When we ask new clients for their website domain information, many have no idea where their domain was purchased or who owns it. Why is that a major problem?
Your website domain is one of the most critical components of your business. It's not only the link to your business website - it's an important part of your business brand and identity. If someone else owns a domain with your business name, for example, you could lose a lot of website traffic to another business or a competitor.
While we can certainly purchase a domain for a client, we recommend clients purchase their own domain(s) from a reputable domain registrar and make sure the ownership, login access and contact information is always current.
There are several reasons it's essential to maintain your own domain registrar account:
• ICANN, the governing organization that regulates domains and internet security requires that all domains maintain accurate contact information. Domain registrar companies are required to send periodic contact information checks via email. If you don't reply to the email or confirm your contact information your domain could be suspended which will disable your website.
• If your payment method expires, the domain registrar will be unable to renew your domain. Again, your domain will expire and your website will be disabled. Worse, left unpaid, the domain will eventually be released back to the open market which can then be purchased by another business. After someone else owns your domain, it's difficult, if not impossible to get it back.
• If you own your domain, you will be able to connect your domain to a new website, even if your webmaster goes AWOL (Flair would never be one of those),
• If you decide to create custom email boxes with your domain, you will have full access to control the settings to ensure proper delivery and operation of your email account.
• Avoids unnecessary delay in the launch of your new website.
The worst case is when a client has no idea where or when the domain was purchased and by whom. If the domain has a private registration (where the owner's name and contact information is protected), it can be virtually impossible to access the domain. That can result in an old website remaining live indefinitely which will create confusion for the business's customers and conflict with brand identity and search engine optimization efforts for the new website.
So how do you find out where your domain was purchased?
Googling the search phrase WhoIs will show a list of resources where you can type in your domain. We use https://lookup.icann.org/. Type in your domain - flaircommunication.com and you'll see something like this:
The ICANN information will show where the domain is registered, the purchase and expiration dates, and where it points (which website server it's connected to). If the registration is private (as in our case), there will be no contact information. Private domain registration is recommended if you want to avoid spam and undesired solicitations (more on that below).
How to avoid hackers and unwanted solicitations
Private domain registration adds a small fee to your domain - usually $10 - $15 per year - but is worth the extra cost. Hackers and competing domain registrar companies often use public domain contact information to business and try to get businesses to transfer their domains to their service.
These companies use deceptive tactics to confuse domain owners by sending them email warnings about pending domain expirations, letters through the postal service with a renewal statement and other communications designed to trick you into transferring your domain to their service, often at much higher annual fees. In some cases, these solicitations are designed to take over your domain ownership which gives them complete control over the domain and your website.
So how can you avoid an unscrupulous company from stealing control of your domain?
Keep good records of any domain(s) you've purchased and from whom.
Maintain current contact information and add a backup email address in your account. Sometimes it's a good idea to add your webmaster as a technical contact. Your webmaster will be copied on domain registrar communications and will able to distinguish between an authentic registrar message and a fraudulent one.
Always set your domain to auto-renew. This will give the domain registrar permission to auto charge the credit card on file to keep your domain active.
Keep your payment method updated at all times.
Choose private registration. This protects your personal contact information hidden from the public.
Know your domain registrar company. This seems obvious but if you purchase a multi-year package, it's easy to forget. Also, some domain companies are sold to other companies so your domain registrar may change without your knowledge. Pay attention to email announcements about changes.
Don't click on anything that is not familiar. Pay attention to notifications from your domain registrar (but also note many domain registrars send other solicitations - If this is an issue, check your domain account preferences. Usually there is an option to turn off all but essential email notifications).
In a future blog, we'll discuss how to select the prefect domain for your brand.