When you’re in the early stages of creating your first website, you may be surprised by just how much is involved in building and maintaining a website. One of the most important parts of getting your website up on the web, and keeping it running for years to come, is domain name management.
What is Domain Name Management?
Domain name management is everything involved in finding the right domain name, registering it, and keeping it up to date for as long as you want to use it. Domain management isn’t difficult (or at least it doesn’t have to be), but it’s something important to stay on top of for as long as you have a website.
Starting Out with Domain Name Management
The bulk of what you need to know about domain name management comes into play when you’re still in the planning stages of creating your new website.
What Is a Domain Name?
Ever wondered how domain names work? A domain name is what people type into a browser to find your website.
Every website technically has two addresses used to stake out their unique place on the web. Computers identify websites using their IP address, which usually looks something like 220.127.116.111 (except with more or a mix of numbers than that). But humans aren’t likely to remember a long string of numbers like that, so for us, the main internet address that matters for websites is the domain name.
Domain names start with www, and most commonly end with .com—although there are a growing number of top-level domains people and businesses can opt for instead of .com, such as .net, .org, and .biz.
Your domain name’s important because it’s directly tied to how people will think about and interact with your website. A simple and straightforward domain name like www.sarahs-website.com will be easier to find and remember than one that’s confusing and overlong like www.examplewebsitehardtoremember1267849.com.
But with a huge and growing number of websites already online, a simple and straightforward domain name is getting harder to find every day.
Who Needs a Domain Name?
In short, everybody that wants a website. Think about it: have you ever been on a website that didn’t have a domain name? It’s a core part of being published online.
If you want anyone else to be able to find and access your website, then a domain name isn’t optional. It’s one of the necessary costs of doing business on the web. But the cost is fairly minimal and, in return, you get the possibility of being found by friends, strangers, and potential customers alike.
How Do You Find a Domain Name?
As mentioned, this part can be challenging. With over a billion websites already published online, most of the obvious combinations of words have already been taken. Or if they’re not yet in use, they’re owned by domain investors who will charge a lot to hand them over.
So before you get too attached to one domain name, you need to research first whether that domain name is available.
If your domain name is available, you can register it right there. If not, the tool will provide recommendations for similar domains to consider. In some cases, it’s worth also putting your desired domain directly into a browser to see if it’s currently owned by someone willing to sell it. But you should expect to the cost to be reasonably high for domain names for sale by investors.
There’s a good chance you’ll need to do some brainstorming and a number of searches before you land on a domain name idea you really like that’s also readily available. But it’s worth spending some time to find a domain name that’s a good fit for your website.
How to Register a Domain Name
Once you’ve found the right domain name for your website, you want to claim it as quickly as possible, before someone else tries to buy it. Registering a domain name is a simple process. If you’re buying a domain name that no one owns yet, you can go through any domain registrant.
With HostGator, just add the domain you’ve chosen to your shopping cart and checkout. If the exact domain name you search is available, it will be added to your shopping cart automatically.
Pro tip: Register your domain with your web hosting service. Most companies that sell web hosting also offer domain registration services. While you can always use a previously registered domain name when you sign up with a different web hosting company, that adds unnecessary steps to your process. You can save yourself a little time and energy by keeping it all in one place.
What is Domain Name Privacy?
As you’re registering your domain, you’ll probably see the option to include domain name privacy as an add-on. It costs a little extra, so you’ll obviously want to know what you’re actually paying for if you choose to get it.
Every time someone registers a website, the domain registrant is required to submit contact information to the ICANN WHOIS directory, including a:
- Mailing address
- Phone number
- Email address
Having this information published to the wide web makes it easy for spammers and scammers to access, which opens the door to receiving a barrage of emails, texts, and calls you don’t want. And that’s on top of any potential safety concerns that come with your contact information being public for anyone to find.
Domain name privacy is a service registrars offer to keep your contact information private while still staying compliant with the law. The domain registrar will provide their own information, so that anyone who has a genuine need to get in touch with the domain owner still has a way to reach you, just with the company serving as your intermediary so you can dodge all the unnecessary contact.
How to Set Up Web Hosting
Having a domain name is one necessity in getting a new website online, but the other important step you have to take is setting up web hosting for your new website. In most cases, you can combine the two steps by using the same provider for both and make your life easier.
