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Are You Still the Master of Your Domain?

Friday, July 29, 2016 12:00 PM

While Shakespeare expressed his doubts centuries ago when he asked "what's in a name?" those of us who operate online in the 21st century know a name's unequivocal value. The power of a domain name is multifold. It's the gateway to your online presence - the virtual gates that open to your business or service. It increases your credibility and helps you gain trust with potential clients, especially ones still wary of e-commerce. It helps you build your brand and makes you more recognizable online. Since search engines prioritize websites with their own domain name, a well-chosen one means the difference between your business ranking in the top twenty in a search, or being left behind on page ten. Without a domain name, your website disappears and takes with it all of the traffic you worked so hard and spent so long building.

There are several high profile examples of companies that temporarily lost their domain names, putting themselves at major risk. Most notably, Foursquare - a company that had up to that point raised nearly $10 million in additional funding - allowed its domain name to lapse when it expired in March 2010. As a result, foursquare.com went offline while those still online took to social media to tip each other off. While the error was short-lived, with Foursquare being able to reclaim its domain name before it became available for sale to the public, their story has forever been immortalized as an important lesson in domain name management. Fortunately, there are several ways in which you can protect your domain name, and in turn - your online reputation.

First, ensure that you invest in a domain name either by registering one yourself, or by employing a trusted professional to register and manage one on your behalf. Reputable web developers write clauses into their contracts that allow their clients to retain ownership of their own domain names. This way, clients can rest assured that their domain name - a vital part of their online business identity - is mobile, and will not be lost if they decide to change web host providers.

Second, make sure that your domain name records are kept current. Correct administrative information such as contact emails and billing addresses will prevent future headaches and mishaps when your domain name is up for renewal. If your miss a renewal notification email from the registrar because you neglected to update contact information when the person responsible for handling the account left your company three months prior, you may find yourself with a non-functioning website.

Finally, if there's a golden rule in domain name management, it's to never let it expire. Domain names are tradeable assets, with individuals going to great lengths to purchase ones they predict might become valuable in the future, in the hopes of reselling them at a high profit. Letting your domain name lapse exposes you to financial risk. Allowing your clients to see "this page is not available" when they attempt to access your website means potential business lost, as well as gives the impression that your company no longer exists - a large blow to its online reputation. If you're unable to re-register your domain name yourself, consider a professional domain transfer, and to avoid overpaying, always re-register with the original registrar. It's also a good idea to take advantage of any multi-year renewal options, if they're offered. By protecting the integrity of your domain name as you would your own name, your online reputation will remain intact.

Asia Szkudlarek

Asia Szkudlarek

Asia Szkudlarek is Division 1's word wizard. She's also a project coordinator, environmentalist and wilderness adventure addict. Asia reads law textbooks for fun and is much too verbose, as evident from this short bio. You can find her on Instagram under @oaktober

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