Domain Names: Why You Need To Register Your Own

Last updated: January 19, 2017
Posted by: Sally Davies
Categories: Website

Domain Names: Why You Register Your OwnBy reading this article you'll learn why the most important thing to be in control of when it comes to having your own website is to register your own domain name. Having this aspect of your website legally registered to you will protect you from bad things that can happen to your website's health.

What's a domain name?

A domain name is the address of your website. For example the domain name of this website is www.modurcreative.co.nz. Domain names are leased from domain name registrars and need to be paid for, at a minimum, every year. 

There are heaps of places you can purchase a domain name from, just type 'domain name registration' into Google and see. These companies that offer domain name registration charge different amounts per year so it pays to shop around.

There are a lot of web agencies who are register their clients' domain names in the name of the web agency and not the client

This is all kinds of wrong. There may have been good intentions from the web agency to get the client sorted out with a domain name for the least fuss but what happens if anything goes wrong?

Here's a true story:

A local business had a website developed by a web developer who recommended using Google Adwords pay-per-click advertising in order to drive traffic to the website. The market was competitive so it made sense at the time. 

The adverts worked well at first but over a period of years the web developer grew their business and it became obvious to the local business they were being ignored. 

The money being spent on the advertising was no longer working as well as it should, the enquiries dried up and there was little to no help, advice or suggestion from the web developer on the best way to adapt so the local business decided it was time to move on to someone new who could offer guidance and suggestions.

The problem was that the website's domain name was registered in the name of the web developer and not in the local business's name.

This is the point where things went bad

The web developer got offended that the local business wanted to move away and so dug their heels in about cooperating. The sort of behaviour we're talking about is:

  • Refusing to respond to emails and phone calls
  • Sending more bills for services rendered (even though the client requested termination)
  • Not carrying out requests to help transfer the website as smoothly as possible with the minimum impact on the website health

Eventually when the web developer did respond, they stated that the domain name in question was theirs and that if the client wanted they would have to pay a high price. The local business declined of course.

So, why not just register a new domain name?

There's no point in having a website online if no one can find it in the search engine results. The way that search engines work these days is based on complex algorithms that score web pages on relevance (to the search term) and popularity (the number of times people read the content). Popularity is built up over time. The longer your website is online the better for building up your popularity profile.

If you switch to a new domain name then according to Google your website is brand new. 

You're going to have to start from scratch to build up a history and in competitive markets this can be devastating.

There are ways to transition a website from one domain to another without losing this history but it involves the cooperation of both parties. If you don't have cooperation, you're screwed!

Your domain name is a key

If the local client had been in control of the domain name there would have been literally no problems at all. The website would have been transitioned smoothly with minimal downtime and effect on search engine results. 

So the moral of the story is to either register your own domain name OR make sure, if someone is doing it on your behalf, that they register it legally in your name.

How to check if you own your domain name:

There are many free tools online to look up domain name information. I Google 'domain name look up'  and came across this website: http://whois.domaintools.com/

Enter your domain name into the box e.g. modurcreative.co.nz and click search. 

The section you are concerned about is the part that states who the 'Registrant' is. If it isn't you then that is potentially a problem.

What to do if your domain name isn't in your name

It all depends on what agreement you have with your web developer. If you are sure that they shouldn't have registered the domain name in their name you could ask them about it and request that they transfer ownership to you. There's a bit of paperwork to do but it isn't that hard. 

Summary

Hopefully this has provided some useful information about domain names so if you're in the process of getting a new website created, you'll know to make sure that you take care of the domain name arrangements. 

It's not great thinking negatively about anyone but the reality is that things can go bad for lots of different reasons so think of having your own domain name as an insurance policy just in case. 

If you need any help with looking up your domain name details or moving away from a bad web developer experience, get in touch!