Ever since the internet became a digital destination for businesses and customers, companies have vied with each other to get the domain names they want. Choosing (and owning!) the right domain name is important, for several reasons. As a business, for example, a domain name gives you as much credibility as your company name does.
Few customers are likely to do business with a company that does not have its own domain name. It’s the online version of:
- Your street address,
- Your brand identity, and
- Your company location.
For many companies, it is literally the front door to their business!
Many people think their website delivers the first impression of their company, but, in fact, it’s the domain name that does that, even before visitors arrive at your digital store front.
If you acquire a domain name that describes your company’s business effectively, people can remember the name easily and can return to your site without having to look you up in their contact list or use a search engine.
Protect your domain name with the same diligence as you would any other business critical asset.
That is why you need to understand how domain names work and follow best practices for protecting your asset to avoid some of the most common pitfalls. Here are just a few things to do and/or watch out for.
Registering Your Domain Name
Many non-technical people do not differentiate between their website and their domain as they often pay for a website that includes their domain name and begin using it.
This does not mean you OWN your domain name.
Domain names may be registered with one of more than two thousand ICANN-accredited registrars, or their resellers. Some of these are web hosting companies while others only manage the registration of your domain. (ICANN is “The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” and manages coordinates the maintenance of these records across the entire web.)
You must be positive that your name is the one on the domain registration, not “xyzpqr.com web developers” or anyone else. If you don’t have it in your name and also have the passwords needed to access your registration information (that is in a what is called an “account”) then you have zero control over it.
A company we work with did not have their name as the owner of their domain, it had been left in the name of a former owner who had died a few years back. They paid the renewal fees for several years and thought no more of it. Until…they needed to move their site from one web hosting company to a new one.
They discovered their registration had lapsed for a couple of weeks and discovered another company now owned their domain.
That company was willing to let them buy it back for $5,000.
That was out of the question for this company, so we helped them find a new domain name and register it – in their name. And no, you may as well forget trying to file a protest with ICANN; once gone, you can almost always kiss your domain good by for good if someone else has it.
TIP: If you do not have the login to your domain account, you’ll likely not be able to move the site to a new web hosting company either. However, if you are the owner of the account you can get access - eventually.
So, registering your domain in your name is the only sure-fire way to make certain you own your domain name. Once you’ve purchased it, nobody else can get that domain name as long as you renew the registration (typically annually).
Someone can get the same name but having a different extension like .org or .biz, but they can’t use your domain name. For example, if you have yourbusiness.com, they could get yourbusiness.biz and use that domain name.
How to Register A Domain Name So You Control It
Often, businesspeople believe they own their domain, but they don’t know where it’s hosted.
Often, businesspeople believe they own their domain, but they don’t know where it’s hosted. This can happen with companies which register, host, design, and manage your site for a monthly fee. When the time comes to transfer your domain to a different provider, you might discover you don’t own it after all, because the hosting provider does. You either keep on paying monthly management fees or you have to change your domain name and recreate the site on the new domain.
What’s the best way to avoid all the hassle?
Do not have your domain name account managed or hosted on the company where you host your website. Use an independent provider like Cloudflare, RackSpace, eNom or one of the other well-known companies, they not only register the domain but give you the web account and tools you need to manage it. Your web developers will need to make many changes and add things to your domain’s setting for technical reasons and having it on one these sites mean it will be secure and under your control at all times.
And, you don’t need to be a licensed business to register a domain name, anyone can do it.
The price to register a domain fluctuates between $10 and $100 for some boutique names to several thousand dollars if it is a name that someone else already owns.
This is as good a point as any to acquaint you with a common problem you’ll run into trying to register a new domain name. If it’s popular or short, odds are it won’t be available as there are investor groups who have bought up those type domains and are simply sitting on them, offering to “sell” them to you for prices from $1000 or $100,000.
Dirty pool or good Investment? Depends on which table you sit at, theirs or yours.
Keep in mind your domain name registration is a tiny annual cost of running your business and with some name creativity you can avoid having to pay big bucks for a domain.
Best Practices for Managing Your Domain
A domain name is the most valuable asset of every business with an online presence. It is much more than just your web address – it’s a reflection of your brand’s identity. To minimize the chances of it being stolen or abused, protect it with these essential security tips:
- Register It Under Your Company Identity -You should never register a domain name under an individual person’s name. People change jobs all the time, and if the person whose name is listed leaves the company, you could lose access to your domain. Getting it back can take years and a ton of money. If you register it under the company identity, however, you’ll have continuity no matter how your employees come and go. To stay anonymous online you can activate domain privacy, which gives you a simple and inexpensive way to hide your contact information.
- Lock Your Domain Name - Many reputable hosting providers will lock your domain name by default and you’ll have to request it to be unlocked if you want to make any changes. we strongly suggest checking if it is locked, and if not, locking it yourself through the domain name management system directly after registration. By leaving it unlocked, you might be easily able to access it, but you also risk it being transferred to someone else without your knowledge or permission. Once that happens, you no longer have any control over what they do with it!
- Choose a Strong Password - Weak passwords are still one of the primary data security risks. If you choose an easy-to-guess password for your registrar account, such as continuous numerical sequences, your birthday or your children’s names, you’re leaving yourself wide open to a cyber take-over of your website. If this happens to a company that does any form of ecommerce or online data collection, customer information is exposed and potentially listed for sale on the Dark Web.
Even if you don’t handle transactions online, you risk having the site used to disseminate fake news and political propaganda. The BBC recently reported how Russian hackers posted fake stories on real news sites to discredit NATO.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) -You should always use a VPN to access your domain name account. Hackers and bad actors are always watching out for unsecured connections, which they can easily compromise to get their hands on your data that’s valuable either to you or to them. Choose the best VPN you can find and make it a habit to use it when logging into your account.
Check Google for VPN Review Sites, you’ll find good reviews from reputable sources so you can make a more informed choice.
- Register Your Domain Name For 10 Years - Unless you’re certain you (or an employee) can be on top of annual renewals, it’s wise to register the domain for the longest period of time possible. This is usually up to 10 years, and it means you no longer have to worry about losing it through overlooking a renewal. Alternatively, turn on auto-renew as an option, and make it a point not to ignore the renewal-reminder emails the hosting provider sends out.
- Provide Backup Payment Details - It’s a fact of life that credit cards expire, and if you set up automated renewals and your payment method expires you risk losing ownership of your domain name when it happens. If your hosting provider offers the option, set up a backup payment method to prevent this from happening.
- Register Variations of Your Domain Name - Register variations of your domain name with different extensions too. At a few dollars a shot, it is worth it to have yourdomain.net, yourdomain.biz and yd.com all registered so nobody else can buy them. Otherwise, scammers can use common tactics like phishing or domain name typosquatting to trick users into giving up confidential information such as bank details.
Additionally, if they send an email to your mailing list that pretends to be from “yourdomain.com,” most recipients won’t notice the difference until they discover they have been scammed. This can affect your company reputation negatively, even if it has nothing to do with you!
Owning and managing your domain name effectively can have a notable impact on your company’s reputation and success. Don’t risk damaging your market share by not paying attention. It’s simply not worth the risk.
If the technology is outside of your capabilities, hire someone with the necessary skills or consult with a service provider to get the help and resources you need to obtain and keep your domain name safe.