Own Your Domain Name!

October 25, 2010 / Digital Marketing / By Kathy Alice

You wouldn’t register your DBA or LLC entity in your accountant’s or lawyer’s name .. so why, oh why, do so many businesses allow their webdesigner own their domain name?

Just a few weeks ago I had to inform one of my associates that the website she was working on, was not registered to the rightful owner, and wasn’t even hosted where she thought it was.

If you are confused about the difference between domain names and hosting, here is a quick explanation: Your domain name is your online identity and the name of your site (eg. webenso.com). “Hosting” means you are renting space for your website from a hosting company, when your browser, whether it is Firefox or Internet Explorer, accesses your website, their servers “serve” up your website pages, similar to a waiter serving you your soup.

It is possible that domain is registered with a different company than your hosting provider, which means there are two separate accounts you need to have access to … and they both should have your name as owner – not your webdesigner’s name.

For both domain names and hosting accounts, there is usually a way to specify a “technical contact”. It is perfectly fine to have your webdesigner listed as a the technical contact .. but he or she should never be listed as the owner.

You not only should have the domain name registered in your name but also you should have all the account information (username and password) for:

  • Your hosting account
  • The account where your domain is registered (if different)
  • Your admin panel if you are using a CMS (for example your admin login for wordpress)

Make sure also you have the URL you go to enter your username and password. If you don’t know whether you are hosted with godaddy or bluehost, the account details will not be that useful.

I had to work with a client whose webdesigner died and left me a forensic exercise to hack into his admin panel and database. Don’t let this happen to you!

If you do not own your domain name you may not able renew it (so your site goes dark with a domain name expiration). You will not be able to point it to a new website.

If you are interviewing a webdesigner, ask them questions about the website domain registration and registration. Be suspicious if they tell you they have to host your site on their “special” servers and set up the domain for you. Most simple business websites don’t need anything special and a hosting provider like bluehost.com provides all the tools (and more) needed.

I do register domains for my clients as some of them just don’t want to face the “technical challenge”, but I always do it in their name and set it up to bill their credit card.

If you are not sure who owns your domain, try a whois lookup.

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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  1. I appreciate this kind of information–it is easy for me to not be fully aware of the details of on-line commitments. I do know the names of my hosts, and I think I own my domain names, but I guess it’s a good time to check. Thanks for the post.

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Kathy. I can honestly say that I’ve been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt for it! I’ve had clients who want me to maintain their websites and they didn’t “own” their domain name, but got it through their designer. It’s a nightmare to have to be in the middle of a client who is bitter at the “old guy” or vice versa. Solid advice here, because your domain name is essentially your brand. If you don’t own it then who does?

  3. Sound advice. Everything I have is in my name except my Au Pair website which is provided by my company. But then I wouldn’t want that any more if I ceased to run my Au pair business. Thanks for your post.
    Louise Edington
    International Au pair Finder

  4. Good tips, Kathy. Recognizing that domains are the real estate of the internet will help business owners from giving away valuable assets. It would be like paying for improvements on a house you didn’t own. Not a wise investment.

  5. Yes, I am just trying to sort out a mess caused by just these circumstances! Webdesigner registered my client’s URL in the designers account and never released the information about where the site was being hosted. Thank you!

  6. Hi Kathy,

    I don´t think that many people are aware of this. Thinking about it, internet is still pretty new, website hosting and everything else that comes with it, so I am sure that 90% of businesses have someone who does their website and simply don´t know this.
    Thanks for this great information,
    Franziska @Flavor Designs

  7. Hi Franziska, I agree, many people just leave it to their webdesigner to take care of it. I hope this blog post helps educate people up front, so it doesn’t become a problem later!

  8. I’m glad I read your blog. I’m pretty tech savvy, but these are the areas that really confuse me. I’m happy to say, I do own my URL, but I feel like I got lucky. I don’t really know enough to protect myself. I probably know enough to be dangerous. I look forward to reading some of your other posts.


  9. Great advice! Fortunately, when we first set up our website we were advised to own our own domain name, so that is not aconcern. Our web designer is hosting our web site, but we are the owners and have access, so I hope that is going to be o.k. In the beginning, we had AT&T hosting and actually owning our web site which became a nightmare, but owning our domain name helped save us.

  10. I luckily (because I didn’t know any better) set up my domain name correctly initially, but when I set up my blog website, I had troubles, so decided to move everything to another hosting and platform, but was able to do that easily because I owned my domain name – I actually didn’t know it would be so easy, so put it off – much happier now.

  11. Great information. I agree that probably, most people don’t know about this and how important it is to own your own domain. I just read an article about people who make a living buying and selling domaine names (like houses). There are huge auctions for domaine names. Don’t let that happen to you and it could if you don’t own your own!

    Thanks and welcome to BLogger Monday!

    Candace Davenport
    http://www.ourlittlebooks.com ~ Little Books with a Big Message

  12. Hi Candace,

    Yes, there is a quite an industry of buying and selling domain names. Darcie alluded to this but domain names are like real estate, many of the “shorter” ones are taken and there is quite a secondary market in those. Eg. one of my clients recently bought the “.com” version of their domain name for 131K! Of course it is a six letter one.

  13. Some great info here. i don’t understand all of it some of the terms are unfamiliar to me but I am still learning. My domain names are registered with GoDaddy and I renew them yearly, Does this mean I own them or does Godaddy?

  14. Hi Julie,

    Most likely you are fine. However if you want to be sure, click on the “whois” link at the end of the blog post and search on your domain name. Unless you have set up privacy, you should be listed as the domain owner.

  15. Kathy, thank you. Topical and on point as usual. While my original web developer for my first site put everything in my name, she recommended using her multiuser WordPress. This was okay when I started but as she got busy and I wanted to make changes, it didn’t work. Eventually, I learned enough to be only a little out of control and moved the blog to my own copy of WordPress.

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