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Get a service domain name
You must contact the Government Digital Service (GDS) to get a domain name for your service on GOV.UK.
You should do this after working with GDS to agree a start page for your service.
You must only advertise the URL (or short URL) of your GOV.UK start page. You must never advertise any other URL for your service anywhere.
This guidance only applies to service.gov.uk domains. If you need a non-service domain, for example for organisational email, follow the guidance on naming and registering government websites.
After your alpha assessment
Once you’ve planned a start page for your service, you’ll need to agree a service domain name with GDS.
Your domain name should describe your service, rather than mention your department or agency - for example, apply-budgeting-loan.service.gov.uk.
You’ll need to follow the:
- guidance on naming your service
- URL standards for GOV.UK
- guidance on naming and registering government websites
Contact GDS at firstname.lastname@example.org to agree an appropriate name. The name will likely be similar to your GOV.UK start page.
In your email you should briefly describe:
- what your service does
- who your users are
- what user needs you will meet
GDS may ask you for more information about your service before deciding on an appropriate domain name for it.
Choose where you’ll host your DNS
Once you’ve agreed a domain name for your service with GDS, you’ll need to choose a DNS provider or arrange to run your DNS servers yourself.
A DNS provider will publish your DNS records on the internet so that users can connect to your service.
Your provider will give you several DNS name servers. As soon as you have these, send the details to email@example.com so GDS can request the delegation as soon as you’ve passed your beta assessment.
DNS is often an un-noticed single point of failure. You should consider using multiple providers for redundancy if appropriate.
You can search for DNS suppliers on the Digital Marketplace. If you don’t know which suppliers to choose, ask for advice from technical staff in your team or organisation.
Using robots.txt and root level redirects
You should make sure users always access your service through the GOV.UK start page for your service.
To do this, you need to:
- ask search engines not to index pages on your domain
- direct users to the relevant GOV.UK start page if they go to the service’s domain name
To do this, you must have a robots.txt file on all subdomains. The robots.txt file must ask search engines not to index any part of the site and should include:
You should also serve this meta tag on every page:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">.
You must have an HTTP 301 redirect from the top-level index page of the www and assets subdomains to your service’s GOV.UK start page. This means that your start page should not link to the root of the www domain.
There are occasionally exceptions to these rules. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you think users need to be able to access pages on your service domain directly.
After your beta assessment
Your service can begin using the service domain after you’ve passed your beta assessment.
Contact email@example.com after your assessment to request the domain delegation. GDS will then delegate the service domain.
This can take up to 5 working days.
Once it’s connected, your team will be able to manage where the domain name points to.
You’ll also need to contact the GDS content team to let them know to publish your service start page and feedback page.
If you’re using Dyn
The main service.gov.uk DNS domain is currently managed by a platform run by a supplier called Dyn.
If you want to use a DNS product offered by Dyn, you must give GDS as much notice as possible. This is because GDS has to give extra authorisation to Dyn in order to delegate service domains. This can take some time and you may have to wait longer than 5 days to get control of your domain.
Set up security certificates
You should obtain TLS certificates from a provider once your domain has been set up.
You should use a certificate provider who provides DNS validation so you don’t have to rely on GDS to approve your certificates by email. GDS does not purchase TLS certificates for service teams.
You should use a Certification Authority Authorisation (CAA) record on your service.gov.uk domain. This stops attackers from getting another certificate authority to issue a certificate for the domain.
Set up subdomains
Once you have a domain name, you can set up subdomains (for example, for a staging environment).
Find out more about managing domain names.
Sending emails from your domain name
If you’re planning to send emails from your domain name, you must make sure your users can receive your emails and are protected from spam.
You must follow the government guidance on how to email your users.
If you’re not going to send emails from your domain, you must follow the government guidance on keeping your domain protected from spoofing attacks.
Getting operations support
If you have an issue that can’t be resolved with your DNS supplier, you can email the GOV.UK operations support team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The team is available on weekdays between 9am and 5pm.
If you have an emergency outside of these hours, you must contact your organisation’s single point of contact (often referred to as ‘SPOC’) who will contact the support team for you.