The Domain Game: Master Your Domain to Protect Your Brand

Are you master of your domain? The Internet assigns names to numbers, and often the name of a website is just as important as the content you'll find there. For a growing business or web presence, professional or personal, securing a strong domain name is an important first step for web development and often an enjoyable experience, but the registration process requires time and energy. Fear not, if you follow a few basic guidelines then you can proceed minus the headaches.

Choose a Reputable Domain Registrar

This is easy. Reputable domain registrars will often and – proudly – display their accreditation with ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). To that effect, ICANN keeps a list of all accredited registrars on their website. Get to know and understand who ICANN is and what they do. You may occasionally receive notifications from your registrar that ICANN is updating policies or requires certain information from you. Don’t worry, these are legitimate reasons for contacting you, but, again, nothing to worry about. Usually, they just want to verify your email or postal addresses—basically, for record-keeping purposes.

Here is a short list of reputable registrars:

Be Aware of Products and Services

Domain privacy, transfer locks, DNS modification, domain extensions, etc.; these are some of the services most registrars will advertise. Before investing too much money at once, a measure of foresight may serve you better.

What are your longterm goals for this domain? Top level domains (TLDs), sometimes referred to as “domain extensions” are the short phrases that come after the dot. If you register “domain.com” do you also need to grab “domain.net”, or “domain.coffee” (more expensive)? Should you obtain the latter domains and redirect them to your primary domain? The administrators who first grabbed twitter.com may have had a more urgent need to secure alternatives like twitter.org than the administrators of a small business website. Is your business or service reliant upon maintenance of your unique domain name and a unique TLD? This is an important consideration. You are, after all, the master of your domain.

What about domain privacy? Most registrars offer domain privacy to hide your personal details from “whois”, a free lookup service that allows the public to see who maintains any particular domain name. These contact details include everything: names, addresses, phone numbers, email, etc. If you want this information hidden, domain privacy is for you. While some registrars offer free privacy, some, like GoDaddy, will make you pay for it. So be prepared to part with coin if you want to protect your privacy.

Lock up your domain if you want to keep it where it is. A “transfer lock” prohibits your domain from being transferred to a different registrar should yourself or a third-party obtain an “authorization code” that can be used to transfer the domain away from its current management. Domain locking is most often a free service provided by most registrars.

DNS modification allows you to “point” your domain to different IP addresses or servers. For example, if you have a domain registered with GoDaddy but you want to point it to a web builder site like Weebly or Wix, you can do so with DNS modification. Like domain locking, this should be offered as a free service by your registrar.

Be Master of Your Domain

The choice of whom you can trust with your domain name is entirely up to you, and you must consider your options carefully. It is easy enough to assign a developer or a web host reseller with the task of registering and maintaining your domain, but should you decide to end your relationship with that particular developer or reseller then do you have the necessary power to take over management of your domain?

If your domain is essential to your brand then you must make certain that you know a few things:

  • Registrar. Who is the domain registered with? There are plenty of “whois” databases on the Internet you can consult (who.is, for example).
  • Credentials. Make sure that you have access to the domain management tools at the registrar’s website. This can include usernames, passwords, PIN numbers, security phrases, etc. If you don’t have this information your domain can be locked up for five years and you would have no power to use it.
  • DNS settings. Is the domain registered with one company and the website hosted at another? It is very possible your domain is registered with one service and pointing to a different host. If so, make sure you have credentials necessary to deal with all associated parties.
  • Renewal/expiration. ICANN mandates that a domain be actively registered for a term of at least one year. However, it is possible to register a domain for up to 5 years. If you’re managing your own domain or have entrusted the task to a third-party, make sure you know how long the domain will be active. If the domain expires your site and any email accounts associated with the domain will go down. Most domain registrars and web hosts will offer automatic billing renewal to help you avoid this kind of catastrophe.

These are some basic guidelines to protect you from some of the pitfalls of domain management. If you would like to learn more about how to secure and maintain your domain dominance then feel free to reach out to me for further resources.

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