Marketing: Domain Transfer Nightmares

Buying Your First Domain Name

Domain names are really important but most people don't understand what a domain name is, or it's incredible power over time. When you build your first website or blog, you simply don't understand everything required to achieve high organic ranking (SEO). When I purchased my first domain names in 2002, I was clueless. I didn't really understand how critical these pesky little names are until the last 2 years when I started trying (and still trying) to consolidate my domains on a single account at NameCheap.com.

Now I realize how critical it is to include keyword(s) in your domain for search engine optimization, in addition to all the other ways you optimize the content on each of your web pages.

The process of extracting my domains from the big Internet domain name marketers, Go Daddy and 1&1, has been a nightmare. I decided to share my experience with others to help you avoid using these unfriendly registrars ... or if you're already stuck there, I hope you can follow the steps I document here to get your domain names released.

Domain Names, the Big Picture

Your domain name is important because search engines assign value to the keywords in your domain name. A remodeling company using the domain CustomHomesNewburyport wasn't getting ranked for remodeling because it looked like this company only built custom homes. We're switching to RemodelingNewburyport to increase our ranking for remodeling.

You also want to be careful about including a well known brand name in your domain name, i.e. at first I wasn't allowed to register FacebookTips4You. A quick phone call where they explained that Facebook could get this domain taken down and then I registered the name because I was willing to accept the risk. More surprising, my franchisor has decided after owning my domain for 7 years, that their franchisees can no longer use their brand name which is admittedly trademarked. While I don't think they can legally stop my usage unless they demonstrate they are taking action against everyone using the trade name, I have decided to purchase new domains. What I can't take with me is 1. the value of an old, established domain (8 years) and the inbound links, so that's why you need to plan ahead.

Common Mistakes Made When Buying a Domain

First let's look at common mistakes that rookies make when buying domain names, i.e. we'll start with the mistakes I made. For each mistake made, there is a recommendation on what you should do to avoid the mistake.

1. Signing Up for a Website That Includes a FREE Domain?

Many hosting accounts offer a free domain and it's not for your benefit. It makes it easy for them to set up your site and it allows them to hold you hostage when you try to leave. If you own a website/blog long enough, chances are pretty good you'll want to refresh your site and you might need to switch hosting sites to use different software. It can take more time to move your domain name than the actual website so now you're trapped in a domain name nightmare. You can either move your domain OR learn how to point the domain to the location of your new web site ... and neither process is easy.

You can avoid this dilemma by registering your domain name with a reputable domain registrar that's easy to work with, i.e. my favorite is NameCheap.com

2. Letting Your Web Developer Buy Your Domain Name

Similar to problem #1, when you let your web developer buy your domain name, they hold the keys to your online presence and that's not a good thing. Everything will be fine until something happens to severe the relationship - they go out of business, they raise their rates, they don't support a content management system (CMS) that you want to use so you can update your own content. You have to plan for the day when you will need to move to a new developer and you need to take your domain with you.

Many web developers earn a commission for your web hosting account which influences where the set your website / blog up. Maybe you don't want to learn much about buying and managing your domains but it pays to have your own account at a reliable domain registrar so when you part ways with your web developer, all you need to do is change your password for this account.

3. Picking the Wrong Domain Registrar

Maybe you're only buying 1 or 2 domains today but noone knows where the web will be 5 or 10 years from now, so a little thought to managing your domains like any other business asset can only help you in the future. Price is the wrong reason to pick one registrar over another, unless you're buying 1,000s of domains to resell them. You want a registrar with 7x24 support and one that makes it easy to check your domains and make changes easily.

For simplicity, I'll show you one example of a bad registrar who's organizing domains based on their internal accounting system. At 1and1, you have one account but each time you buy one/more domain names, they go into a new package with a contract number. You can see the insanity of 3 packages where they tell me how many domains are in each package, but then you've got to go through multiple steps to find the domain name you're looking for.

It gets even funnier as 1&1 to confuse you, keeps the domain names in the list even after you've transferred them elsewhere. This makes it difficult to keep track of where your domains are and I can imagine other issues like renewing a domain they no longer have?

1and1's Crazy Package Format that's Unusable
1and1's Crazy Package Format that's Unusable

Domains Organized According to How I Use Them

When I finally realized I would end up owning lots of domain names, it was time to find the best domain registrar for the job. Here are the requirements we wanted from our domain registrar:

  • Technical support 7x24
  • Simple listing of all domains on single page
  • Ability to organize or group domains according to how they're used.

We evaluated maybe 20 domain registrars and then created accounts and bought 1 domain in each account to test usability. That's how we picked NameCheap.com, after comparing it to several different registrars. With more than 100 domains purchased/moved to NameCheap, I am still quite happy with their support.

Here are snapshots of my account:

  • First is the alphabetical list with 50 domains per page. With more than 100 domains, I have 3 pages but navigation in upper right corner makes it easy to move back and forth.
  • More important is the ability to group domains under categories which I define, and you can go down multiple levels which is important for me.

Yes if you're wondering how I handle my subscriber domains, I do buy them and recognize that I need to give them some type of documentation about ownership and cost to transfer them as it does take time, and time = money.

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