Choose a domain name
How to choose a domain name and related issues, for example, the use of acronyms and te reo Māori in domain names, and the defensive registration of variations of domain names.
How to choose a domain name
Domain names should be clear and easy to understand for members of the public.
For new government organisations or business units
For new government organisations or business units, choose a name that reflects:
- the official name of the new entity (preferably in full or using a keyword)
- avoids confusion with other government agencies.
Examples of good government organisation and business unit domain names are:
If you think acronyms or terminology might not be recognised outside of your team or organisation then don't use them in your domain name.
For an eligible project or initiative
For an eligible project or initiative, choose a name that describes the purpose of the site and service being provided.
Examples of good project or initiative domain names are:
Types of domain names
A third-level domain is any new domain registered in the .govt.nz space — for example, dia.govt.nz and digital.govt.nz are both third-level domains.
Because .govt.nz is a moderated space, you need to apply to register any new third-level domains.
A fourth-level domain name is also known as a sub-domain, and makes use of an existing third-level domain — for example, socialreport.msd.govt.nz.
Making use of a fourth-level domain name means you retain the trust and recognition built up in your existing domain.
You also don't need to apply to register a new fourth-level domain name — your IT or communications team will be able to set this up for you.
Acronyms in domain names
Only use acronyms in domain names if they are widely recognised by the public and used in contexts outside of the domain name (for example, MBIE, MPI or DOC).
If spelling out the term in full is too long consider what subject keywords or other terms could be appropriate.
Subject-based domains are clearer and more likely to stay relevant for longer. For example, employment.govt.nz provides information and links to all government agencies working in the employment area.
Te reo domain names
You should only register one domain name per website. However, if you want to register a te reo Māori version of your organisation’s name you can.
When registering a te reo Māori version of the domain name consider how it will be managed. Will it:
- redirect to an existing domain?
- be used as an alias?
- direct to a te reo Māori version or section of the website?
You can also register names with macrons over vowels, like ā or ō.
Technical domain names
Registrations of separate .govt.nz domain names for technical purposes are allowed where there is a valid requirement and they are not intended to be shown to the public.
The domain should show which agency is using it and the technical nature, for example, diacloud.govt.nz.
Applications for generic technical terms like test.govt.nz or cloud.govt.nz will not be granted.
All public sector websites should make use of a .govt.nz domain name. However, if you need to register a non-.govt.nz domain, this can be managed via the government DNS platform so it can be kept alongside your .govt.nz domains.
Applications for non-.govt.nz registrations will only be granted in exceptional circumstances, for example when a website is intended primarily for an international audience.
You can also transfer non-.govt.nz domains to the government DNS platform.
Defensive registration of domain names
Registering variations of domain names to prevent other people using them (defensive registration) is unlikely to stop someone else registering a very similar one. This is because the number of ‘lookalike’ variations that could be registered is limitless.
Registering and promoting a single .govt.nz domain is a good way to let your users know they’ve found the right website.
Depending on how they’re set up, a large number of alternative domains can damage your search engine optimisation (SEO).
What to do with a ‘lookalike’ domain
If someone registers a lookalike domain, you can take the following action.
- If they’re using a government trademark or impersonating a government service, lodge a complaint with the Domain Name Commission.
- If they’re using paid advertising to appear in search results for keywords related to government services, report this to the search engine.
You can also contact the Domain name service team for advice.