This post was co-authored by Gail with Monty Ferbert to ensure the content on why you must control and own your own domain is accurate.
Monty started out in Internet marketing with Richmouse promotions more then 10 years ago.
Monty owns a highly successful membership site called Richmousepoints and many other successful websites.
The most important thing you will ever do online
is OWN YOUR OWN DOMAIN!
If you don’t know why read this post. If you don’t understand why, ASK ME.
Read on for how to register your domain, where your site really lives, how
people find it, IP addresses, and what a DNS (domain name server) does.
HOW NOT TO FALL VICTIM TO EVIL DOMAINERS
Newbies and experienced people alike can fall prey to many cons on the Internet – and one of the most dangerous pitfalls to watch out for online is the evil domainer con.
Lack of knowledge is where Jane and Johnny Newbie get hurt every day because the expert they trusted steals their domain name and holds it hostage.
From the earliest days of the Internet, some Web designers have been online land grabbers who have their clients pay for their domain name, but then list themselves as the owner.
Read on to find out how to make sure this does NOT happen to you.
DOMAINING: LOTS OF GRAY AREAS
There are ethical domainers who make a living by domaining.
They have many creative ways to make money buying
domains including buying sites that have expired
whose owners did not want them any more.
I’m sure some are willing to help those
who accidentally lose their domains.
If you’re a domainer reading this, leave your take on whether
holding domains hostage is “evil” in the comments.
The blogging world has their own variation: the “helpful” WordPress hosting company who will move your blog to self-hosting for free and all you have to do is pay for your new domain name.
HOSTING IS NOT FREE
Real hosting companies do not host for free, so that is a big red flag. Some WILL help you move your blog or even do it for you, but you have to pay for hosting. There are two major bases you must cover:
- The OWNER of the domain must be listed as you. It is fine if they are listed as a contact or tech but you must be listed as owner. This is absolutely critical and non-negotiable!
- You need to get IN WRITING how much they charge for hosting at every level for every option. Keep a copy somewhere safe. This is VERY important. You will find out why later in this post.
After you have invested hard work, money, and energy growing your site in importance and influence and ideally making money with it, the evil domainer will swoop in claiming you are using too much bandwidth and want to increase your hosting costs.
BEFORE you pay, you need to find out just how much bandwidth you are using and compare prices. (See point 2 above.) Charging you more for what you’re using at an average of the going rate is NOT evil. What some of these con artists charge is NOT reasonable. It can be outrageous.
If you refuse to pay their outrageous hosting increases
they will hold your domain name hostage!
YOU MUST CONTROL YOUR DOMAIN NAME
If the domain is not registered in your name as owner you have no recourse*.
(Unless you own a trade-marked brand, but how to take back domains
with trademarked names is outside the scope of this post.)
You will either have to register a new domain, move the site and lose all your incoming links, or pay whatever they demand which is usually hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
While they COULD redirect them for you, why would they?
They are making a living by taking advantage of bloggers, businesses, and affiliate marketers that don’t know they’re con artists. They will do whatever they believe will take as much money from you as possible! (And they will insist what they’re doing is just smart business – not evil.)
YOU MUST RENEW ON TIME!
Many businesses lose their sites because they forget to renew them.
Do NOT count on the email notifications because they may not be going to you, spam filters might delete them, or you may just be busy and not see them.
Visit your own site(s) often. Make your most important site your home page so you will know if it goes down. Then if you forget to renew your domain you can IMMEDIATELY check to find out why your site is down. DO NOT DELAY.
Many domain registrars provide a grace period
during which you can still pay.
Then there can be a redemption period during
which you can reclaim your domain!
But many country code domains such as .uk .au
HAVE NO GRACE PERIOD.
If your site is down FIND OUT WHY immediately or you may lose it!
It is CRITICAL that you keep your domain renewed. If you don’t have a method for reminding yourself to pay annually, the safest way is to register several years in advance and check the domain on an annual date you can remember – like when you close your books or your birthday.
Most SEOs believe that Google favors sites whose domain names
are registered out several years with three years being most often
mentioned. So protect your site and get SEO benefits, too, by
having your domain not expire for at least several years.
There are other domainers – not necessarily evil ones – just smart cookies – who monitor expiring domains. If yours has value (incoming links, traffic, useful content), they will snap it up and monetize it.
They may be willing to sell it back to you – but that can get expensive.
The more valuable your business is, the more
it will cost you to get it back.
