I have had client’s over the past years buy existing domain names and have helped with the purchase and transfer. One of the most memorable, in the past several years, was for a client who bought a domain name for $10,000 through Go Daddy.
It today’s world, it is a scary thing to buy an existing domain name, especially as Google and Bing carry a history on domain names. It is not uncommon for a spammer to burn a domain into the ground and then not renew the name and it appears back for sale at Network Solutions or Go Daddy. So, how can you be sure that the domain name you really want and are ready to plunk down some cash for has not been abused?
In this interesting video from Matt Cutts of Google he talks specifically about the issues and problems as well as how to test before you buy a domain name. His biggest tip is that you go to Google.com and enter in site:domainname.com and if you see nothing in Google’s index know that this may be a red flag to do more digging before doing the transaction.
I encourage you to watch this interesting video at http://youtu.be/C-EdhaMDXho to get some more great tips before you make your domain name purchase.
Coming in January 2012 are new domain name endings, but don’t get excited too fast if you don’t have $185,000 for the application fee. Yes, that is right, these new domain name endings called gTLD or general top level domains are pricey but for the right business a perfect solution.
A gTLD is a domain name ending that is a keyword. So for example I might have mccordweb.webdesign with webdesign now being my domain name ending instead of dot com. With Google stating that they are preferentially treating keyword domain names preferentially in the organic results (this may now cause a change in Google’s algorithm) a gTLD could be a real organic placement boon for a business.
However, the gTLD will be for the rich corporate client as the application fee is $185,000 per domain name request and then a hefty quarterly renewal of over $6,000. Wow, you’ve got to have deep pockets to get into this game.
What does this mean for small to medium sized businesses. Well, in the long run, I think that there will be some entrepreneurs who will pick up the keyword dense gTLD and then resell subdirectory domains on their domain name ending for way less than you would pay yourself. So, in the long run you may be able to get a keyword domain but as a shared domain with others in your industry.
This should be interesting to watch as it unfolds. The application process starts in January 2012, so keep an eye out.
You may not know it, but in my industry it is a common practice to lock in a customer to create a long term cash flow. Some webmasters will even set up accounts in their own names for services for which you are billed just to make it difficult or nearly impossible for you to leave them and thus secure payment from you in perpetuity.
I do not believe in this particular business model and have helped a number of clients break these chains, but there are some things that you can do as an educated consumer to keep from getting in this position in the first place.
Make sure that all accounts set up for you are in your name, tell your webmaster that all accounts must use your email, and your preferred password. By this I mean your web hosting, your email, your domain name, your Twitter account, your AdWords account, and even your Facebook Business Page.
Once these accounts have been set up for you, make sure they are done properly and login once so you can verify that you have ownership. Review the settings in your account to verify that you are not just invited to login to the account, but you are the registered account owner.
Only allow your credit card, and not that of your webmaster, to be used to pay for these accounts if there are charges. A red flag to you would be where the account is supposedly in your name, but that your credit card is not tied to the account for payment. In actuality you may just be invited to see the account but may not own it.
If your web designer or webmaster refuses to do number 1, 2, and 3, I would recommend that you find another resource for your services.
Remember when your accounts are in someone else’s name, you own the rights to nothing. If your Facebook Business Page is set up as a page under the account of your webmaster and you decide to terminate your webmaster, your account, you thought you owned, is lost. It is not transferable. If your hosting account is set up as a child under the parent account of your webmaster and you have a problem, the hosting agent will not speak to you as you are not the account owner.
It is unfortunate that many clients actually do not know they do not own their own accounts until there is a problem and they want to fire their webmaster. Don’t let this happen to you! It can be costly both in time and money to remediate if even possible.
Based on over eight years of experience working at providing professional web services to business, here’s my top list of web design mistakes you won’t want to make.
1. Don’t let your web designer register your new domain name under their own company name. Make sure you own your domain out right.
2. Make sure you have all the details AND ownership of your web design project in a contract. It is important that you clearly outline and understand who owns your website. You may find out that you do not that you only own a license to use the site and only if the web designer is hosting and webmastering the web site.
3. Make sure that your website is transportable. If you are using Yahoo Web hosting or even Hostway for hosting, if you have built your website using their proprietary tools including their graphics, it is important to know that sites of this nature are NOT transportable to a new web host if you get disenchanted with services.
4. Do not package your web hosting fees with web design and webmaster services. In all cases where clients have asked us to do a review these co-mingled services always cost more than going ala carte. Make sure that you are not tied to your webmaster for future content updates. You may want to stick with them for a while, but have the option to leave if they become unresponsive to your needs.
5. Don’t move to a new web host unless you really need to. Many clients think that they should shop around for price and get the cheapest web host. You may actually pay more to move your site depending on the technology and scripting used to move than you would have saved from a cheaper web host and webmaster. Every client who we have helped to move has always said at the end “this was much more complicated than I had any idea that it would be”. Our recommendation is to stay where you are especially if you have an e-commerce store or database driven application unless there is a real reason to move. Remember that when you move a site like this EVERYTHING will break. Your contact forms, database application, secure socket layer, credit card processing will all need to be set up and tested all over again.
These are just a few tips to consider before you start a new design or look for a new webmaster for your project.
The most popular domain name endings are .com, .org, and .us. But most of us without thinking will enter .com if we do not know the ending first. But did you know that the endings are actually meant for certain business sectors?
.com is for anyone
.org is typically reserved for non profits
.net is typically reserved for Internet communicators firms and telecommunications
However with the glut of website all this has been turned on its ear when a business cannot find its name in it preferred .com state. If you choose a domain ending other than .org and you are non profit, will you get a legal note demanding that you change. No, of course not, but I recommend that you check first to see if you can find your domain name with the correct – best business practices ending first, and then look outward to other domain name endings.
If your domain name is not available as a .com, I suggest considering the .us (if you are a US business), a .biz, or the new .pro (if you are a lawyer or other licensed professional). It is always best to try to stay within ICANN guidelines on domain names, but with the few .com’s that are still available you may need to consider branching out.
Clients have asked this question “will changing my domain name improve my organic placement on search engines?” The answer is no. It is the content and links to a website that affect organic position not the name of the site. In fact changing the name of an existing website may actually do more damage than good.
Google specifically looks at many factors for organic search position, in fact nearly 150 of them. One of them is the length you have held your domain name. I do not recommend changing the domain name of an existing website, but for new sites I do recommend careful consideration of domains that are memorable or contain keywords.
Recently I had a client who does work for HUD under a large contract ask for help in deciding a new domain name as they had no traffic on their website. The marketing team felt that changing the name would make the site more popular with search engines. A name change will simply not bring the results that a work-over of content and what is on the home page will bring in conjunction with a link and content creation strategy.
So if you are thinking that you need to change your domain name to get more traffic, instead look very carefully at your content and when was the last time you updated your website before you make a change to your domain name.