Three things to know before you purchase a domain name {A short case-study}

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When it comes to purchasing a domain name for your website, most people think it’s pretty easy. You can find hundreds of companies online to use in just a quick Google search and it might seem like a very small piece of the puzzle when it comes to launching a new website.

But not so fast. There are actually some pretty serious implications to consider when purchasing your domain name. I’m going to walk you through a few of them, in just a minute. But first, a quick case study!

A few weeks ago, my client contacted me saying their website was down. Knowing they had a Squarespace website and a domain managed by a third-party, I figured someone had forgotten to pay their domain renewal fee (this is actually the most common reason websites are “down.”) Since I had been added as an Administrator in their domain provider’s account, I logged in to see the renewal information.

To my surprise, I discovered the domain had been reset and the settings pointing the domain to their new website were gone. (trying not to get too technical here) I promptly contacted their customer service to see what the issue was as I had been the one to personally add the DNS records when the website was launched. After a quick chat with support, I was told to just go ahead and re-enter the settings. As I proceeded to do just that, I realized the panel to control those settings was not available to me. Confused, I went back to customer service to see if the menu had been moved.

It was then that I was told that because my client was no longer paying for hosting services (their site now being hosted by Squarespace), that panel was not accessible and DNS could not be altered. So let me recap:

  • The client WAS paying for the domain and all payments were on time

  • But because the client did not NEED hosting services for their website, the DNS panel was not accessible to them. The DNS panel is located under the Hosting services menu. When you don’t pay for hosting, you cannot access the domain settings.

I was, of course, shocked. This is a very good way to lose customers. Make them pay for something they don’t need so that they can access the services they do need and pay for.

Long story short, we had to pay for the hosting services to re-connect the domain to the website. In 60 days (a required wait period from ICANN), we’ll transfer that domain over to Squarespace and the company will lose all of our business. I’m not naming them here but you can guarantee if someone asks me for advice on where to purchase a domain, they will not be on that list.

So how do you avoid this happening to you? I recommend asking the following questions BEFORE you purchase a domain:

  1. Ensure there are no hidden fees. You shouldn’t have to pay to edit your WHOIS record when that service is free with many domain providers. You also shouldn’t have to pay to transfer the domain, to keep your information private, or for a security certificate. There are providers who will give you all of that for free when you purchase the domain name.

  2. Double-check that you are not required to have any additional services to edit your DNS settings (like in the case study above). If you are planning to host your website with Squarespace, you do not need to pay for hosting fees with your domain purchase.

  3. Whenever possible, try to have your domain and website hosted by the same company. This allows you to manage your account in one place and keep all renewal dates streamlined. It’s also one less account to manage!

If you’ve already purchased a domain and you’re not happy with the company you have, it is possible to transfer domains to another company. It might cause your website to be down for 24-48 hours but in the long term, it might be worth it. You’ll likely have to navigate some waters like making the domains is unlocked and available for transfer, as well as getting an access code to prove you own the domain.

I know this post is a little on the technical side but as empowered nonprofit leaders and small business owners, we must ensure we understand the technology we are managing. When we do, we’ll be empowered to make the best decisions for both the short and long-term future.

Until next time, keep making a great first impression!


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