There is a very real possibility that it will be more valuable to them than you are willing to pay or they might want it bad enough that they aren’t willing to sell it back to you. You again have no recourse. They now own it and unless they are willing to part with it there is nothing you can do.
WHAT ARE YOUR DOMAIN AND HOSTING OPTIONS?
Big mistake to not control both your domain and your hosting because without both you can easily lose your site forever. So listen up Johnnie and Jane newbie. You have three choices:
- Register the domain yourself. You will need some techie details to successfully do that so you may need someone to assist you.
- Have someone you can trust do it and verify they registered YOU as the owner before you give them any money.
- Use a major company but not give them any more money up front than you absolutely have to until you verify that YOU are listed as the owner of your domain – NOT THEM!
No matter which of these you choose,
verify that you are listed as the owner!
The field may say owner or registrant.
It is fine if they are listed for admin and technical.
USE A TRUSTED EXPERT
The easy way, and the way Gail recommends, is to have trusted advisors who can handle the techie-geek stuff for you. There are many ethical Web designers and Hosting companies who have your best interests at heart.
DIY DOMAIN OWNERSHIP
Monty shares the geeky tips in this section. Johnny and Jane newbies assume that because a company tells them they will set up the website domain and host it for them they own it. Not true. If you really own the domain you should be able to log into an account with a domain registry in that company’s client area yourself.
A proper domain registry is where you have an account you can log into with your own username and password with a registrar that uses secure servers. Note that most domain sellers are NOT registrars – they are resellers for registrars. That doesn’t matter as long as they are ethical and trustworthy.
WHAT IS A SECURE SITE?
Everyone who uses the Internet needs to know the difference between a regular and a secure site because you do not want to put your credit card or other sensitive personal information into an unsecure site. (Insecure is more correct, but unsecure is more commonly used.)
There are three ways you may be able to tell if a site is secure or not:
- Look at the URL address. If it starts with http:// it is NOT secure. If it uses https:// it IS considered secure. (Note that most secure sites use both so what matters is that the pages you enter credit cards and personal information on are secure.) Unfortunately, some browsers no longer display that part of the URL by default.
- Browsers used to have a lock / unlock icon to indicate secure or not.
- C/Net How to Tell is a Site is Secure: Type in this URL followed by the site you want to check, such as google.com or an IP address
We need to complain to Mozilla (controls Firefox) and Google (owns Chrome) about these indicators not being visible by default because not having those indicators harms small businesses and benefits big brands.
YOU NEED A DOMAIN AND A HOSTING ACCOUNT
Okay now you may be really confused. What is a hosting account? I purchased the domain so I have a website right? Wrong. Owning a domain name aka url only gives you the name. Now you need to get a hosting account account with a hosting company. It too will have a client area with a back office you log into with a username and a password.the hosting company should provide you with a nameserver url which is the url of the hosting service.
RECOMMENDED: Buy a domain even if you don’t have a site of your own!
Also buy a domain if you use blogger or WordPress.com for your blog.
You can point it at any page about you that
exists online to use as “your” site.
Print it on all your business cards and use it on your business listings.
You do NOT have to create or host your own site or blog
to have an excellent online presence.
Putting your information on a site that already reaches
your target audience and letting OTHERS handle all
this techie geek stuff is just as valuable to you!
Later if you want your own site or you want to change where
your information “lives” online, you simply change the DNS
settings at your registrar to point the domain name to
where your new information is located.
WHAT IS A NAMESERVER?
Yes you need to understand this part (unless you have a trusted expert and then you probably quit reading by now). If you’re going to handle your own domain and hosting, here is how it works:
When you create a Web site it “lives” on the hard drive on a server which is very similar to the PC you use. That server has an IP address.
Your site is actually “found” by the IP address which is a unique number assigned to each computer attached to the Internet. Your domain name is like your address online. We use domain names because names are easier for people to remember than numbers.
A domain name server (DNS) is a server that looks up the name of your site and figures out what IP address will send visitors to the server where your site is saved. A domain server could be on the same physical machine as your Web site, but is usually a separate computer and may not even be in the same location or even country. Nameservers can be controlled by the registrar or they can be at your hosting company.
By owning your domain name you can easily
move your Web site to any hosting company.
You will not lose any incoming links or have to change any profiles anywhere or notify anyone about the change or have your business cards, signs or stationary reprinted. When you change the DNS settings at your domain registrar all the domain name servers all over the world will know where to find your Web site. This is similar to having the post office forward your mail, but better because you don’t have to go notify anyone!
