+44(0)1633 276003 [email protected]

domain name registrationSo, you bought a domain name — con­grat­u­la­tions! After all, you do own it now, right?

Actually, no. At least, not in the sense you may think. Possibly not at all.

You see, a registrar licenses the domain to you, the “regis­trant”, for a limited time. So, domain regis­tration isn’t absolute own­ership. It’s close enough for most pur­poses, though.

So, if a “whois” search on a site like Who.is lists your current email address as the regis­trant for your domain, you can be sure it’s licensed properly.

…but what if it doesn’t?

Keep Calm and Double-Check

Updates to privacy laws now mean that regis­trant details are often hidden from such searches. Also, dif­ferent “whois” searches cover dif­ferent types of domain. So don’t worry if your domain doesn’t appear on the site above. Even if a domain is listed, it may use privacy ser­vices to hide the regis­trant contact details.

Either way, check with your domain pro­vider if you aren’t sure about the results. Basically, the regis­trant con­trols the domain name. So if that isn’t you, call your domain pro­vider to correct it right away.

It may just be an over­sight. However, if your pro­vider resists the change or says it’s their “policy” (or worse, in their con­tract) to own the domains they register, transfer that domain to a better domain pro­vider, ASAP! I can help, so drop me a line if you like — but however you do it, get this fixed.

Incidentally, your “domain pro­vider” may be a spe­cialist domain registrar, or they may not. For instance, hosting com­panies often also sell domains. Web designers do, too — because we’re usually the only ones who need to manage domain set­tings. It’s a lot easier for us to keep your domain secure that way. So that’s how my Hosting Plus plans work — and of course, I’ll always list you as the registrant.

Managing Domains

Someone will need enough access to your domain to link it to your site. Unless that’s you, that person can either:

  • Explain all the tech­nical changes needed and ask you to do them
  • Request access to the account you used to register the domain
  • Sell you the domain them­selves, or ask you to transfer it to their registrar account

The first option obvi­ously isn’t ideal — explaining tech­nical tasks often takes longer than just doing them. The second may give them access to your billing details, or other web prop­erties or sens­itive information.

Because the third option is safest, some domain types list a tech­nical contact sep­ar­ately from the regis­trant. That means any tech­nical queries will be dir­ected to them — but as the regis­trant, you retain full authority over the domain.

Why Domain Name Ownership Matters

It’s easy to register a domain without really under­standing its true value or how to protect that. So, let’s fill in those blanks a little.

The Value of Domains

Domains are cheap but valuableWhilst most busi­nesses under­stand the value of a brand, domains are cheap. That leads many to assume their domain is only worth its annual license fee. Such a small investment is easy to undervalue.

Of course, the value of a thing isn’t just what you paid for it. It’s what you can get for it (or from it, until you plan to sell). However, unlike most physical goods, used domains tend to increase in value.

Even cheap domains are business assets that can some­times sell for six figures or more. That’s quite apart from their value to you as part of your web address. It’s pos­sible to shut up shop, close your site and still sell your domain for far more than you ever paid to license it. There’s no guar­antee of that, but it’s worth taking seriously.

What’s In A (Domain) Name?

So, what gives some domain names this intrinsic extra value? Well, scarcity, for one thing. Cool, mem­orable domains (like yours, right?) are hard to come by. Many of the best names have already been used at least once.

That’s espe­cially true for the older types of domain like “.com” and “.co.uk”. However, the words in a domain name influence SEO too. The newer “top level” domains — like “.art”, “.actor” and “.lawyer” — cur­rently don’t seem to add as much weight as some expected, but they do clarify a site’s intent. As such, these new domain groups can gain extra value in their spe­cific markets.

Domains gain extra weight in SEO terms with age, too. To mature like that, the domain needs to have been the address of a website for a few years — and the more suc­cessful the site, the better. However, just being cool and mem­orable can be enough to boost a domain’s value on the premium domains market.

Yes, there’s a lively market for used domains. Some people make a good living from trading on it.

The Dark Side of Domain Trading

Of course, that luc­rative market means domain trading has its own types of crime, too. Some people steal domains. Others register domains they know a brand will want, then try to charge a premium to hand them over. Unless the brand can prove it has rights to the name (a trademark or similar) and that this “cyber-squatting” was delib­erate, the squatter may get away with it.

That’s why many people buy up domains for many vari­ations of their own name — .com, .co.uk, .org and others. It’s cheaper to protect your brand by regis­tering domains that you don’t need yet than to buy them off someone else when you need them urgently.

Defending Your Domain

Any domain transfer or update triggers a veri­fic­ation email to the regis­trant from the registrar. Respond to that quickly, but check that it is valid first. It should come from your domain pro­vider, or a higher-level authority like Nominet (for “.uk” domains) or ICANN. If you are in any doubt about such emails, check them with your domain pro­vider straight away.

If it’s a transfer, you should already know about that, and the process won’t com­plete until you respond, but the request may time out after a week or so. Otherwise, if it’s an unex­pected request, read it care­fully. Domain pro­viders and high-level author­ities are often required to send these out annually. In some cases, domains may be sus­pended if you don’t respond within a week or two, but in others, you only need to respond if the details provided aren’t accurate.

Likewise, you’ll probably get renewal emails — and if those are from your domain pro­vider, you will need to respond before the renewal date. Otherwise, retrieving a lapsed domain can get sur­pris­ingly expensive.

The “Fake Domain Renewal” Scam

Be aware, though, that common scam emails often threaten some sort of sus­pension if you don’t “renew” your domain with them. The wording is often very sly, and if you read care­fully, the only thing that will expire is their “offer” to list your domain in search engines. That’s not even proper SEO, as search engines find most domains without any help, and these emails aren’t offering any help with search pos­i­tioning.

In any case, the key point is that these emails won’t be from your domain pro­vider. So you can’t “renew” with someone else. That would involve trans­ferring the domain to them, and as these are scams, you may lose control of your domain in the process.

Conclusion: How To Keep Control Of Your Domain

So you don’t own your domain out­right, but the license to use it is so valuable that people will try to steal it from you. This means it’s vital to:

  • Know who has provided your domain and keep in touch with them — this is less common than you may assume!
  • Get yourself listed as the regis­trant of your domain name
  • Keep your contact details up to date with your domain registrar — espe­cially your email address
  • Check that email address reg­u­larly and keep it abso­lutely secure
  • Keep emails from your registrar, domain pro­vider (if dif­ferent), or bodies like ICANN or Nominet — don’t lose them in your Junk Mail folder!
  • Read veri­fic­ation mails care­fully and respond to genuine ones promptly
  • Avoid paying anyone but your domain pro­vider for the domains you already own, or for “search inclusion”.

Remember — one day, that cheap domain license could turn out to be one of the most valuable things you own. Especially if they reach the top of search engine results for valuable terms.

Want to add value to your domain?

See my SEO Plus Plans