Over the years I’ve run into this problem a lot. People or businesses think they own their domain name to later then find out they don’t. Let’s say you’ve found this great domain name that fits your business, keyword-rich and great for SEO. It perfectly fits your website’s image and all is going well. It’s your business name, what could happen? Now for some reasons you need to move your website to another host… Surprise, suprise! Your web host is the domain name owner. Your website and/or email could go down or your website could be held hostage. All of these can make for a really bad week. However, your website address or domain name is most likely on all your company publications – business cards, letterhead, brochures, signage, other websites. So for you not to have access to one of your most prized web properties is not benefiting you at all. If you don’t own it, it can be sold or hijacked and all traffic destined for your website will go elsewhere!
FYI – it is common for web agencies, to bundle domain and hosting with website packages and order it for you either as an affiliate or reseller of domain registration and hosting services. One rule of thumb almost always applies: never register your domain name at the same place you’re hosting your website. I do happen to register my domain names at the same place when the web host offers free registration and I’m 100% sure that I will be owning the domain name. One example of a web host where I would register my domain name is GoDaddy.com. They are one of the largest registrars on the web and they can be trusted.
So, how do you avoid falling into this trap? Simple! Buy your own domain name and keep a record of your account information. Though, I beg you to get help from someone, to make sure you buy the best domain name(s) for your needs.
How do I know if I own my domain name? It’s easy to find out if your domain name is truly yours. Follow this link http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp and enter your domain name. This will display all of the domain data (a Who is report). The one piece of information you should focus on is the Registrant. This should have your information. This is the owner of the domain name. There will also be other information such as who the domain was registered through (ex. GoDaddy.com, Register.com, Network Solutions.com, etc.) and expiration. If you name appears, you’re good to go. Just don’t forget the expiration. If your domain expires your website and any email through that domain will go down. In addition to that, it may cost you a lot more money to get it back.
What if you are NOT the registrant? You will need to contact the person or company that is the registrant. Hopefully they’ll be nice and transfer the domain over to you. Unfortunately, if they choose to be trolls about it, you may need to call a lawyer and have them send a letter.
Unfortunately, this happens more than you would think and I’ve had customers not get their domains back or had to pay premium prices to get their domains back. This can really damage your business online. So make sure you own your domain.