OK, I know the title should be written: “Should I register my domain name under my name?” The answer is yes. It’s always yes.
Over the past fifteen plus years, I’ve lived horror stories with clients and friends trying to get what’s rightfully theirs back into their ownership. Your domain is your online brand address. It should never be down. You never want to catch yourself in a situation where your old webmaster or someone who claimed to be doing you a favor has control of your domain name. This will almost always end ugly.
Before I get into our preferences, I should state that we do not share in revenues of sales from our viewers. This is a 100% unbiased article based on our experiences with many of the registrars from whom you can purchase a domain name.
Domain names are cheap. So cheap, in fact, that we recommend to our clients to purchase them for the maximum amount of time they possibly can. For example, a domain name through GoDaddy for five years will cost $73.85. Better yet, for ten years, $147.90. That means for the next ten years, while you’re tending your business, you won’t have to worry about your domain name expiring.
“My web company offered to buy my domain name for me”
Even better, I love when companies “throw in” the domain name for free, with the purchase of a website. No thanks. It’s not worth it later on. But if they’re willing to give you complete access, including usernames and passwords, then go for it. As long as you are listed as the registrant. As long as you control the account and can at anytime login and change the information, including to which server/hosting company the domain name points.
Under no circumstances should anyone other than you or the officers of your company be the sole names and email addresses listed for your domain.
Recently we were hired to do an SEO assessment for a fairly large company in New York City. During our assessment, we found that the domain, which was set to expire in 3 months, was registered to a person who no longer worked for the company and had used his personal AOL email address. When we contacted him, he willingly admitted that he hadn’t checked his AOL account in a year and totally forgot. Luckily the story had a happy ending because the employee was still on good terms with the company.
On the flip side, we’ve encountered people who have been held hostage for monies they believe were owed to them or because they owned the domain and the person never inquired.
What do I do if someone else owns my domain name?
Start by locating the registrar. We use who.is. It’s a free service and will give you all information about the registrar, admin, tech contact, etc. You’ll find a line that, hopefully, should show “Registrar”. You can begin by reaching out to that company to learn their rules in getting your domain name. Some offer the possibility of proving ownership, while others will flat out refuse without going through the legal system. You can find more information about this at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
Of course, you can always politely ask your current web company. Give them a reason why you need the name, like, “ We’re thinking about selling the company.” Or: “Our insurance company requires us to have access and control of the domain name.” Or: “We’re thinking about using another service for email and need to do this quick.” Whatever reason you give, your goal should always be to retrieve your domain name.
Will my website go down while I’m transferring from one registrar to another?
No. Not at all. As long as your information stays the same, especially the nameservers, you’re fine.
Can I just stay with the registrar with which my web company set me up?
Absolutely! As long as you have control over the account–meaning no one can change the passwords without you knowing–there’s nothing wrong with that. Just don’t let them have sole access.