The domain name for your website is a key digital asset for your business. It’s important for you to understand the basics of domain names and how to keep your domain name safe. In this post I’ll share the secrets of domain names.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a specific, unique name that is associated with your website. Domain name are purchased and renewed on an annual basis through a company called a domain registrar. Popular domain registrars include:

  • GoDaddy
  • eNom (this is the one we use!)
  • Hover
  • NameCheap
  • Network Solutions
  • coop (popular with utility cooperatives)

Domain names are made up of a core name and a second part, an extension. Typically these are separated by a dot.

The extension is a short indicator that traditionally was tied to the type of organization. For instance, the .com domain extension is one of the world’s most popular extensions and originally was meant to signify commercial activity.

Let’s consider the example of the fictional Example Electric Association. For ease of use and readability, they have chosen the following domain name:

exampleelectric.com

The domain name is composed of the core name part, “exampleelectric”, and the extension “.com”. Together, these two parts make up the unique domain name, exampleelectric.com.

While a domain name is unique in that only the registered holder of the domain name may use it, you are not limited to using just one domain name. For instance, Example Electric Association chose to register the following domain names:

  • com
  • net
  • coop
  • org

It’s a good practice to pick one domain name as your “canonical” domain name. This is the domain name that your website will live at and the domain name you will generally use on all digital and printed materials. You should set up your other domain names to forward to the “canonical” domain name.

This will reduce any confusion and help your website rank higher in results from search engines like Google or Bing.

Is WWW part of my domain name?

No, it is not.

The traditional “www” prefix for domain names is not actually part of the domain name. If you have a name like these examples, the part before the first dot is not part of your core domain name.

  • www.exampleelectric.com
  • blog.exampleelectric.com
  • myaccount.exampleelectric.com
  • board.exampleelectric.com

These are often called “subdomains”. You do not need to purchase and register subdomains. Instead, you define subdomains for your domain name through DNS records — a topic we’ll get into in a future blog post.

Why your domain name matters

A domain name is one of your most important business assets. You should consider it with the same level of importance as your business name and legal documents. Just as an issue with your business name or registration can cause serious problems, so too can a problem with your domain name.

  • Your domain name is the way that your customer or members can actually get to your website. Without a functioning domain name, no one would be able to visit your website.
  • Your domain names and the DNS records for your domain name are key to allowing your website to be accessed.
  • While DNS records for your domain name and your domain name itself are technically separate pieces, they influence each other.
  • Without DNS records, your web browser would not know what web server to connect with when navigating to your domain name.

If your domain name is disabled or expires, your domain registrar may disconnect your domain name from the set of DNS records that you have set up. This will quickly cause your website to become inaccessible. If you have email accounts set up at the same domain name, you may also stop receiving emails sent to addresses at that domain name, creating a serious headache for your utility organization.

How to keep your domain name safe

Know who is in control of your domain name. It’s possible you have a trusted IT partner (such as your local telecommunications cooperative) holding your domain name, DNS record, or both for you.

Make sure you trust and know their policies. They should be willing to transfer the domain to a domain registrar of your choice anytime you choose. Ensure you know who the contact person is at your IT partner to talk to about your domain name.

Always know who is responsible for your domain name. If you do not have an IT partner managing your domain name for you, designate a person at your company to take care of your domain name. If this person leaves your company or takes on a new role, designate a new person to manage the domain name. Even if you do have an IT partner managing your domain name for you, it’s still a good idea to designate somebody at your utility organization to be the point of contact with your IT partner when it comes to your domain name.

Store your domain registrar login information in a safe place and keep it up to date. This is your key to administering your domain name. If you lose access to your registrar login, you may still be able to contact your registrar by phone, email, or live chat support to make changes or regain access, but it can sometimes be a difficult process. In some cases you may be required to submit legal documents to prove that you own the domain name. This can be cumbersome and eat up precious time while you are dealing with a problem with your domain name. It’s better to make sure you have this information ready before a problem occurs!

Keep your contact info up to date. One of the most important steps to keep your domain name safe is to make sure your contact information is up to date with your domain registrar. Ensure the address, company name, contact name, phone number, and email address are all current and valid. It’s best to use a generic contact name such as “Domain Administrator” in case the person at your company managing your domain name leaves the company.

If a problem arises with your domain name, having up to date contact information makes it much easier for your domain registrar to assist you. It’s also important in order to complete certain automated processes, such as transferring your domain name to a different domain registrar.

Turn on auto renew for your domain name. Domain names are typically renewed annually in 1-year blocks (although you may purchase more than 1 year at a time if you prefer). Avoid the problems associated with your domain name expiring by asking your domain registrar to automatically renew the domain for you every year. Once auto renew is turned on, it will typically renew about a month before the domain name is due to expire. Make sure your payment information is up to date so that your domain registrar can charge you the renewal fee without any delays.

If your domain name expires, other people can get a chance at buying your domain name. Typically there is a grace period of a few weeks where you can still renew the domain name after it expires, but do not rely on the grace period. After the grace period passes, your domain name would eventually make its way back to the market and be available for purchase by anyone who wants it.

Turn on registrar/domain lock for your domain name. Turning on registrar lock prevents your domain from being transferred to another domain registrar by unauthorized persons. While there are several steps needed to transfer a domain, turning on registrar lock completely prohibits the domain from being transferred while it is turned on. Keep registrar lock on at all times unless you are preparing to transfer the domain name.

Review the status of your domain name annually. It’s best to do this a few months before your domain is set to expire, even if you have auto renew on. This gives you ample time to review the recommendations above and perform any needed updates. It’s often easy to lose track of vital information about your domain name over the years. Avoid this by committing to reviewing your domain name annually.

Or avoid the fuss and let your trusted web experts manage your domain name

If you have website services through the Powerful web platform or are interested in a new Powerful website, we offer full domain management at no cost or low cost.

For standard domain name types, we don’t charge for the management service or for yearly domain renewals.

For .coop domains, we charge $150 (per domain name) for the first year. For each year thereafter we charge $120 (per domain name). This simply covers our costs as .coop domain names cost a bit more than most other domain extensions.

When you onboard as a Powerful client, we are happy to assist you with transferring your domain name to our registrar of choice, eNom (or Hover for .coop domain names).

Once transferred, we administer, secure, and renew the domain name on your behalf. We will also administer the DNS records for the domain name on your behalf.

Powerful Web Support is listed as the Administrative, Billing, and Technical contact, but your company is still listed in the Registrant contact for the domain, showing that it belongs to you. Should you ever wish to transfer the domain name away from us, we will always immediately cooperate to complete the request — after all, it’s your domain name and one of your most important business assets.

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