You’re already spending money on your domain and web hosting, so naturally before you agree to one more expense, you want to know for sure: is domain privacy worth it?
While the cost for domain privacy protection is fairly low (it’s $14.95 a year with HostGator), money is money and you don’t want to pay for anything you don’t need. When trying to decide if domain name privacy is necessary for you, here’s a rundown of everything you need to know.
What is Domain Privacy Protection?
Domain privacy protection, sometimes called WHOIS protection, is an add-on service with domain name registration that allows you to keep your name and contact information private.
Every time someone registers a domain name, the domain registrar you go through is required to provide details about who the new website owner is to the ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) WHOIS directory. That ensures if a website does anything against the law, there’s a way to track down the website owner.
But it means that every person who owns a website faces the possibility of exposing important personal information to the whole wide web, including your physical address, phone number, and email address.
For anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable with that, domain privacy protection provides the option to have your registrar submit their contact information in place of yours. It keeps you on the right side of ICANN’s requirements, without exposing your personal information to the world.
Is Domain Privacy Worth It?
Each website owner can decide for themselves whether domain privacy protection is needed, but many people decide it’s well worth the cost for a few compelling reasons.
1. You don’t want strangers to know your physical address.
Strangers on the internet aren’t always harmless. Usually trolls like to stay hidden behind a screen, but they don’t always stay there. If your physical address is published publicly on the web, anyone who finds your website can find you in person.
This benefit is especially important for website owners that don’t have a business location. If you’re using your home address, do you really want to make it easy for strangers to be able to track you down online? Even if your website is on a topic that’s mild (but especially if you’ll be publishing anything at all controversial), that’s a real risk.
For businesses that can use a company headquarters as their listed location, the risk is smaller, especially if your address will be listed elsewhere around the web. In those cases, this particular benefit may not be worth much, but the others may still be.
2. Domain privacy protection means less spam.
How many times a day do you get phone calls from unidentified numbers? How about emails selling products you’d never dream of buying at all—much less from a cold email? Spam is an unfortunate part of life.
It’s bad enough without putting your email address and phone number out there where anyone can find it. Listing your contact information in the WHOIS database basically guarantees that you’ll see an uptick in spam calls and emails. It makes you an easy target.
And while there are certainly worse things in the world than spam, who wants to spend their time deleting spam emails or fielding robo-calls? Domain privacy protection may not keep you from dealing with any spam, but it means getting a lot less of it.
3. Domain privacy protection keeps your contact info out of the hands of scammers.
Spam is one thing, but people selling something you don’t need is mostly just annoying. If there’s one thing worse than spam, it’s scams. Having your contact information widely available gives scammers an easy way to contact you.
But that’s not the only concern. Scammers are always out to get as much information on people as possible. When they know a lot about you, it makes them seem more convincing.
The WHOIS directory doesn’t just provide contact information, it also includes information like who your domain registrar is and when your domain is due to renew. A savvy scammer could use that information to pose as your domain registrar to get you to pay a renewal fee to the wrong company.
Domain privacy protection is the best way to avoid being the target of scams like that.
4. Domain privacy hides your information from competitors.
Anyone who has a business or is thinking of starting one will likely do market research into the industry. Competitor research is a typical part of that process. Including your details in the WHOIS directory makes digging up information about your company that much easier for competitors.
If you own multiple websites especially, the WHOIS directory is an easy way for people to make the connection between them. If you’d rather keep your brands separate in the eyes of competitors, or you simply don’t want to make it easy for them to find out more about your company, domain privacy is worth it.
5. For all the benefits you get, it’s cheap.
Maybe none of these benefits would be worth it if they came with a hefty price tag, but you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to increase privacy and reduce spam.
Domain privacy protection is very affordable, considering the benefits. At around $15 a year, you can keep yourself and your brand safer, while saving yourself the annoyance of more unnecessary contact attempts from spammers. That’s probably less than you spent the last time you went out to eat.
Domain Privacy Protection Is Worth It
Even if you’re on a tight budget, there’s a good chance you can afford the cost of domain privacy protection. For what it can save you in time fielding spam calls and emails, the cost is already worth it. But add to that the risks it protects you from, and the cost of domain privacy looks a lot more reasonable.
HostGator customers can easily add domain privacy protection when registering a new domain, or to a domain they already own within just a couple of minutes. It’s quick, it’s affordable, and it offers real benefits.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.