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The worst mistakes you can make with your domain names

Posted on January 13, 2017

 

Domain names are relatively simple things. You buy a domain name, point it at your website, and everyone who types in your domain finds your website. What could be easier?

However, what happens when people who don’t know what they’re doing administer domains? Can you make any mistakes with your domains that have serious repercussions to your business? Well, yes, you can. I’ve been working in this industry since the last century and, in that time, I’ve seen some pretty catastrophic mistakes with domain names – mistakes made by clients, IT managers, web designers and even web hosting companies.

So, without mentioning any names, here are some of the worst mistakes I’ve seen people make with their domains.

Forget to renew the domain name

You’d think forgetting to a renew a domain was an impossibility. Most domain registrars set their domains to ‘auto renew’ by default so, even if you did forget, you’d still have the domain renewed for you and be charged accordingly. Yet forgetting to renew a domain is a common mistake among businesses, especially when they handle their own domains internally.

If you set your domains to be renewed manually, you have to go in and renew them yourself. You’ll be reminded by email, but you might not see that. It might go into junk, or be dismissed as spam, or even read and forgotten about. Perhaps the email address you used to register the domain is no longer used, so you don’t even get a reminder? Perhaps you can’t even remember where you registered the domain in the first place?

I have seen too many businesses lose their domains because they didn’t renew them, didn’t know how to renew them or even realise they were supposed to renew them.

Register the business domain name to a person

This, again, is so common. When you register a domain name, especially a .uk domain, it’s critical to whom you register it. The easiest thing is to register it to yourself, as details such as your own name are easier to hand than details such as the company’s name, registered address and limited company number with Companies House. This means that, with a lot of businesses, their domains are registered by someone in the business, to someone in the business.

They own the domain.

What happens when they leave the business? What happens if they leave under a disagreement, such as being dismissed or a hostile parting of the company owners? That person still owns the domain, legally, with Nominet. For the business, taking control of that domain is very difficult – sometimes impossible. The legal owner has to agree to any transfer of ownership.

You see how things could get very messy? Who owns your domain names?

Leave the test website accessible

Another classic mistake. While this mistake doesn’t result in the loss of a domain name, it can result in the catastrophic loss of Google rankings, traffic and all business you could receive from search engines. This blunder usually happens when the web designer who was building the website leaves links within the code to pages on the test server, and then leaves the test server active. As far you’re aware, your website is up and running and working fine. As far as Google is aware, there are two versions of the website (yours and the test server) both containing the same content, and links are pointing towards the test server so that must be the important one.

It’s a very simple mistake to make, and to fix, yet is a mistake often overlooked.

Alias a domain instead of 301 redirect

How many businesses have multiple domains for their website? Several years ago, it was common to buy additional keyword-based domains to help your Google rankings. Website owners would buy multiple domains and point them at their own websites, believing they’d get better rankings and, as such, more traffic and more business.

The problems happened when they would Alias the domains instead of 301 redirecting them. What does this mean? Well, with a 301 redirect the new domains all point at your website’s domain, so your website only has one domain. With an Alias, any of the domains can be accessed – which creates multiple versions of the same website. We shouldn’t have to tell you why that’s bad.

Knowing the difference between a 301 redirect and an alias isn’t enough, either. You need to know how to do them. Many domain registrars offer you the option of ‘pointing’ your domain at another website, but they don’t explain the technicalities of how they do that – because they’re not set up for technical people, they’re trying to cater for any customers who want to buy domains. This means, in good faith, website owners are ‘pointing’ their domains at websites and they’re set up wrong – because that’s how the registrar has defaulted to do it.

Deliberately allow a domain to expire

Now why on earth would anyone do this? It’s crazy. If you ever intended to use a domain again, you should keep it. They’re not exactly expensive to renew. Yet, incredibly, I know of several instances where people have let domains go because they didn’t want to pay to renew them and then, sometimes just a few months later, have changed their minds and decided that now they want them again.

Too late. The domains have been snapped up by someone else. No matter how niche your domain, or how specific to your branding, if it’s an established domain with a history of content and links pointing towards it, someone WILL register it if you let it go… and you can’t get it back.

You should never assume that you’re the only person who will want a domain. They all have value to someone. If you suspect you’ll ever need a domain again, renew it!

All of these are genuine mistakes I have seen people make. Some of them go back over 15 years, and some of them I have seen literally this last week. Some of these mistakes are made over and over again, and are so very preventable.

The sad thing is that these mistakes will continue as long as businesses, and the people making the decisions for the businesses, continue to cut corners with their online strategy by either trying to administer their own domains, or by using the cheapest web provider they can find. Even large corporations with in-house IT departments shouldn’t be administering their own domains, not unless they have a web hosting expert on site. The first mistake on this list, forgetting to renew a domain, was made by a multi-national retailer with their own IT department. It’s the sort of mistake that’s simply unforgivable.

If you don’t want to make these mistakes with your business or, if some of these mistakes have already been made and you need help sorting them out, let us know at Engage Web. We can definitely help you.

Darren Jamieson

Technical Director at Engage Web
Darren is Technical Director at Engage Web, as well as being a co-founder of the company. He takes a hands-on approach to SEO and web design, helped by more than 15 years’ experience in these fields.

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