Your Domain Name is the Most Valuable Asset Your Online Business Has. Choose Your Registrar Carefully
Your Domain Name is the Most Valuable Asset Your Online Business Has. Choose Your Registrar Carefully!
If you build a business around a domain name, that name will become your most valuable asset. It will be both your brand and doorway to your service.
Lose it and your business could be damaged beyond repair.
It is simple to register a domain, but choose your registrar carefully. There are a lot of bandits out there.
Price is no reflection of the quality of service you will receive.
If you don’t want to read this checklist, but need to get on with registering a domain, the registrar I use is Enom (www.enom.com). They are US based, but will register all country domains (.co.uk, .fr, .it, etc.). They are not perfect, but they do most things well and they are big enough to be stable.
The essential things that you should check when choosing a domain registrar are:
- Cost of registering the domain – prices can vary from a few dollars /pounds per year to hundreds. Enom charge .com $8.95/yr, .co.uk $6.95/yr. The very expensive services are rarely worth the money, but at the same time the very cheap services should be avoided
- Annual renewal price - some domain companies offer cheap or even free first year registration and then hit you hard in subsequent years or if you try to move your domain
- Simple and easy to use account management interface so you can easily view, manage and edit your domain names and personal details
- Ability to easily move all your domains into one account for simple management – it can be a real pain having different accounts for lots of different names
- Free domain pointing - Your website will probably be hosted by a different company to your domain registrar. You will need to point your domain at your website so that when people type your domain name into their browser they will end up on your website
- Free email forwarding – If you own the domain www.Run-a-Bar.com, you should be able to forward all emails sent to that domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org to your email account
- Free transfer to another registrar – You should not have to pay to transfer your name to another domain name registrar
- Add privacy to your domain name – For free or a small fee ($1 or $2 a year) you should be able to hide who owns your domain. There are two reasons to do this. It stops spammer finding your email address and sending you junk email and more importantly it stops criminals trying to steal your domain name or identity
- Domain name monitoring and auto renew – Loosing your domain name can destroy your business. You should have several layers of protection to stop this happening. Domain name monitoring will alert you if the domain expires. Auto renew will automatically renew your subscription
The domain registration market is a jungle.
There are hundreds of companies offering different services for very different prices.
Most are honest, stable businesses. But many are poorly run, under resourced and deliberately confuse customers so they can rip them off.
I should know, I have lost thousands of dollars over the past ten years using incompetent and dishonest domain name registrars.
Whoever you use make sure that they are “ICANN accredited” in the US and Nominet approved in the UK. This means that you should have somewhere to turn in the event of a dispute.
Here are the most common issues that you should look out for:
1) Watch out for “Transfer-Out” fees
Some unscrupulous domain registrars hide a hidden fee in their “Terms and Conditions” which enables them to charge you to transfer your domain names to another registrar. This fee can be several times the annual registration fee and is intended to stop you taking your business elsewhere.
2) Other small print nasties
Some domain registration companies have some real horrors hidden in their terms and conditions. For example one company I know has a clause that says if you don’t pay the annual renewal fee for your domain name as soon as it is due, they have the right to transfer ownership to themselves. Imagine that if you have spent years building your business based around that domain name, you miss payment by one day and suddenly your registrar owns your URL!
3) You Pay, The Registrar Doesn’t
A common trick is the registrar persuades you to pay for a multiple year registration, usually by offering a discount. Your understanding is that your domain is then registered and secure for the next three to five years. Often it’s not.
Many companies pay the registry fee for just one year and stick the remaining money in their own bank account to earn interest, or worse, use it to fund their company. At the end of each year they renew your domain and pay from the cash in their bank account.
There are several risks with this.
If the company forgets to renew, you will lose the domain name.
If the company goes bankrupt, you would lose your cash and the domain would not be registered for any longer than the current year.
Finally, companies who use this trick, usually have a no refund or transfer policy so if you want to move or sell your domain you lose your money.
4) ‘Whois’ Edit Fees and Locks
When you register a domain name a Whois record is created which has all your information in and is a formal record of ownership. You should have free access to these records so that you can change them whenever you want. Some companies charge an administration fee to make changes. Some also lock your domain every time you make a change. This prevents your domains from being transferred.
5) Privacy Services Piracy
The Whois record is available for anyone on the internet to see. This can have several problems. If your domain is registered to your home, do you want your address, telephone and email address available to the world? Second spammers often ‘mine’ the Whois data to add names to their spam lists? Third, identity theft. Criminals often use the Whois data to build profiles of an individual to steal their identity.
Some registrars offer a service to hide this Whois data which seems like an excellent idea, except for one thing. To hide your details, the registrar replaces your information with their own and submits this to the Whois database. This officially makes them the owner of that domain name. The Terms and Conditions should protect you, but make sure you are dealing with a reputable and well established company.
6) Domain slamming
Beware. Some rogue domain companies look at the Whois records and when they see your domain is expiring they send out a renewal notice. If you sign and send the money in response to this letter it actually initiates a domain name transfer away from your chosen company to this new rogue registrar. This is called domain slamming.
7) Domain Name Locks
To avoid domain slamming many registrars offer a domain locking service so your domain cannot be transferred. This is a good and worthwhile service. However make sure that you have control over locking and unlocking your domain names. Some registrars deliberately make it difficult to try and prevent you from moving your account away from them.
8) Domain Name Authorisation Code
Similar to holding back the ability to unlock your domain name is holding back the authorisation code. Some domain names including .info, .biz and .org require an authorisation code to enable the domains to be transferred. Some companies make it very difficult to get this code.
9) Domain Parking
You may not be aware of domain parking? If you register a domain name and you don’t use it for a website, some registrars create a temporary site, which they cover in adverts and assign it to your domain name. They then make the money from all the adverts. This is not a scam, but at the same time if you’re like me I don’t like the idea that they are charging me to host my domain and then they are using it to make money for themselves.
10) Beware of Free Domain Name Registration
There is no such thing as a free domain registration! You will be paying for something. It maybe that the company is using your domain to park some names, or they may serve ‘pop-up’ or ‘pop-under’ adverts whenever somebody calls up your domain.
These 10 points are not intended to scare you, but to make you aware of what to look out for when registering your domain. Ensuring your domain is in good hands should be a priority. If you have a successful website and then lose your domain name I’m afraid you’re out of business!
Ask around for personal recommendations and do searches on forums to get recommendations about the best domain name companies.