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How to Pick a Domain Name for Your Church Website

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.church domain names became available this month. This has reminded me of the importance of picking a good domain name for your church website. It’s literally your address online so it must be memorable. You want it to be easy for people to recall and punch in so they don’t get lost. Here are some tips for picking a domain name.

Memorable Extensions

Preferred

By extensions, I mean .com, .net, .info, etc. A more proper term is Top-level Domain (TLD). Stick with common, relevant top-level domains such as:

  • .com
  • .church
  • .org

Not Preferred

You should avoid obscure country-code extensions like these (these are actually country codes for Columbia, Cocos Islands and Western Samoa):

  • .co
  • .cc
  • .ws

Why? Because .com is the gold standard. It’s what people are most used to typing. If you tell people to visit you at churchname.co, many will go to churchname.com instead. This is true of any domain that is not .com (even .org). If you can’t get .com, go for .church or .org, which are both very relevant for a church website.

But isn’t .com only for commercial businesses? Nope, .com is entirely universal for all websites and has been for a long time. Browse around and you will see many churches and nonprofits opting for .com over .org. If you prefer .org (or .church) and can also get .com, setup a redirect to ensure nobody gets lost.

There is some gray area. .tv may be one of those cases for a church that builds their identity around video streaming like LifeChurch.tv. It works for them because .tv is in their church’s actual name, which makes it memorable. .tv is the country code for Tuvalu but for some time now has been accepted as meaning “TV” in the English sense and is treated by search engines in the same way as .com and other generic top-level domains.

Short and Sweet

In general, shorter is better because it is more memorable. But some short names can actually be hard to remember, so make it sweet too. Here are some strategies.

The Ideal

The ideal name would be one or two words using .com, such as oakhurst.com for Oakhurst Church or gracechurch.com for Grace Church. If the neighborhood your church is named after has a somewhat unique name, you might find the domain name available for registration. If your name is more common like “Grace”, you almost certainly won’t.

Very few one word .com domains are left for registration so try two words and consider the tips below.

Shorten Your Name

If your name is particularly long, try a domain name without “Church” at the end. For example, if your church is named Centennial Drive Bible Church, you could use centennialdrive.com.

Include Your City

If your church has a very common name like Cornerstone or Grace, you won’t find grace.com, gracechurch.com, grace.church or anything similarly short. You can often come up with a unique domain name by adding your city’s name. For example, gracedallas.com. I checked and this domain name is actually unregistered in a city of more than a million people with hundreds of churches. You may have similar success.

The added value of this is that it also says where your church is! It can go some way to help with search engine optimization as well (people search for churches in a specific city).

To Abbreviate or Not

Some abbreviations can be helpful while others not so much.

“FBC” is a common abbreviation for “First Baptist Church”. There is a First Baptist Church in every city in some regions of the United States. “FBC” is common church lingo but it’s one of a million unknown acronyms to people on the outside. Therefore, while it is short, it is not necessarily memorable. If your church is First Baptist Church Canton, consider a domain like firstcanton.com instead of fbccanton.com.

It’s a different story with abbreviations that are well-known to the general public, such those which cities have. Do you know which cities I’m talking about when I write NYC and LA? Las Vegas is called “Vegas”. calvarynyc.com is more memorable than calvarynewyorkcity.com. Some smaller cities have an abbreviation or nickname not nationally known which is perfectly useful in a domain name because churches are local.

Avoid Hyphens

Maybe gracechurch.com is taken but grace-church.com is not. Don’t register it. It’s as unmemorable as an obscure extension like .cc. People will recall it as gracechurch.com (which is probably another church’s website) and get lost.

Secondary Extensions

You can tell at this point I favor .com. If still you cannot find a good .com domain name that is available for registration, consider other relevant extensions like .org and .church. But avoid the temptation to go with obscure extensions like .co, .cc, .ws and most others, which are generally irrelevant for a church and not memorable.

Church Plants

You might not just be picking a domain name but picking an actual name for your church plant. If that’s the case, check if a matching domain name is available before committing to using the name. You’re in a good position to nail down both your church’s name and domain name in one shot, while many existing churches are having to resort to second-choice domain names.

