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When it comes to the digital, online scene, things tend to get very technical very quickly.  Here at Snellville Websites, we specialize in handling website creation, optimization, and hosting for our clients.  In this blog, we’ll take a brief look (in layman’s terms) at the following questions: what is a domain, and do I own my domain?

What Is a Domain / Domain Name?

When you first set up your small business website, you’ll need a website address.  For example, SnellvilleWebsitesToday.com is the domain name for our website.

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This website address is also called a domain or a domain name.  These names simplify the way that internet surfers browse the web.  Without domain names, we would all have to remember random strings of numbers called IP Addresses.  Your small business website’s domain is an easy way for clients to find you on the internet without using a search engine.  For these reasons, it’s important for your domain to be short, unique, and easy to remember.  It’s also incredibly important that you consider your website’s goal when you select a domain name.

What’s the Difference Between a Domain Name and a Website?

Without getting technical, a domain is simply a redirection.  Think of the domain name as a set of directions that leads to the destination.  The destination in this example is your small business website.

Can Domains be “Owned”?

Yes, they certainly can.  Like anything else in the digital scene, ownership over website-related things can be quite convoluted and confusing.  In order to explain this as simply as possible, let’s think about access to the account under which the domain is registered.

  • If you registered the domain yourself at a site like GoDaddy or NameCheap, you are the owner of the domain as long as you keep paying for the domain.
  • If your website designer registered the domain for you, they should have input your information rather than theirs.  Should you not have the account login information from your website designer, ask for it.

Do I Own My Domain?

You can use web tools like WHOIS to search for a website and determine if it is in your name or someone else’s.  It’s important to note that some domain registrars (the end-user) can opt to keep their personal information private on platforms like these; this is usually in an effort to avoid spam and advertisements.  If you search for your domain within a WHOIS lookup and don’t see something you recognize, circle back to whoever helped you set up your domain. The bottom line is, though, that if you don’t have access to the account under which the domain is registered, you don’t have full ownership.  If you’ve been working with a website designer that did this step for you, they may have forgotten to send you the login information.  Get in touch with them to initiate a transfer of ownership.

What Happens if I Stop Paying for the Domain Name?

If you stop paying for your domain, the domain name will stop redirecting to the proper destination.  Instead, it will display a standard GoDaddy or NameCheap page offering to sell the domain to you.  The domain can be sold to anyone at this point – you can see how this might cause some complications.

What Do I Do if Someone Else Snatches My Domain Name?

You may be able to purchase it from them, but it might cost you quite a bit of money.  Unfortunately, there is a massive market for reselling domains – especially those that are owned by big corporations.  If someone else has purchased your domain, it’s already too late for proactive measures.  You have now entered the negotiation stage.

Should I Register My Own Domain Name?

Given the option, you should always register your domain yourself.  While it may sound easier to have your website designer do this for you, it can be a little bit more complicated in the long run.  In the beginning stages of website creation, your designer may need access to the account in order to set up those redirects we talked about earlier.  However, once this step is completed, they will not need access anymore.

Remember, as a small business owner, you should take away a couple of things from this article. First, you should have access to your domain name account.  Second, the contact information for the account should be your contact information.