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Domain Registration Pitfalls – Protecting Your Online Identity

Domain Name Registration Basics

Domain registration is the process whereby an internet address (such as mycompany.com) is obtained through one of many online authorities called a Domain Registrar. Choosing a domain name is an important part of establishing an online presence for your company or organization. A registrar will allow you to choose a domain name (or names) and choose how long you would like to own the domain. When the time period of your ownership is about to expire, the registrar will give you the opportunity to renew the domain before it is released back into the pool of publically available domain names. While domain registration is fairly simple and straightforward, there are several seldom-addressed pitfalls that every consumer should be aware of.

Pitfall # 1: Third Party Domain Registration

Anyone can register a domain name. This is important because many individuals or companies offering web services will bundle domain registration as part of their package of services. Most providers have good intentions and strive to deliver the best possible customer service. However, in the event of any unforeseen circumstances, domain renewal can become problematic. If you change web service providers and/or your domain expires, you will have to contact the company who originally registered the domain to perform any maintenance or renewals.

The best approach is to create your own account with a domain registrar and give your web services provider access to the account. They can then log in and purchase/renew your domain(s) for you, or alert you to do so in a timely manner. Some providers may insist that they should be one who handles all of your domain registration tasks. While it may be convenient in the short term, it is not a good business practice as it gives a third party entity substantial leverage in continuity of your online presence. If the time comes where your web services provider can no longer meet your needs, you can give your new provider the credentials to access your domain registration account. This will serve to ensure that transferring responsibility for your account from one provider to another goes as smoothly as possible.

Pitfall # 2: Inaccurate WHOIS Information

Every registered domain has several pieces of information attached to it that is publically available for inspection. This information is found in the WHOIS record, which is short for “WHO IS the owner of this domain?”. WHOIS provides three important blocks of contact information: Registrant, Administrative, and Technical. The Registrant Contact should reflect you or your company. If there are problems with the registration, they will use this information to contact you or verify your identity. The Administrative and Technical Contacts should reflect your current web services provider. These contact records could be used to verify domain control, which is sometimes necessary for some technical aspects related to hosting your website.

WHOIS information can be edited in your domain registration account and it should be checked yearly for accuracy and/or every time you change web service providers. Keeping the WHOIS information accurate can help ensure that there are no registration or technical issues with your domain name.

Pitfall # 3: Top Level Domains

Most people look for a ‘.com’ domain name unless the nature of their business is more appropriately suited for a ‘.net’ or ‘.org’. A common domain registration pitfall is to only register your website with one top level domain. One of the best ways you can protect your online identity and web presence is to register ‘.com’, ‘.net’, and ‘.org’. Only one of them will actually serve your website, but the others can be configured to redirect to your primary top level domain name. Additionally, you could register ‘.info’ and other top level domains if you feel as if this will serve your target audience well.

Registering multiple top level domains for your website will wield great flexibility for scaling your website and the products or services you offer to your target audience. For example, a ‘.com’ domain could be used to promote your company or business entity while the accompanying ‘.org’ domain could be used as an additional website devoted to a separate, but related, facet of your business.

Summary

Domain registration is an important aspect of your online presence. It is also an element that you should retain control of in the event of an emergency. Keeping your domain registration within arms reach gives you the flexibility to change hosting or web service providers with minimal (if any) interruption to the services offered to your target audience.