As we’ve said many times before, your website is one of your most important business assets. The site’s design, content, and SEO are all crucial elements that dictate how well your site will perform.
However, have you spared a thought for your website’s domain? The domain is the name of your website, such as itseeze-nottingham.co.uk, as opposed to a URL such as https://www.itseeze-nottingham.co.uk/contact/ which will take you to a specific page.
Your domain is normally used for your email addresses, too.
Why are domains important?
Put simply, the domain is the legal aspect of your website that can only be legitimately used by the person or company who bought and registered it, or who bought and/or registered it on someone else’s behalf*. And this is where the problems begin.
Many businesses leave the domain side of things to their web developer – Sometimes the result is that the developer, not the business owner, is the legal registrant and therefore has the right to use and manage that domain.
At best, this means you have limited control over what should be your own business asset. All domains are worth money, and whilst some are cheap as chips, others can cost thousands of pounds to buy and register.
If this is the case for your domain and someone else is in the driving seat, there could be trouble ahead if you decide to change web developers or the company you’re using goes bust.
*Note that whilst we often talk about ‘domain ownership,’ all domains are actually leased, not bought. Despite this, they can still be sold by the registrant if no longer required, or by the registry that originally made the domain name available if registration isn’t renewed on time.
Not sure who controls your domain?
It’s easy to find out who controls most domain names by using the WHOIS function on the Nominet website, which you can find here.
The site will return information for domains ending .uk, .co.uk, .org.uk, .me.uk, .net.uk, .sch.uk, .plc.uk, .ltd.uk, .cymru and .wales.
If you have a different domain ending, such as .com or .info, you can try using the ICANN Lookup website which you can find here.
What if someone else owns it?
If your domain is registered to a third party, you should think carefully about whether to reclaim the domain and put it in your own or your company’s name.
Even if you’ve known your web developer for years and their business is a going concern, this doesn’t mean they won’t be reluctant to give up control over your domain if you decide to move your site elsewhere.
If you deal with a larger firm and your usual contact leaves, you could find it difficult to reclaim your domain name if you later decide to do so.
You’re also at the mercy of your web developer in terms of costs for renewing and hosting your domain. These are often vastly inflated beyond what the developer actually pays for services relating to your site, particularly if technical support isn’t included in the price.
You’re also at risk of the registrant forgetting or neglecting to renew your domain registration, which will cause your site and emails to stop working. Once registration has lapsed, your domain will automatically become available for sale and you could end up losing it for good!
It’s also not unheard of for web developers to ‘switch off’ websites and emails if their bills haven’t been paid, or even out of pure spite after a disagreement.
And there’s the equally depressing fact that, if you decide to change your domain name or cease trading, your developer will be entitled to sell your domain – potentially for a whacking great profit.
How to reclaim your domain
If you’re still in contact with the registrant and they’re still in business, your first step is to ask them nicely to transfer the domain into your personal or company name.
If they refuse, or if this isn’t possible, you can use the Dispute Resolution Service (DRS) at the Nominet website or the WHOIS Complaints service at ICANN to state your claim to the domain.
This can be relatively straightforward as most domain names are a direct reflection of a company’s name and/or you can often prove that the domain relates to your business because of the content included on the site. However, the registrant may still contest the dispute or complaint if they feel they have a right to retain control over the site.
You’ll need to pay a fee for Nominet’s and ICANN’s dispute and complaint resolution services, but it’s usually worth it to ultimately regain control over your asset.
Registering a new domain
If you’re looking for a new domain for your business due to a change of name or rebrand, or are setting up a new business, it’s important to choose the right domain.
It makes sense for the domain to reflect your business name if possible. You may like to choose a name that adds a little more information about your company, such as adding the town or city where you’re based, e.g. ‘joebloggswebsitesnottingham.’
Of course, you might find that your preferred name has already been snapped up or is only available for an extortionate sum. If this is the case, think about alternatives that could still work for your business.
A different ending could be a simple answer, such as choosing .info or .biz instead of .co.uk or .com. Or, try shortening or altering your business name, for example, ‘jbwebsitesnottingham’ or ‘jbwebsiteservices.’
Try not to choose a very long domain name, as this can make your site name and email addresses unwieldy. People are also more likely to get the addresses wrong when writing them down or typing them into a browser.
Sometimes, businesses want to register multiple domains - but there can only be one Primary domain for a website, and this is the one that is displayed in the address bar (and the one that Google sees), the other domains are redirected to this primary domain. Registering and redirecting multiple domains is fine, except when it's done to try to improve SEO. If you were to register "www.drivewaysnottingham.co.uk" it would only have an SEO benefit if it was the Primary domain. If your business' domain is "www.mydrivewaycompany.co.uk" and you replaced that primary domain with another, you'd probably see a negative SEO affect, as Google will see the new domain as a new website, unless you planned it very carefully, with 401 redirects. Basically, it's complicated.
And, while we're talking about new domains, spare a second to think about email addresses. An email address like info@ is common, therefore it's "comfortable" to use, but you can have whatever you want. Hello@ if you want a slightly friendlier feel to your business. Maybe getintouch@, questions@ or askme@ to stand out from the crowd. Maybe multiple mailboxes (quotes@, sales@, accounts@ and support@) if you want to appear larger, planning on growing or ARE a larger business.
There are lots of different websites you can use to check domain availability and register your chosen name. Here at it’seeze Web Design Nottingham, we recommend Fasthosts, and we do all the domain and email setup for you as part of our packages.
Can it’seeze Nottingham find and register a domain for me?
We don’t offer this as a standalone service, but it’s included in all our website packages if you ask us to design and develop your new site.
We can help you find an appropriate and available domain name, register it on your behalf and even set up your email addresses.
Once you’re up and running, our monthly hosting fees include comprehensive technical support as well as automatic renewal of your domain when the time comes.
Like to know more? Get in touch today!
it’seeze Web Design Nottingham are here to answer all your web design and development questions. Just call us on 0115 777 3001 or fill in our quick online enquiry form.
You can also book a free, no obligation demonstration of our unique website editor to find out more about what we do and the benefits of working with us.
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