Real Estate Marketing Academy

The Agent’s Guide to Selecting a Real Estate Website Domain Name

By Matthew Bushery

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The Agent’s Guide to Selecting a Real Estate Website Domain NamePurchasing a domain name is one of the first, and most important, steps in creating a real estate website. Many agents, including many who already own a domain name, will be going through this process because of the newly available “.realtor” domain.In this article we’ll explain the basic terms and concepts related to real estate domain names, the process for purchasing one, some mistakes to avoid, and how this all relates to the new .realtor addresses.

In this article we’ll explain the basic terms and concepts related to real estate domain names, the process for purchasing one, some mistakes to avoid, and how this all relates to the new .realtor addresses.

If you aren’t familiar with Internet technologies, there may be a lot about domain names that is unfamiliar, so let’s start with the very basics. A domain name is the address by which Internet users locate your website (joesellshomes.net for example). It typically consists of two parts, separated by a dot:

  • You get to choose the first part, and most people select something memorable that is related to their website or business.
  • You have limited choices about the part that falls after the dot, which is called the “top level domain” (TLD).

You are probably familiar with common TLDs, like “.com” or “.org,” but there a now many more TLDs, including the recently unveiled “.realtor” and “.realestate” TLDs. Domain names for some TLDs can be purchased by just about anyone, while others are more restricted. In the case of “.realtor” you must be a member of the National Association of Realtors (NAR) to purchase such a domain (more on that later).

To purchase a domain name, you must go through an accredited registrar. There is a complex system of organizations that act as accredited registrars, but it boils down to this: Some registrars handle names for multiple TLDs, while others handle only specific TLDs.  If you want an address that ends in “.com” pretty much any registrar can serve you. If you want something like “.realtor,” you’ll need to go to a specific registrar, in this case a registrar managed by NAR.

So, when you buy a domain name through a registrar, what exactly are you getting? Two things.

  • First, you are purchasing the exclusive rights to that unique name. Your registrar takes responsibility for registering that name and telling everyone else it’s now off-limits.  
  • Second, your registrar takes responsibility for informing the rest of the Internet world about your domain address using what are called “domain name servers” (DNS).  To do this, your registrar maintains DNS records, which hold basic information about your domain name — when it was registered, how long the registration is good for, who registered it, etc.  Most importantly, the DNS records hold information about which servers out there on the Internet should be contacted when someone tries to access the website with your domain name.

This brings up an important point and common point of confusion. While one company may act as both your registrar and website host, your registrar may be different than your website host.  Your host maintains the servers where your web pages are actually saved and accessed by visitors, while your registrar tells the world where to find your website host. For example, when an Internet user types “joesellshome.net” into their browser, this occurs:

  1. The Internet first finds the DNS records for that domain name (maintained by Joe’s registrar).
  2. That DNS record identifies the server that holds the pages for Joe’s website (maintained by Joe’s website host).
  3. Those pages are sent back to the user’s browser for viewing.

So, when you purchase a domain name, be sure to keep track of who you used as a registrar and how to access your account with them. If you want to move your website to a different host, for example, you will have to contact your registrar to update its records. Many sad website owners spend hours trying to remember who they used as a registrar and how to get in touch with them — don’t be one of those people!

With those concepts in mind, let’s go through the domain registration process:

1)  Develop domain name ideas for your real estate website.

It all starts by researching what domain names could work for your real estate website. Think of potential names that are short, memorable, easy to understand, and accurately and succinctly describe your business. You can’t go wrong with using your company name in your domain name, so consider using that or anything else that signifies you operate a real estate business.

Another consideration for your domain name, though, should be keyword use. Determine popular terms for your local market that make it clear which area you primarily serve. For instance, if you mostly sell homes in San Francisco, a domain name like JohnDoeSFHomes.com may work best: It instantly tells web searchers all they need to know about your business.

