Do You Own Your Domain?
Learn the Importance of Retaining Domain Ownership
September 11, 2019
Your website domain is one of the most important pieces of your online presence. Like a fingerprint, your domain is your singular, unique address that allows visitors to find you online. And like a house, it builds equity over time. The longer you hold a domain, the better your SEO. One of Google's ranking factors for SEO is length of time you've owned the domain. In their rationale, the older the domain, the longer you've been in business and seemingly more trustworthy and accountable you will be to their ultimate target audience - people searching for products, services and information online. You also build equity with your customers. Once a customer does business with you for years on end, they memorize your domain and likely will navigate straight to it from an open browser window. This is especially true of online and e-commerce businesses.
As a web development company, we've seen things go very wrong when it comes to domain ownership. Here are a couple issues we urge you to be aware of and avoid:
1) Your Developer Owns Your Domain
We've seen this happen time after time with clients, and it always ends up being a huge mess. Sometimes when a developer sets up a new website, they will purchase the domain for the client and include the domain in the website package. This is not industry best practice, and can actually be very dangerous to your business. Should the developer go out of business, completely cut off communication, or (sorry to be morbid, but I've seen this actually happen) die, you now have no control of or even access to your domain. It's exceedingly difficult to regain access to a domain that you don't have the login credentials for, and likely may not even know the name or credit card number on the account. In another worst case scenario, if your developer owns your domain and the business relationship goes south, they can actually hold it hostage and refuse to give it to you. In our business, we require clients to retain full ownership and control over their domain. Your domain is valuable - and no one should own it but you.
2) You Purchased Your Domain Through Your Website Platform
Many website platforms such as Squarespace or Wix will allow you to actually purchase your domain through the platform when you set up a new website with them. The problem with this is when your business grows and you decide to build a new website on a different platform, these companies do not make it easy to transfer out your domain. Think about it - why would these platforms make it easy? If you are transferring out your domain it means you are moving away from them as a customer. The transfer process starts with setting up an account with an external registrar such as GoDaddy. After that, you have to go through the process of actually transferring your domain away from your existing platform which usually involves reaching out to them to make the request, sometimes signing paperwork approving the transfer, and waiting days for the transfer to actually take effect. If you have email connected to your domain, your MX records will need to be completely re-configured as well once the transfer takes place. It's much easier to set up your domain on a third-party, external registrar to start instead of purchasing it within your platform. That way, if things change down the road you are in a much better and easier place to have full control over your domain.
3) You Forget to Pay for Your Domain Annually
This is perhaps the most heartbreaking error a business owner can make, and in our business we've seen it happen time after time. If you forget to pay for your domain, your website will go down and your domain will be officially released back out on the market for sale. When you lose your domain, many times there's no getting it back, and - if it's a popular domain - it will get snatched up immediately. It's incredibly important that you keep your contact information up to date with your registrar so you receive billing notifications and are alerted if your payment fails. Typically, your registrar will charge you once a year for your domain and it's up to you to make sure the payment processes so you retain ownership.
Not sure who owns your domain? Check out the iCANN database. This is a public database that (unless the domain was purchased with privacy protection) allows you to see who owns any given domain across the internet and their contact information: https://lookup.icann.org/
Need help regaining access to your domain? Contact Sidekick Web Studio and we can help.