Aug 2007 at 2:29 pm

    Unless it’s just a personal blog, I think you should always get a domain name. It’s really not very expensive and it’s all but necessary if you want to go anywhere with your blog.

  15. […] Meg’s excellent advice on Blogpond, I decided to invest in the Aussie version of my domain name.  I am as you know an […]

  16. Rolan Steinon 14 Sep 2007 at 1:56 pm

    Excellent post, Meg. Thanks indeed.

    Just one query you or someone might be able to help with: what happens if you register a com.au name and choose to be hosted by a foreign hosting company? Does this mean your com.au website won’t show up in “pages from Australia” searches?

  17. Megon 14 Sep 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Hi Rolan

    Thanks, glad it helped.

    Yes, if you get a .com.au domain, you can host it overseas and it will show up under “pages from Australia”. It’s usually suggested that’s the least expensive way to go. You can pick up a .com.au domain for $27.95 for 2 years & o/s hosting appears to be cheaper than here.

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