Why Would A Municipality Not Use Their Own Domain Name?

We were recently contacted by a Township in Pennsylvania that wanted some help on their web site.  After brief discussion, we determined they are using hosting, and domain addressing, from a County, and that their site does not have its own unique domain.  And that has been the case for the past 6 years.

Not a good idea.

At this point on the Internet, local governments should have their own unique domain name, and not rely on an addressing path of the hosting company.

That is, if the plan is for your city, township, village, borough, etc., to be around for much longer as a unique government body.

A lot of smaller local governments have been on the web a long time, and yet do not have their own domain for their web site or email.  This is a lack of control of the local government’s online presence that should not be allowed to continue to happen.  It is a negative for a lot of reasons:

1 – You are establishing traffic patterns to your web site.  Those traffic patterns are built by search engine links, other web site links, web browser bookmarks, print references, print materials, etc.,  All of these items point to your URL – which, if you are not using your own registered domain, can change without your say.  And will eventually… that is a guarantee unless you are disappearing from the Internet.  And suddenly, when your path changes for both the access to the site in general, and all secondary pages, none of those traffic patterns are supported.  EVEN with an autoreferral to your new URL from the old URL, which you won’t necessarily get, you lose support.

2 – This could happen several times.  Ask various state government departments whether their URL has changed over the years as the state executive branch has redirected (or rebranded) their official web site address (this is because in many cases, the Governor’s IT management decides the official site pathing, not the specific Department).  Every time, you will need a campaign to let your public know the new address.  The timing won’t be your decision alone, it will be based on the plans of the organization that is providing the domain pathing that you are piggybacking on.

3 – The value of every previous effort to get the word out on your site address is deprecated considerably every time it changes.

4 – Your organization does not look forward planning in the least.  You look cheap in a bad way… in the “we’ll cut corners to get the project over with even if it isn’t done right” kind of way.

5.  Anyone who pays for their own domain – businesses, other local governments, etc., – probably already understands some of items 1 through 4. There’s no reason to let a $20 cost per year (at most) for the domain make your organization look bad.

The same holds true for subdomaining a cheap or free account at commercial providers, such as Wix.  Even if it means you have to pay for hosting at Wix or somewhere else – get
your own domain, and use it.  It is a long-term commitment that shouldn’t be ignored by local governments for purposes of web addressing AND e-mail addressing.