Recommended Registrars

I personally recommend Namecheap. I have about a dozen domain names with them (churchthemes.com is with them) and have been happy since switching to them from GoDaddy (who I would not recommend under any circumstance). I have also heard good things about Hover but they are a little more expensive than Namecheap.

Many web hosting providers will register your domain name for you when you sign up for hosting. It’s a good idea to ask them who the registrar they use is (they may be a registrar themselves) because that is who you will be paying for renewals. You can use any domain name registrar with any web hosting provider and always switch either if you’re unhappy (though it is extra work).

Perfection Not Required

Your church’s domain name doesn’t have to be perfect. If the ideal domain name is not available, you don’t need to go onto an auction website and blow $20,000. Some domain names are perfect and some are disasters. Don’t worry if you can’t get the perfect name. Any domain name that represents your church in a memorable way is a good choice and the tips above should lead you there.

What are your thoughts on picking a domain name for a church website?

Related: Getting Church Website Visitors Through Your Doors

16 Comments

  1. Great stuff Steven! I have one other reason to avoid longer domain names. You usually have to make text size smaller or condensed to make fit it on publicity stuff like banners and signs. This can sometimes make things more difficult for people to read it.

    • Thank you, Dan.

      I left GoDaddy because of terrible support, disgusting commercials and their support for SOPA. They lost thousands of customers over that last one (before changing their position). I don’t know what kind of commercials they run today (?) but their service is still on the lower end according to tweets from their customers: http://hostingreviews.io/web-hosting/godaddy

      I hope they improve. I liked them early on.

  2. Hey Steven,

    Great post! I also use Namecheap for all my domains. I transferred my church’s domain there, too, from Network Solutions. I used to use GoDaddy too, but pulled everything.

    I didn’t have any problem with their customer service, but I cringed the day I realized the fees I was paying was helping to fund those sleazy ads.
    I don’t think I’ve seen any for awhile, but then, I don’t watch a lot of TV either.

    I think .church needs to grow on me. If the .com of a domain I wanted wasn’t available for a church, my second choice would be .org.

    • It’s interesting to hear that you prefer .org over .church. I would have thought most people would be very excited to use .church but I’d say half of the people I’ve talked to about it have similar feelings as you.

      Thanks for sharing.

  3. Steve,
    Thanks for the post. Would GudalupeCommunityChurch.com be considered too long? I was thinking of shortening to GuadalupeCC.com or even GuadalupeCommunity.Church, unfortunately GCC is already taken.

    Thoughts?

  4. Thanks for your post. We’re in a spot where we have overhauled our website and the only thing left is picking a domain name. Unfortunately, everything normal seems taken. We were “bellevue-christian.com”, but (since it’s an untransferable domain) we are planning to change the domain. Currently, we’re on “bellevuechristian.church” but I’m still not sure how I feel about the .church yet. Any thoughts since you wrote this post?

    • Hi Austin,

      Congrats on your website overhaul.

      What prevents bellevue-christian.com from being transferred? If you own it, you should be able to change the hosting it points to, transfer it to another registrar, etc. Even if you change domains you ought to be able to redirect traffic from your old domain to the new.

      I do like bellevuechristian.church myself, if it’s not possible to keep your existing domain. I have heard people say they don’t prefer .church but I haven’t asked much why that may be. I think eventually it’ll catch on, especially with .com being so hard to come by for most domains.

      • We actually might be able to transfer it, after all. It was bought years ago, and we’ve had a difficult time finding enough information to even log-in to the host.

        Good to know that bellevuechristian.church isn’t a bad idea if we end up going that route.

        Thanks for the input!

  5. Hi Steven,
    I stumbled across your article as I was researching the best way to name our church domain. We are Miracle Temple Ministries – Watchwell. It is long, and for printing on shirts etc we have previously done MTM-Watchwell. SO we are thing of using that as a .com or .org both of which are available. What do you think?

    Thanks

    • Hi Shanie,

      Both are good but if you use .org, be sure also to get .com and redirect it to .org. Sometimes people forget .org and go ahead and type .com. Having both means you won’t lose those visitors. I’d avoid the hyphen since people forget those too.

      I hope this helps!

  6. I still dont know which tld to use. I was searchimg for opinions on .com or .church and you recommended both. I think I’ll jist ask the church E.C. to decide. Thanks I still learnt something.

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