We see it time and time again when we work with new clients. They don’t have access to or control of their website domain name. They have no idea where it’s registered or what their username or password to manage their account is.
Although a common occurrence, this subjects businesses to the will and actions of whoever does have control of their domain. Domain names can be held hostage in lieu of (real or fictitious) charges. Website providers can refuse to give you access if you want to switch to another provider. If angry, they can shut down your site, costing you leads and sales. Even worse, some not-so-nice companies will register YOUR domain under THEIR name – which means you don’t even own it. All your marketing efforts to get people using your site go by the wayside. They can turn around and sell it to someone else who benefits from all your work.
As you can see, it’s really important that you keep track of your domain name. Let’s start with the basics:
Domain Name or URL: this is the www.yoursitename.com (with the ‘yoursitename’ portion applying directly to your website. For example, ours is www.vimm.com. You need to have a domain name registered for your site to be viewed by others on the net. Think of this like your physical address.
Domain Registrar: this is a company that sells and records domain names that you or other people have purchased. They generally charge a yearly fee and have an area in their site that allows you to log in to view and edit your domain information. So, if you want to put up a new website, you need to record the server information for your new site here. Think of this as the post office, so if you move, you need to let the post office know what your new address is so they can direct correspondence (visitors) to your new location. Examples of this are GoDaddy.com, NetworkSolutions.com, and Register.com.
So, what do you need to do to ensure you have control of your own domain?
1. Work with a reputable web company and make sure you have contracts in place that define ownership of your domain and website. For example, at Vivid Image, we now provide a post-project document with all your account information as well as a contract establishing ownership rights to your site.
2. Ask your website provider to give you the Registrar Name, your login or account ID, and password when they register your site. Then go out and check to make sure it works – do this on a regular basis.
3. You can look up ownership of your site.
4. Should your email address or contact information change, make sure to let your website provider know, then request (and double check) that they update your WHOIS information.
5. If you are listed as the owner of a site, but cannot get the username or password from your current provider, there is a paper process to regain control of your domain. Vivid Image can assist you with this process and provide you with the documentation you need for your records.