Who holds the keys to your website?

Considering how important it is, it often surprises me how many businesses don't actually own their own website domain, and are blissfully unaware of the fact.

A client recently needed to move their website urgently, only to realise that; a) their website domain was officially owned by their original web agency from several years back; b) the web agency had since closed down; and c) none of the people who worked at said agency were contactable.

It took considerable research, phone calls and emails before I eventually tracked down someone who'd been involved in the original domain purchase and fortunately they were willing and able to update the domain – but not before there'd been some site downtime.

How does a business lose ownership of their own domain?!

It's common practice for web agencies to purchase a domain in their own name, on a client's behalf. Most business owners and marketing directors have no appetite to get involved in the geeky business of domains so it's easier to leave it their web supplier to sort it out.

That's fine as long as the supplier is careful to make sure that the client's business details are registered as the owner of the domain and not their own.

But that is often not the case, which means that your website domain is legally owned by the supplier and not you.

There's a simple check you make right now to ensure you're in control of your domain. It'll take literally a minute, so I'd encourage you to action this now if you're not sure:

  1. Go to https://who.is/
  2. Enter in your domain name in the search field, then click the search icon.
  3. You should see a page listing “Registrar Data”. The Registrant is the person who owns the domain. If the Registrar is you, great! If not, then contact whoever is listed (probably your web agency) and ask them to change the details to your own. In most cases, this should be straightforward.

Once a domain is purchased and setup it's usually not necessary to touch it again for several years. For that reason, it's easy to be blasé about it. But it's a bit like home insurance; you really do not want to be sorting it out after the event.


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