Your DNS (domain name server) URL always starts with NS1 and NS2. Depending on your registrar and hosting company, you will have at least two and could have four or more. To change your DNS name servers you log into the backoffice of your hosting account and replace the NS1, NS2, etc. nameserver ids.
IMPORTANT: Whenever you change name server information your
site will not be visiblefor from a few hours to 48 hours as all the name
servers all over the Internet are updated with the new details.
Some people will be able to see your site and others will not. Do not worry ~ just check from many locations and by 48 hours if the change was done correctly your site should be visible everywhere.
DETAILS NEEDED TO REGISTER DOMAINS YOURSELF
Monty uses and recommends Go Daddy because they provide 24/7 sales and customer support. As Johnny and Jane newbies, you need this extra support system in place as they will answer your important questions like how to change over a hosting account.
When you register your domain name you need to know which nameservers you want to use to fill out the form. You can either use the registrar’s name servers or get the numbers for the name servers provided by your hosting company.
MONTY BELIEVES YOU MUST CONTROL THE CPANEL
You only control your website if you have full access to something we call a c-panel that allows you access to the internal workings of what is your website. Too many Johnny and Jane newbies let others purchase the domain url for them and host their blog or website and then drive traffic to it.
I recommend you never do this ever, because as you increase the value of the site you are not in full control of ownership of it when the user accounts for the registry and the control panel account with the hosting company are not in your name.
For you to have full ownership of any website and complete control, both must be accessible by you at all times. Also always keep important usernames and passwords written down in a safe place and never share this information with anyone period.
If you need someone to install something on your cpanel
change the password when they’re done.
Never allow someone into the client area of your domain registry account ever. Controlling them yourself will keep you from creating a valuable website to find out someone else controls it and can hold you hostage for whatever fee they choose to place on the site’s value.
So reread this article and make sure you understand everything before you purchase your first domain and hosting to build a website. Once you register your domain and create your hosting account, in two to 48 hours a c-panel will be created for you. The cpanel will be a special domain url which ends in /cpanel or :2082. How long this takes can vary depending on what hosting company you use.
Sometimes they email this important information to the email account you used when paying for the hosting. The only and sole reason you own the website period is because you – not someone else – has full and complete control over the access to where the domain is registered. If you can’t change the nameservers at will you don’t control the domain.
HOW PEOPLE GET TO YOUR SITE:
- When someone wants to find your site they type in the domain name.
- The DNS (domain name servers) translate the name into the IP address to determine which server on which hosting company has your site saved. The DNS sends visitors looking for your site to that server.
- Your site is saved on a server at your hosting company. Your visitor’s browser receives the pages of your site from that server..
- Your cpanel is at your hosting company. Your Website is saved at your hosting company. Your domain name server will be either at the hosting company or at the domain registrar.
If you want to know more see Segregation of Duties: DNS, Domain Registration & Hosting.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE NOT TECHNICALLY PROFICIENT
Gail here. I understand why Monty believes you must manage your own domain registration and c-panel access. The problem is that is simply not practical for most people because they do not have the time or the background to do it right.
Having total control will not do you much good if you make a
mess of your site, break it or bring it down because
you don’t know what you’re doing.
I write and edit a lot of blogs that belong to other people. Most of them are broken in some way because it takes years to get really good at installing, securing, optimizing, and designing blogs.
Most sites and blogs eventually get hacked because they aren’t secured well. Many blog owners have introduced tons of problems over the years because they weren’t really qualified and had to learn the hard way. They DO eventually get good, but the sites built along the way pay the price and often have ongoing technical issues.
Every blog or site and especially ecommerce sites can be improved. If you want the best site NOW and not years from now when you have invested thousands of hours learning you have to hire experts you can trust.
That is what I have always done and I will never manage my own sites in spite of the fact that I was a IBM CE (computer technician) for 23 years. I know how much there is to know and what a difference it makes to have the very best doing it for you.
No matter how long you’ve had your site, you need to
Go to WhoIs and Check RIGHT NOW.
Are YOU Listed as the Registrant of Your Domain Name?
NOTE: If privacy guard is enabled you can’t see this so if someone else registered your URL you have to contact them or the registrar listed in that information to find out if you own it.
This post was a collaborative effort because there is always more than one way to do anything. Where I rely on trusted experts (and help others find those who can be trusted), Monty is a dyed-in-the-wool diy-er.
I recommend the registrar I use: NameCheap.
Originally published Dec 12, 2012; updated 9/12/20 to remove outdated content.
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