If you’re new to owning a website, you probably didn’t even know that domain names could be stolen. But they can. And they are – with alarming frequency. If you have a particularly good name, chances are that there’s some hooded figure just biding time until your name expires, so they can snap it right up. There are few things more heartbreaking to a website owner than having to come up with a new domain name all over again, or worse, having to fork over obscene amounts of money trying to get back a domain. You might be wondering how anyone loses a domain.
There are three common ways that most people lose their domain name:
When you register a name, you’re reserving ownership of it for a certain period. When that period expires, you have to renew your registration if you want to keep your name. If you let the expiry date pass without renewing your registration, someone else can take your name.
Sometimes, domains are just straight up stolen by hackers. There are ways to avoid this, and we’ll get to them in a second.
3. Inaccurate contact information
It’s vital to ensure that your domain registrar can get in touch with you if there’s any suspicious activity going on with your account, or if your domain expiration date is coming up. If the contact information on your file isn’t accurate, your registrar can’t help you protect your domain.
And now that you know how you can lose your domain, here’s how you can protect it:
Eleven strategies to protect your domain name:
1. Use a strong registrar password
This should go without saying, but some people think their domains will be secure even if they choose an easily guessed password, like their child’s birthday or “Password123”. To protect your domain privacy, it’s best to choose a password that’s a combination of numbers, symbols, and upper- and lowercase letters.
2. Make sure that the details on file with your registrar are accurate
Make it easy for your registrar to contact you in case there’s any suspicious activity on your account, or in case the registrar wants to give you a heads up that the time for renewing your registration is drawing near.
If you change telephone numbers or email addresses, or if any of the contact information on your file becomes outdated, be sure to update your file with your new contact info. If your domain is set to “automatic renewal”, also make sure your billing information is up to date and accurate. Also, make sure you’re listed as both the registrant and the administrative contact on the domain record. If you host your website with us, just know that we are both your host and domain provider. So, in this case you login to the client area to check and update your domain details.
3. If your domain name belongs to your company, make sure it’s registered to the company
Some employers register their domain under the name of one of their employees, and then find themselves in the unenviable position of having to persuade the employee to release ownership of the domain once their relationship turns sour. To prevent any of this unpleasantness, be sure that if the domain is meant to be used for your company, it’s also registered to your company.
4. Lock your domain
Most reputable registrars offer domain lock (sometimes called register lock or transfer lock), which protects your domain privacy by preventing your domain name from being deleted, transferred, or altered without your permission. Ask your registrar for this service.
5. Stay on top of your expiration dates
Don’t let the expiration date take you by surprise. Ask your registrar for the “auto renewal” feature, and make sure that emails from your registrar go to your inbox and not to your spam folder. (Also, keep your billing information up to date.)
It also helps to keep all your domains with the same registrar, so you can keep track of all the expiration dates on one dashboard.
6. Register your name for the longest possible period
(This way, you don’t have to keep remembering to renew your registration after short intervals.)
7. Use a different email address than the one connected with your domain
If your registrar is trying to contact you via email because something has gone wrong with your domain, it’s likely that the email connected with your domain might also be experiencing some trouble, and you might miss your registrar’s email. So, make sure the email address on file isn’t the same as the one connected with your domain.
8. Check if you can register your domain as a trademark
In some jurisdictions, you may be able to register your domain name as a trademark. If you’re able to do this where you live, other parties will be prevented from using names that are too similar to yours.
9. Buy multiple domain extensions and common misspellings of your domain
Speaking of similar domains, it’s a good strategy to buy as many popular variations for your domain as you can. This includes misspellings and various extensions. (The extension is the part of your domain that ends in “.com”, “.org”, “.net”, etc.)
It will feel a bit redundant, but this protects you against cybersquatting. (Cybersquatters buy misspelled domain names or alternative extensions for established domains, so they can mislead visitors who accidentally type in the wrong address. This may be done to discredit the brand that owns the real domain, but it’s mostly done to steal customers’ information.)
10. Ask your registrar for WHOIS Privacy
WHOIS privacy (also called “domain privacy”) is a service offered by reputable domain name registrars. WHOIS is the internet database that lists the identity and contact information of domain owners. When you ask your registrar for WHOIS privacy, your registrar replaces your information with the information of a forwarding service, which keeps your information private. (To do this, just contact our customer support and ask us how to enable WHOIS privacy.)
11. Watch out for spammers pretending to be your registrar
If you get any emails from someone claiming to be your registrar, read the email address carefully, so you don’t end up giving personal information to people who are only trying to steal your domain name.
A good domain name is the key to driving traffic to your website. Once you have a domain that you love, and that truly resonates with your ideal customers, be sure to follow these eleven steps to keep your domain under your control. Domain registration isn’t the only service you’ll need for your website. Check out some other great services that will take your website to the next level!