Whether you’re a seasoned veteran in the game or you’re the new guy on the field, there are some definite best practices when it comes to buying, using, and protecting your domain name. Once you’ve found your perfect domain, take the proper steps to insure you aren’t face-palming months down the road because you’re up against issues that could have been avoided.
Rules and Regulations
Like anything worth investing in, domains come with a lot of ins-and-outs and red tape. The governing body of all rules and regulations concerning domain names is ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.) You can read a ton about them, but mostly their rules are to protect you as the owner of your domain registration. That’s worth noting, your domain name that you pay for is a registration to use it. Think of it like the license plate on your car. You have a registration that proves you have been assigned that combination of letters and numbers on your license plate, but you don’t OWN that combination of letters and numbers. If you stop paying for your license plate, the state will reassign it to someone else who can use it. That’s exactly how domains work, if you stop paying for it or you don’t maintain the registration annually, it will be taken back and someone else can buy it. Avoid this at all costs. This is devastating when you’ve built your entire business on one name. Imagine waking up one day and your website is disconnected, your email accounts can’t be accessed, your marketing won’t work, and even your social media is disconnected all because you didn’t pay a small registration fee on time. What’s worse, the person who may have gotten their hands on your domain may hold it for ransom and charge you thousands of dollars for its safe transfer back to you. Sound scary? Well, it happens all the time in the domain industry and there’s nothing illegal about it.
Another thing to be weary of is trademark infringement. Just because Ford.biz or Microsoft.ninja might be available doesn’t mean you have the rights to use those words. You can legally own them, of course, remember, they’re just combinations of letters and numbers. But if you use them and connect them without consent of the trademark owner you’ll be receiving a swift cease and desist order that legally forces you to disconnect them. In reality, you’d only be out the $15 or so you may have spent on such a name, but what’s the point of buying if you can’t use them?
Putting Your Domain to Use
With your domain name in hand, you’ve now got one of the most powerful marketing tools available. After a little research, you can insure that your domain name also matches social media handles and other marketing exploits. Next, make sure your domain provider offers things like DNS support, easy renewal processes, extended registrations for multiple years, and even transfer services. To connect your domain and start using it, you’ll probably need a hand the first time you setup email, websites, or anything else you’d like to get connected. We’ll have more articles later on DNS to share for advanced users, but, for now, think of DNS as the roadmap your users need to follow to get where you’re pointing them. Ever been on a road trip and unfolded that huge, paper map on the dashboard? Not so much with GPS nowadays, right? Well, either way, that roadmap can be held by the Registrar (the company you registered your domain with) or by your hosting company (the company you host your site with.) Sometimes, where you buy your domain name IS where you host your website, so it will be easier in that case, but here’s the key. Your Nameserver Settings within your domain are what dictate where that roadmap is kept. In other words, pay attention to the initial setup. If you lose access to accounts that contain your Nameservers then you lose control of that roadmap and you may be forced to start from square one. Remember that face-palm we’re trying to avoid?
Protecting Your Domain Name
Here, we’ll keep rolling with the license plate analogy. Imagine if you cut someone off in traffic (accidently, of course, you’re an angel behind the wheel.) What would the world be like if they could just take down your license plate and look up your name, phone number, address, and email address. Well, hate to break it to you, but domain registrations are called “open registrations” by default. That means anyone can look up any domain name and see all that information.
The way around this? Privacy settings. Typically, registrars charge a little coin to hide your information, but as a business owner it’s worth not letting everyone know the details about you and your business. Bottom line, buy it. Don’t moan about the price either, unless they want your first born, because you’d probably pay a lot more to solve any problems if that data were abused.
You can also typically buy extended registrations of up to 10 years (for .com’s. Each TLD has its own registration limitations.) There may be minimal savings dollar wise, but be realistic about how often you want to re-calibrate your domain purchase. Nickel and dime me every year or hit me up for a bit more once every half decade? Your call. Also, consider something like a protected registration that locks things in place. Domain hijackings don’t happen often, but there are other protections that go along with such a thing. Like domain blacklisting protection or preemptive web history scans.
We know there’s a lot to learn, that’s why we’re committed to bringing you more free lessons from experts on the inside. We all started somewhere, we’re just here to pay it forward. Thanks for reading.