Your domain name is the centre of your business communications. Without it you will have no email and no website.
As a business owner it’s very important you keep ownership of this yourself – neither your support company, your web designer, your Internet service provider nor anyone else should do this on your behalf. If you don’t currently have ownership of your domain name I strongly suggest you have it transferred to your direct control.
A common problem I’ve seen is where a name has been registered by a third party, such as a web designer, who now no longer works for the company, or worse there has been a falling-out and they have taken the domain name details with them. The cost of resolving the associated problems with making a sudden name change are enormous, not just the practical things like reprinting business cards, but the intangible loss of goodwill and search engine traffic.
If you’re choosing a new name keep it short and simple – you’ll be spelling this out over the phone countless times in the future. Try to avoid hyphens, numbers (is that four or 4?), and similar sounding words (e.g. wood / would). It’s wise to check the name for misinterpretation – for example Experts Exchange, an online tech forum, registered expertsexchange.com – a name possibly more at home in the medical community?
When you register or transfer a domain name:
You need to keep the domain name renewed – most registrars allow names to be registered for 5 years or more, but it’s easy to overlook a renewal and your online world can grind to a halt. To make matters worse there are a number of email and postal scams which claim to be renewal or copyright infringement notices or even invoices. These can result in the loss of your name. By renewing your names in a managed way you can protect yourself against these problems.
Occasionally there might be technical changes required (for example if you change your web hosting or email provider) – these are straightforward and you’ll be able to get simple instructions for what to do. Don’t be tempted to give your login details to anyone else.
Protect your brand.
There are many domain extensions (the part after your business name e.g. ‘.com’ or ‘.biz’) – you can go to town and register all of them, however, this can be expensive and not really protect you. Generally, I suggest that you register the ‘.com’ and the local extension for the countries in which you operate (e.g. .co.uk, .fr, .nl). It’s also a good idea to register similar spellings, or frequent mis-spellings, and forward these to your main domain name.
Keep your old domain names registered – if you re-brand or change your company name keep the old domain names registered. This isn’t expensive (£10 a year) and will prevent domain name resellers or dodgy fake search engines getting control of your old name.
The key here is to recognise the value of a domain name to your business, not be scared by the technical language used around them, and take direct control yourself.