Buying & Registering a Domain Name
Your Domain Name or Domain URL is the name and url address of your website. Ex: www.yourbusiness.com. You must purchase and register a domain name in order to use it. This is different from web hosting.
Here are tips for purchasing and registering a domain name.
Domain name registration checklist shortcut:
- You want complete control and ownership of your domain and DNS
- Purchase your domain name from a Registrar - not a reseller
- Keep your web hosting, email and domain separate
- Get Whois Privacy
- What to do if you don't know where your domain is registered
- Have at least one additional email addresses as a backup & other tips
You want complete control and ownership of your domain and DNS
This is so important. Do not EVER give another person or company ownership or total control over your domain.
A quick back story.
A few years ago I had just finished creating a new website for a client and it was ready to launch. They wanted to get their new site live before an upcoming launch. Unfortunately the launch was delayed because my client had no idea where their domain name had been registered.
Without that domain information, the website cannot be published.
After doing a search, I found out that the person who had set up their web hosting years ago, also registered their domain under his name instead of theirs.
Now instead of their new site launching, they spent weeks tracking this information down and trying to find the guy so they could try and get the domain name back.
Fortunately they were able to get it back from him.
Over the years I’ve run into things like:
- The domain or web company went out of business and trying to track them down is almost impossible in some cases.
- The business owner has to spend time “proving” they own their own site since it was registered by someone else
- The domain expired because the owner was unaware it needed to be renewed.
- The business owner finds they don’t even own their own domain name – the last “guy” who registered the site is the one who actually owns it.
The project then goes on hold until the business owner can track down the person and get it back. The best case scenario is that this person releases it. The worst case is that they won’t release it to the business owner, or forces them to buy the name back.
These things are a nightmare for a business owner. Do not let this happen to you.
If you're not sure where your domain is registered here's how to find out.
Purchase your domain name from a Registrar - not a reseller
The Domain Registrar is where your domain name is purchased. When you purchase a domain name, that name is yours for as long as the contract period which is typically one-two years. Before it expires it must be renewed or that domain will become available for sale again to anybody.
Do not buy from a domain Reseller. Domain Resellers are NOT Registrars, and are not under ICANN contract and are not required to follow the confirmation processes that Registrars are required to.
If you are registered with a company that is not on the ICANN list, then transfer to one that is. Many registrars will also provide instruction if you’d like to transfer your domain name to their service.
Hover has a free Valet Transfer Service that can make transferring much easier.
Don’t purchase your domain name from your web host
I know there are some web hosts that offer this as a service. While it's convenient to do, it can be a hassle later down the road when you want to switch web hosts or web service companies.
It’s much better to keep them separate, and it will be easier if you want to change web hosts down the road.
Unfortunately this practice is common with lower priced web hosting and web services. They will offer it 'free' for the first year. Don't do it. Domain names are inexpensive, most are less than $20 and many Registrar's have first year discounts.
There is ZERO benefit to you the customer to give up OWNERSHIP or CONTROL of one of your most important digital assets.
Web hosting companies will tell you it’s easier and more convenient. It’s not.
Companies offer this as a service for their customers because there are people who would rather not deal with it.
But here’s the thing. Web companies, hosting companies can go out of business. Change their terms of doing business with them.
Moving a website to a new web host isn’t that hard especially when you’re working with a good one. But when the hosting company is closing down and they own or control your domain the process is much more complicated.
Use a Whois Privacy Service
Most Registrars offer Whois Guard or a similar service that keeps your domain information private. Domains and the owner information are listed in a public database unless you keep it private. Some Registrars include it, some offer it as an add-on.
Hover includes this with all their domain names.
You want to keep this information private for a couple reasons. First, it keeps you from getting spammed with solicitations. More importantly it keeps your domain information safe from domain hackers who may try using your public information to hack your domain.
How do you find where your domain name is registered?
You can find out who the registrar is for your website by going to www.whois.com
Enter your site and Whois will pull up the information for your site. It will show the name of the Registrar and when it expires, along with contact information. If you see that someone else is listed as owner, contact them right away and have them list you as the owner or transfer the name to you.
How can you find where your website is hosted?
If you're not sure where your site is hosted you can do a search for it here.
Have at least one backup account or email address (that you own)
Set up an additional account or email as a backup, that way if something ever happens you don’t get locked out. Namecheap allows you to add managers to your account. Hover lets you setup a backup email.
Don’t let your domains expire
Set it to auto-renew and make sure the credit card on your account stays up-to-date. Once your domain expires you’re at risk of losing it. Make sure your email and contact information are up to date as well.
Avoid sharing login credentials whenever possible
Your web developer may need access to your Registrar account to update the DNS settings for your website or email. Rather then sharing your login, set them up as user which will give them their own access and credentials. That way you control the access and can revoke it at any time.
This feature is the reason I prefer Namecheap over Hover.
Setup any user/manager accounts for tech support, employees or contractors when you need to provide access to your domain controls and dns settings
Enable access to:
- Manage DNS, name servers and host records
- Manage Email forwarding
- Renew or pay for domains
- Manage privacy settings
Do NOT enable access to:
Sharing and transfer access. This allows someone to unlock the domain and transfer ownership. Unless this person is transferring on your behalf no one should have access to this. And if that’s the case, make sure that after any transfer is complete that the domain is locked and access for that is removed.
Be aware of domain renewal scams
Sometimes people receive letters or emails telling them their domain is about to expire and they need to renew. The price is usually well over what you'd pay through a real registrar. Always double check this by going to your registrar’s site and logging in to your account.