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So Many Domain Registrars, So Little Time

So Many Domain Registrars, So Little Time

by Jessica Jones

Last November I posted about the importance of keeping track of your domain registration (spoiler alert, in case you haven’t read it – it’s very important). Today we’re going to take it back a few steps and talk about choosing a domain registrar. Daniel touched on this subject in a post last year about choosing and securing a domain name but I’d like to expound a bit more on the importance of picking a reputable registrar.

Just say no to overly controlling domain registrars!
Just say no to overly controlling domain registrars!

If you’re even considering having a website built, I’d recommend going ahead and purchasing your domain name now. If you already know the domain name that you want, and it’s available, you don’t want to wait and risk someone else registering it before you have the chance. But once you’ve decided to take that step, which registrar should you choose? Googling “register a domain name” will give you a staggering amount of options, which may be a little overwhelming if you don’t know where to start or what questions to ask.

This is not the time to cut corners!

First off, don’t be too eager to bargain hunt on this particular purchase. Domain names are not expensive. $35 annually for a domain would be considered pricey. $10-$20 is a typical range for annual registration. If you look, though, you’ll find registrars offering “cheap domains” for $1.99 or less. Is domain registration at this low a cost too good to be true? Frequently, yes. I’m sure that there are some trustworthy registrars out there selling highly discounted domains, but for an expense that is so low to begin with I’d advise choosing a registrar that you’ve heard of – and one that has more to offer you than rock bottom prices.

While purchasing a domain name for less than a dollar might seem like a good idea at the time, the you-get-what-you-pay-for principle may kick in should you choose to transfer that domain elsewhere. This isn’t the place for naming names, but we’ve had some pretty frustrating experiences attempting to gain control of domains from lesser known registrars – and a few situations where reclaiming the domain ended up being impossible, and the client was forced to abandon their original domain and pick another.

Keep in mind that when you choose a domain registrar, you are choosing someone to be a steward of a valuable resource. Your domain is important – and the longer you have it and the more you establish it, the more important it becomes. The risk involved with entrusting it to a company with the vibe of a shifty used car dealer is not worth a savings of $10 a year.

If you’re not certain which registrar to trust, do a little bit of research. See what people are saying about different companies online. If you’ve got friends or colleagues that own domain names, ask them if they’ve had good experiences with the registrar they use. Follow the same sort of process you’d use to choose a bank or an insurance company. Maybe choosing a domain registrar doesn’t seem to be in that league of importance, but don’t treat it as though it were inconsequential or you may end up regretting it later.

What questions should you ask?

The most important thing to know is whether the registrar will list you as the domain’s administrative contact rather than using corporate contact information. The person who is listed as the administrative contact holds a great deal of control over the domain – that person can determine whether or not the domain is transferred to another registrar, most notably – and you want to make certain that you aren’t leaving that control up to someone who might have a vested interest in keeping you from transferring your domain.

Another question is whether you will have access to edit that domain on your own. Details such as the contact information and the nameservers/DNS (information that controls where the domain points – and that would need to be edited were you to switch hosts) should be editable by you or your in-house tech guru at any time.

If any potential registrar wants to limit your access to your own domain, beware. Limiting access is a great way for less-than-reputable hosts and registrars to prevent you from transferring away from their services should you decide to move elsewhere.

What about the shiny bells and whistles?

Most domain registrars – even reputable ones – will offer you a plethora of extra add-on features when you register a domain – at additional cost, of course. As with any kind of add-on offer, view these with skepticism. Some of the offers may be for various types of privacy/protection packages – which may potentially be something that you want, if you’d rather no one know who owns the domain (by default, the administrative contact’s name and email address are public). If you do choose this sort of package, however, don’t simply add-to-cart without reading up on the details. Some privacy/protection packages will involve a creating separate login or setting verification questions, and if you lose these details you can effectively lock yourself out of your own domain.

Letting your developer handle it is fine – as long as you retain control.

Frequently web developers and hosting companies will offer to register your domain for you, and that may seem like a good option – let the experts handle it, and bundle everything together. If you trust them to handle your website, you can trust them to handle your domain as well, right? Sometimes. Letting your developer or host handle your domain registration can be a good plan, and can make your life simpler (heck, we handle registration for many of our clients!) – just make sure to ask that developer or host the same questions listed above! (Yes, at Slamdot we list the client as the administrative contact, not ourselves, and our clients can edit their domains at any time through our control panel!)

Bottom line: this is more important than choosing whether to stop at Menchie’s or Orange Leaf for your next fro-yo fix. You’re choosing a company that will handle a significant aspect of your brand. Invest a little thought into the decision and save yourself a lot of headache. (Also, slow down when you eat that fro-yo. That headache can be killer, too.)