Subscribing to a new web hosting plan is as easy as registering a new domain. Simply determine which type of web hosting is right for you, select your plan, and check out with the web hosting provider you chose.
Any good web hosting company will also provide a number of useful resources to help you get started and learn how to use their cpanel and other resources. And you can often register your domain, or any additional ones you choose to purchase, in the web hosting account you use to manage your website.
Ongoing Domain Management
Domain management isn’t something you do once and you’re done. Domain names and all of the services associated with them work on a subscription basis, meaning you need to pay on a regular basis to keep everything up to date.
The most common option for ongoing domain management is annual renewals, although you can often save some money by committing to multi-year plans where you purchase your domain and other services for several years out. In either case, when renewal time rolls around, you need to confirm that you still want to continue:
- Using the domain name you purchased
- Keeping your contact information private (if you opted for domain name privacy)
- Continuing with the web hosting provider you selected
The company you work with will send reminders when your renewal is coming due, so you can decide if you want to keep using your domain, and make sure you make the necessary payments on time to keep your website functioning.
The Risks of Not Managing Your Domain Name
Setting up everything you need when starting your new website is obviously important, but consistently keeping up with domain management is arguably even more important. The risks of dropping the ball when it comes to domain name management are serious.
You could lose your domain name.
During the initial search for the right domain name, you saw how hard it is to find a good domain name that’s available. If you fail to renew your domain name at the right time and someone else buys it, you lose access to it. And you’re back to square one in the search for a new one.
Finding a good domain name is hard enough the first time, why put yourself through all that again?
You lose all your domain authority.
Even worse, if you switch to a different domain name, all the work you’ve put into building your website’s authority online will be lost. The new domain owner will get the benefit of the brand recognition you worked so hard to build and the backlinks you earned. And all your regular visitors will be confused to find the website they expected to find gone.
Unless you’ve built up an email list and can use it to drive most of your former followers to a new website, you risk losing your following completely. And even then, there will likely be former fans that miss the update and give up on looking for your new address online.
Someone can charge you big bucks to get it back.
When you realize the high stakes of losing the domain name you’ve used for years, you’ll want to get it back. Sometimes people buy a domain name out from under the former owner the moment they see an opportunity to do so for exactly this reason. These domain name sharks know how valuable it is to you and how big of a loss it would be. That means a big opportunity for profit for them.
To get your old website back at the address people know, with all the SEO authority it had before, you’re pretty much at their mercy. They can ask for a significant amount of money—and the better a job you’ve done of building up your website’s reputation, the more they’re likely to demand. You can be punished for the amount of work you’ve done and success you’ve accomplished up to that point.
Obviously it’s preferable to stay on top of your domain management and keep current to begin with!
How to Make Domain Name Management Easy
We have good news! Domain name management doesn’t have to be hard. There are two good ways to make the process easy so you don’t lose your domain name.
1. Keep all your renewals in one place.
If you have to keep up with domain registration, web hosting, and domain privacy renewals in different accounts, then remembering to do it all is harder. If you have multiple domains and websites and use different providers for each, then you’re adding a lot of unnecessary work to the process of staying on top of it all.
If you use one company for all your website services, then renewing everything will only require one step. When you’re logged in, pay for everything coming due, and you’re done. So take a little time when you’re getting started to find a company you can trust to make your life easier for years to come.
2. Set up auto renewals.
That one easy step we mentioned? Even that’s not actually necessary. If your provider offers automatic renewals, you can let your domain name management run on autopilot. For as long as you want to keep your domain name, domain privacy plan, and web hosting, just keep the auto renewal option selected for them all.
You can avoid doing any work at all—except for what you do to update and promote your website. And trust us, that’ll be enough work without adding domain name management on top of it.
One Place for Domain Name Management
HostGator offers domain name registration, domain privacy, web hosting, and an array of other useful services that you can manage all in one account. Getting started with HostGator is easy, and you can even use our website builder to make your initial design and future updates easy as well. HostGator can handle all of your domain needs, whether you need to register or transfer a domain name. We will help you manage your domain name and find the best web hosting plan for you and your needs. Contact our team of experts today for more information!
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.