In business, your domain name a valuable asset. It is how people can find you online... it is your 24x7 marketing platform... and it is how your customers (and potential customers) can contact you, yet more and more we come across situations where business owners don't have control over their domain name.
The two most common issues we come across with domain name management are:
1. The registrant email address no longer exists
This is the most common issue. The registrant email address is very important as it is typically where renewal emails are sent, and any changes to the domain name that requires confirmation (for example transferring to another registrar) are sent to this address too, and if that email address no longer exists then you're a bit stuck and have to spend significant time getting it changed - which requires all sorts of written documentation.
When a client contacts us because their website is down, unless we are aware of any server issues, the first thing that we check is to ensure their domain has not expired. This is actually the case more often than you think: their domain has expired, and the reason they were not aware is because their registration email no longer exists. The email address is either some old Hotmail address they used when they first registered the domain, or they asked an employee to register the domain (who did so under their personally-named email address) and that employee no longer works there, and therefore their email address no longer exists - so any renewal emails were not being delivered.
Note: typically, domain renewal emails start being sent 90 days from renewal, and in those final 90 days you will receive anywhere between 8 and 10 reminders until it is renewed or expires.
When your domain name expires it will take your website and email offline, so just think of what impact that will have on your business.
2. It is not actually registered in your name
This issue isn't as common as #1 but it is by far the dodgiest (in our opinion). All too often when working on a new website for a client we discover that when their previous website was created the developer also registered their domain name, and instead of using the client's details to register it, they used their own.
Now there is nothing wrong with getting your designer/developer to register your domain as part of the project (we do it all the time), but what is wrong is not having the domain registered in your name/company (we don't do this).
With .com domains this isn't a huge issue and is easily changed, but with any domain that ends in .au this is a big issue because as part of the registration you need to enter an ABN, ACN or Business Registration Number to complete the registration, and that company/business becomes the legal owner of the domain. See the potential issue for you?
Changing the owner of a .au domain name can be done, and it is not all that difficult, but there is a process and it does cost money, and if coupled with issue #1 the process is more complicated because you need to old email address to complete the process.
How do you stop this from happening to you?
The first thing you can do is be aware of the issue, and ensure that you know exactly where and how your domain names are registered. There are some tools you can use to check:
- Any .au domain: https://whois.auda.ltd/
- Any non-AU domain: https://www.whois.com/whois/ (note that because of some privacy restrictions information here is limited but you can at least find the registrar and contact them)
If you find that your domain name has been registered incorrectly the first thing to do is contact the registrar or whoever registered your domain name and start the process of getting it fixed - after all this is your business asset and you don't want it falling into the wrong hands, of being held ransom by some disgruntled former developer or employee.
The other thing you can do is make sure the contact details (especially the email address) on your domain are up-to-date. If a former employed registered the domain for you and their address no longer exists, get it updated before you forget. Better still: when registering domains name be sure you use an email address that will always exist - for example the business owner or the general enquiry/contact address such as an info@ or admin@ email address, depending on what addresses you have.
Make sure you protect one of your biggest marketing assets and check you know where and how your domain name is registered. Being aware of this before it is an issue will help save you time, stress and online downtime - and can easily be fixed up before it becomes an actual problem.