Here’s why it’s important to get control over your domain name

A person viewing a website on a laptop

As a business owner or manager of an organization, you know that owning a domain name is important. But even more important than owning your domain is knowing how to access it. In this article, I will discuss why it’s important to get control over your domain name and how to go about doing it. First, I will cover some basics about domains. Second, I will explain what happens if you don’t have ownership of your domain name. And finally, I’ll talk to you about how to register or claim ownership of your domain. Let’s get started!

What is a domain name?

A domain name is the web address of your company or organization. It’s what people type into their browser to get to your website. A good domain name helps potential visitors find you online and also helps you stand out from competitors in search engine results pages (SERPs). When choosing a domain name for your business or organization, it is important that the URL isn’t too long; it should be easy to spell and remember, and there shouldn’t be any spelling mistakes. It’s also a good idea to register variations so others don’t obtain them and compete with you online for search results.

Why do you need access to your domain name?

You would be surprised how many people have a website online right now and don’t have access to their domain name registration. Even I have clients that have opted to have me register their domain names years ago so they didn’t have to deal with it.

The most important reason you need access to your domain name is something called DNS. I think one of the best descriptions I’ve heard for DNS (Domain Name System) is “the phonebook of the Internet, connecting web browsers with websites”. Your domain name needs to point to certain coordinates to work. DNS settings are needed for web hosting, for email, and many more for things like Google verification and subdomains. Without DNS, your web browser could not find any websites on the internet.

You also need access to your domain name to make sure you renew it each year. You can set these up for auto-renew, but if your credit card information expires, you may end of with an expired domain name. That could be the loss of your website and your email. You can see, this is very important information to know!

Finally, your web designer may need access to your DNS to make various changes to publish your website. I also need this access to verify domain ownership if I’m setting up something called Sendgrid to help the client with form submissions. Your email provider may also need access. And if you hire an SEO specialist, they may also need access to your domain name for Google settings.

What happens if you can’t access your domain name?

I recently went for months without being able to assist a client move to new hosting because the person that registered the domain was unknown. This was very stressful for my client. Domain registration companies will not give out this information. Proving ownership of your domain is a lengthy and tedious process. In the end, the account owner was located, but months of valuable time were lost.

If you really have no idea where your domain is registered, you can do some detective work online. You can look up domain registration information using a website called whois.com. This website will show you what company a website is registered at and other information, like expiration. It probably won’t show you contact information. Privacy settings on domains are commonplace now.

webcami.com as seen on whois.com

Another website to use to find information is securitytrails.com. Security Trails goes further and shows DNS settings. Below, you can see my hosting is with Handy Networks, my email is through Google and my DNS is controlled at GoDaddy.

All of this information is helpful, but it’s still not direct access to the domain name. Hopefully, it can help you track down the person that registered the account. Sometimes, just reaching out to the registrar can allow you to take steps to prove that you are the true owner of the domain, such as proof that you’ve paid for the domain. If that doesn’t work, a letter from a lawyer might also help you start the process of transferring the domain to its rightful owner.

What is the best way to register a domain name?

Use a reputable registrar. I use GoDaddy. I find them to be very reliable when it comes to letting me know it’s time to renew. Other good registrars include NameCheap and Hover. A trick I use is to set up PayPal as my payment method I can then change my credit card info with PayPal and never have to change my payment method in multiple places.

When you run a business with employees, make sure a company owner is the email address contact and registered owner of the domain. If you run an organization, it’s best to register the domain with an email that never changes, like director@yourdomain.com. Plan ahead thinking out personnel changes. Perhaps an email is set up just for IT and social media reasons. Never allow an employee to register a domain in their own name.

Remember, if you don’t have control over your domain name, it could eventually cost you your website.

If a payment is missed, your domain could expire and go back on the market. This is one of the most important things to keep track of. WebCami is here to help if you’ve lost your domain registration information. The time to find it is now, not when you are in a pickle. And once you get the login again, be sure and store it using a tool like LastPass.

Finally, if you are a longtime client and I have your domain registration in my control, over the next few months I will be moving all clients’ domains into separate accounts. I can still be your contact and help you manage the accounts, but we will safely have that information in your direct control.

Please reach out if you have any questions. I’m here to help you.

About Cami MacNamara

Owner/Designer at WebCami Site Design. Providing web design services in Seattle since 2002. Follow me: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram