It’s important to choose the right domain name for your personal academic website because it’s the first thing potential visitors find out about your website, as well as being the means to remember how to revisit your website. In this article I’m going to give you some guidelines for deciding on the right domain name for your personal academic website.
The domain is the address that people type in the browser to reach your website. Acquiring your own domain name is an essential step along the way to creating an independent online presence. For example, the domain name for my personal academic website is martinlea.com.
Having your own easy to remember domain name is very useful because it acts as an electronic business card. You can easily direct someone to firstnamelastname.com for your publications or research material. It’s much easier to say and remember than something like universityofmine.edu/faculty/personalpages/firstname.middleinitial.lastname/index.html
What’s more, until such time as you have built your own academic website, you can very easily set your domain name to point to your University web page, so you get an immediate benefit from the small outlay on your own domain name.
Domains cost very little to buy – you typically pay around $10 for a .com domain name. That buys you the use of the domain for a year, and the domain renews every year for as long as you want to keep it. Buying a domain is a simple process, which I’ll come on to. But first, you need to decide which domain name you want to use.
Choosing a Domain Name
A domain name should clearly indicate what your website is about, and it should be easy to remember. For a personal academic website the choice of domain name is usually quite straightforward.
Selecting your name as a domain
So, as in my case, you could use your own name for the domain. This is the most obvious choice; it’s what people are most likely to type in the browser if they are looking for my research for example, and firstnamelastname.com would easily fulfil the criteria of clarity and memorability.
Or you might prefer to prepend dr or prof to the name. So instead of martinlea.com, it becomes drmartinlea.com or profmartinlea.com. Another alternative is appending a word to your name, e.g., research – martinlearesearch.com. The advantage of these options is that the domain name clearly indicates an academic’s website. I decided to keep it simple and just use my name, but I might have chosen one of these options if the domain martinlea had already been taken by someone else.
Using your research area as a domain name
An alternative approach is to choose a domain name that reflects your research area. So for example, given my main research interests, I could have chosen:
- Computer-Mediated Communication
- Internet Psychology
- Internet Communication research
- CMC Research
Choosing a research field as the domain name for your website does have some advantages. It can help to draw in people who are interested in the field but are not familiar with your work. It may also be a better choice if your aim is to build a community around the research, or plan to have guest writers post articles on your website, or if your academic website is devoted to a specific project.
This probably wouldn’t work for you if you have more than one research field. Another disadvantage with this approach is that as your interests and projects change through your career, the domain name may come to feel less and less appropriate to your work. Of course, if this happens you could always start a second website, and some people do approach it like this, essentially setting up a different website for each field they research. But it adds to the administrative overhead – it’s much easier to look after just one website – and you don’t have the continuity. With one website, your readers can follow you on your journey – and may even be taking the same journey.
Your domain name doesn’t have to be the same as your website headline. The solution I chose was to have my name as the domain name for the website, but to choose my main research field as the headline for my website. so my domain is martinlea.com and the headline on the home page is “Internet Communication Research and Strategy”.
Should I choose a .com ending for my personal academic website?
The dot ending on a website address is called the tld. There are hundreds of different tlds to choose from, but and you should choose one that makes sense for your website and is easily remembered.
The most familiar examples are .com, .org, and .net. Although .com has become the global default tld for a website, it was originally intended to be for commercial sites only, and a couple of other tlds are used primarily but not exclusively to denote non-commercial sites, so you could choose a .org address, or a .net address. There’s no hard and fast rule about it however, and it has to be tempered by what names and tlds are available and haven’t already been used. A .net site is useful to denote a network or community website to which many people contribute, For example, a research network website could be denoted by .net, and it is also a popular choice for a personal website.. The .org ending implies and organization, so would work well for a research centre, but not so well for a personal academic website.
So .com, .net and .org are the most popular generic tlds which are appropriate for an academic site given the global reach of academia. Another suitable choice is .me or perhaps .science, .info or or .blog. People are less familiar with these endings however and it’s important to choose something that’s easy to remember. People tend to assume .com at the end of a website, so I would always choose that, if available and if not .net or .me.
You can check availability of a domain name, with the domain registrar I use, by clicking on the link below.
Search for a domain -> (This will open a page in a new tab).
Education specific tlds are restricted to academic institutions: so .edu, and .ac.uk, etc. are not available to individuals.
There are also country specific tlds you could chose, such as .co.uk or .org.uk for the UK, or .com.au, .org.au for Australia, and .com.ac, .org.ca for Canada, and so on. But you need to think carefully before choosing one of these. Academic research has a global reach, and visitors to your website are likely to come from all over the world, so having a country specific domain ending is not as relevant as it would be for a shop or community organization, for example. Secondly, academic careers can span ther globe, and you don’t want to be saddled with a country specific domain name if you move to an academic job in another country.
There are a couple of other tactics to bear in mind when choosing a domain name or website address to avoid ambiguity.
It’s best not to include any numbers in your domain name, because when you tell someone a domain that includes a number, they inevitably ask whether it’s spelt as a numeral or as a word. Also, try to avoid hyphens or dashes, unless that is an integral part of your name – for example if you have a double barelled name: firstnamelastname-lastname.
Select a domain registrar
Once you have an idea what your domain name should be, it is time to head over to a domain registrar and see if it is available. There are plenty of domain registrars to choose from, but some give better support and are more affordable than others. European and Asian domain names in particular seem to vary in price from one supplier to another. The one that I have used for years to register around 50 domain names is Namecheap.com. Namecheap not only have very affordable prices (it should cost you less than $10 or £10). They’ve given me faultless service for years, and they provide a very easy to use members’ dashboard, which I appreciate. They also offer significant discounts if you bulk buy the years on your domain name. For example you may decide to register your name for 10 or even 25 years, rather than the default one year. It makes sense to pick up a bulk deal unless you think you may change your personal name in the near future.
What about a free domain?
You may have noticed that some of the big hosting companies, such as HostGator, BlueHost, or 1and1, will offer to throw is a free domain if you buy hosting with them. Web hosts like to do this because it’s a cheap way for them to throw in an additional hurdle to you leaving their hosting service. However it’s best to stay clear of these offers instead separate out the buying of a domain name from the subsequent decision of how to create your website and what kind of web hosting to buy. After all, it’s only a few dollars and it simplifies your decisions later on. And if you’re planning to use a web designer to build your personal academic website for you, then you can simply hand over the domain buying process to them.
If you want any further advice on selecting or buying a domain name for your personal academic website, simply complete my contact form, and I’ll email you back.
If you’d like to read more about creating a personal academic website, be sure to subscribe to my WpScholars Blog and I’ll send you a regular email with my tips and guides, beginning with my Guide to Planning your personal Academic Website.