It’s important to avoid choosing a domain name that’s too generic or lengthy, however. Be as unique as possible without confusing your audience or making your domain name too long (the fewer characters in your domain name, the better). Using just your name as your domain name may work well for a personal blog or website, but for your business, there should be something that indicates you’re an agent.

2)  Check for domain name availability and registrars to use.

Once you’ve brainstormed several domain names for your real estate website, head to a domain checker tool like Instant Domain Search to see if they’re available for purchase.

Once you’ve narrowed your list to available names, find a registrar who can secure the one you want to use for your site. Some of the most popular services include GoDaddy, Hover, Namecheap, and Register.com. These registrars handle most TLDs.  Again, if you’d like a .realtor address, you will use the registrar designated by NAR.

One thing you’ll be asked upon registration is how long you want to own a domain name. This is entirely based on your preferences. Just remember to carefully read the fine print (as you should with any major business purchase) to understand what the ownership period is and when you’ll be up for renewal for your domain name.

3)  Buy the domain name (and similar ones, if possible) from a registrar.

After all of these details are figured out, you’ll be taken to a payment page, just as you would for any other online purchase. Before finalizing everything, though, take a close, hard look at your information and consider purchasing additional domain names that are similar to yours.

Think of it this way: Secure various iterations and similar-sounding versions of your main domain name will help your audience avoid issues in finding you online. For instance, if your primary domain name is JohnDoeSFHomes.com, consider securing JonDoeSFHomes.com and JohnDoSFHomes.com. This also prevents competitors from buying them up and pointing the domains back to their sites (believe us — it happens to agents).

Mistakes to Avoid with Your Domain Name Registration

As with any business purchase, though, it’s vital to avoid mistakes. Some of the most common errors professionals make with their domain names include:

  • Not checking for trademark infringement: Don’t want to get sued? Ensure your real estate website domain name is one that no other business, organization, or other entity has a trademark for. This mostly applies to those who use promotional taglines or language, and are unaware of other potential uses of them by brands.
  • Not investigating past usage of a domain name: Any domain name you choose could have been used in the past at one point or another. Discover what website your domain name used to link to. If it’s a disreputable site of some kind, it’s time to go with plan B.
  • Not reading a domain registrar’s fine print: Hidden fees can be allocated to your registration without you even realizing it until after your purchase — even months down the line. Carefully examine all of the legal terms and usage rights associated with your domain registrar to prevent being unknowingly charged expenses, like “transfer-out” fees, which charge you for leaving the registrar.

Domain name registration service easyDNS provides a helpful list of several other items to check for before completing a domain name purchase that can save you money and frustration.

The New .realtor Domain and Your Real Estate Website

Now that you understand how to register a real estate website domain, setting up your .realtor domain should be much easier. But what exactly does the new domain offer Realtors? And what are the specifications for setting one up?

In November 2013, NAR officially filed a request with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to secure exclusive rights to the .realtor real estate domain. The main reason? According to NAR, it’s to let consumers who search for a new home online and arrive on a .realtor domain “understand that they have located just that, a source of specialized expertise and unparalleled local market knowledge.” In other words, this new offering from NAR for its members (along with those of the Canadian Real Estate Association) aims to underscore credibility with consumers.

NAR is giving away 500,000 .realtor domain names to its members for free, on a first-come, first-serve basis. It appears the organization will have little issue getting its members to sign up for new real estate domain names using .realtor: An Inman News poll of its readership found more than 80% will register for the new domain at some point.

Since announcing their availability, NAR has released lots of information to make it simpler for its members to secure new domain names and get them up and running for their real estate websites. For instance, take a look at this guide the organization provided so Realtors understand what types of domain names are acceptable under NAR’s guidelines. Additionally, you can watch this video from NAR, which discusses the basics about the new .realtor domain:

Many Realtors are still unsure about what the new .realtor domain offers and the setup process. If you need further assistance getting the new .realtor domain for your real estate website, or you simply want more explanation about the domain offering, NAR created this helpful support page, where you can ask any questions that come to mind.

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