Having the most advanced website anywhere, hosted on the fastest server on earth, amounts to nothing if you suddenly lose your domain. Without your domain, you can’t even post your phone number — at least not where someone will immediately find it.
Over time, a business will become more and more intricately tied to the domain used to identify the business online. The address is probably used in multiple places, including print as well as a multitude of inbound links. Losing your domain could be catastrophic for your business and your SEO.
Many people do not have a firm idea of what a domain is, so let’s cover the basics first.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain is a word, such as “Marion.com”, that represents a set of numbers. Humans can remember words far more quickly than they can remember strings of numbers. But computers need more than words to find servers on the Internet.
Therefore, domains were invented to map words to IP addresses, which are merely strings of numbers used to identify servers. For example, instead of typing google.com into your browser’s address bar, you can enter 188.8.131.52 and it will still take you to Google’s website!
When you “register” a domain you have access to its numbers and therefore control various things like website hosting and email related to that domain.
How to Register a Domain Name
To obtain a domain, you must register it through a company that provides domain services. When registering your domain, you will specify the duration of the registration.
If the registration period expires without payment for a renewal, then the domain is up for grabs by anyone. The lapsed domain can be locked in a millisecond by programs whose sole purpose is to get that possibly expensive domain away from you. Once that happens, you might be forced to pay whatever the new registrant wants for it. This practice is also known as cybersquatting or domain hijacking.
How do I know this? It happened to me. One of my domains lapsed, possibly due to missing notification emails. When I tried to register it again, I discovered that the registrar now wanted $1600.00! That might not be much for a business to absorb, but for me, it was impossible.
Later, someone bought it and tried to sell it back to me. I could have bought it then, but the idea of paying a cybersquatter, someone attempting to profit from my misfortune, was unthinkable. I waited years but eventually caved when another squatter offered it to me for about 100 bucks.
How to Get Your Domain Name Back – Legal Recourse
It’s expensive to hire a lawyer but might be necessary to untangle a domain mess. More legal protections are in place for victims of cybersquatting than existed at the time I lost my domain. But it is a situation you can avoid.
How to Prevent Your Domain Name from Being Taken
To prevent a disaster, be sure you take the following precautions:
- Do not let your domain expire. Register your domain for the longest amount of time possible. Keep a valid credit card on file at your registrar and enable the Auto Renew feature.
- Be sure the email address used for domain renewal notifications is working and available to you. The notification email address should not match the domain, because if you lose the domain, the email address will probably stop working. To clarify, if you register xyz.com, your notification email address must not be firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The contact information for your domain is public, by law. One of the first things a domain thief will do is try to locate the contact email address and hack into it. However, you can use a service that hides your information with an intermediary company while forwarding all contact requests to you. Most reputable domain sellers offer protection services for additional charges. There are independent companies that offer domain protection as well.
- Even after you’ve deployed domain protection, your previously visible information might be discoverable. So, it’s important to also change your domain contact email address to one not used before. The new email address should be a newly created account. Most modern email clients can be configured to download messages from multiple accounts.
- Know who your domain registrar is without needing to look it up.
- Know where your credentials are. You must be able to access your domain registrar or website hosting account on a moment’s notice, both for administering your domain and for other reasons. You might not be able to find your credentials. If you know who your domain registrar is, you can at least call the domain registrar to use other means of identifying yourself as the rightful owner of the domain.
You may find that a secure password vault system such as Dashlane or LastPass to be helpful. A single account can be configured to work with all your devices and browsers. Countless times we’ve requested domain or admin access from a customer and received an untested user/pass to “something” dredged out of an assistant’s inbox in a panicked search.
- If you don’t remember who your domain registrar is, that information is public and available through WhoIs search.
- Be sure you are in control of your domain and not a contractor you hired to do the work of creating a website or information system. Very often, the contractor will register the domain with his or her information. In the event of a dispute, that person may decline to relinquish control of the domain.
- Make sure that the domain registrant must approve any changes to contact information.
- Use well-known registrars. Several large U.S. companies register domains. If you registered through a lesser company, consider transferring the domain to a firm with a strong reputation and 24/7 domain support.
Let MARION Keep Your Domain and Website Secure
The marketing strategists at our Houston digital marketing agency have experience with designing and hosting websites from countless industries. For custom web design in Houston or Austin, please contact MARION today to schedule a free consultation.