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  3. 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:

Contact GDS at govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk with the domain name you’d like. 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 govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk so GDS can request the delegation as soon as you’ve passed your beta assessment.

You’ll need to provide at least 2 nameserver records for your domain. GDS recommends you provide 4.

DNS is often a single point of failure. Consider using multiple suppliers - that way, if one ever goes down, people will still be able to find your service.

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.

Ensure users start their journey on GOV.UK

You should make sure users always start their journey on the GOV.UK start or guidance page for your service.

To ensure users start their journey on GOV.UK, you need to set up your service domain correctly. You must:

  • direct users to the relevant GOV.UK start or guidance page if they go straight to a page on the service’s domain
  • tell search engines not to index pages on your domain

Telling search engines not to index pages

You can either:

  • serve a meta tag on every page with the value: noindex, nofollow
  • use a X-Robots-Tag response header with the value: noindex, nofollow

Do not use a robots.txt file to prevent crawling of your service. This will prevent the crawler from seeing the noindex directive, so pages on your service may still appear in search results.

If users need to access your service directly

There are occasional exceptions to these rules. Contact govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk 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 govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk after your assessment to request the domain delegation. GDS will then delegate the service domain.

This can take up to 5 working days.

Once GDS has finished the delegation, 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.

Set up subdomains

Once you have a domain name, you can set up subdomains (for example, for a staging environment or static assets).

Find out more about managing domain names.

Set up security certificates

Once you’ve set up your DNS delegation, you’ll need to get TLS certificates from a certificate provider.

Use a certificate provider who provides DNS validation. This means you won’t have to rely on GDS to approve certificates by email.

If you can’t use a provider that offers domain validation, you’ll need to email govuk-enquiries@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk with:

  • a request for email validation
  • an explanation of why you weren’t able to use domain validation

Make sure the most senior civil servant in your team is part of the email chain.

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.

If you need to use extended validation for your service, your organisation will need to act as the legal confirming party. This can be a very lengthy process.

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 you can’t resolve with your DNS supplier, you can email the GOV.UK operations support team at hostmaster@digital.cabinet-office.gov.uk. 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.

Published by:
Standards and assurance community
Last update:

Slightly tweaked process for performing domain validation.

  1. Clarified the timeline for getting a service domain name.

  2. Guidance first published