If you want your website to be safe, secure and accessible, it’s essential that you register and manage your domain name properly.
Your domain name is your online presence – it’s the address that people use to locate and visit your website. If your domain name were to expire, be compromised or no longer be relevant to your business, this could have disastrous effects on the performance of your website and your brand visibility.
So how can you manage your domains to ensure that they stay relevant and active? In this guide, we’ll walk you through what a domain name is, why it’s important, and how to effectively manage your domain names to keep your website performing optimally.
What is a domain name?
Think of your domain name as the address of your website. Internet users need to find your website before they can access it, and your domain name is the address that leads them to where they need to go.
In reality, the actual address of your website is a complex string of numbers called an IP address. Your domain name is a unique and easy-to-remember sample of text (such as google.com or twitter.com) that maps onto your IP address, allowing people to get to your site without having to remember and type out a bunch of numbers.
Domain names are often mistaken for URLs and vice versa, but domain names are actually just one part of the URL. If we look at the example “https://www.fasthosts.co.uk/web-hosting”, “fasthosts.co.uk” is the domain name, while “https” is the protocol and “/web-hosting” is the path to a particular page on the website.
If we break things down further, there are different parts to your domain name. The “.com” or “.uk” part is called a top-level domain (TLD), which is the most generic part of the domain name, and anything to the left of this is called a second-level domain (2LD). This will usually be something like “google” in the case of “google.com”, but if there’s a different 2LD instead (such as “.co” for “google.co.uk”), the “google” part will become the third-level domain (3LD), which is the most specific part of the domain name.
The most common category of TLD is generic TLDs, which include “.com”, “.org” and “.net”. These are some of the most reliable and respected TLDs, which is why they’re so sought after, but they don’t give anything away about the website itself. Nowadays, you can actually get new domain extensions like .pizza and .wine to make your website’s focus even clearer.
Want to learn more? Read our helpful post on the different types of domains.
How does a domain name work?
The system that links your IP address to your domain name and allows people to access your website is called the domain name system (DNS). This system is often called the phonebook of the internet.
When a user types your domain name into the address bar, the browser uses DNS to send a request to your domain’s nameservers. The nameservers will then use DNS records to provide the correct IP address, and the browser will request the website content from that IP address. Once the content is retrieved, it can be rendered in the browser and accessed by the user.
Why are domain names important?
Domain names are essential for building an online presence and allowing people to access your website easily. Without a relevant and easy-to-remember domain name, your website won’t be able to attract new visitors and create brand recognition.
A strong domain name will also add credibility to your website and set you apart from more dubious sites. No matter where your business goes or what services/products you provide, a strong domain name will ensure that you keep a solid brand identity.
What is domain management?
Domain name management or domain management is the process of keeping your domain name(s) secure, stable and relevant to your business and its needs.
You may think that choosing and registering a domain name is all you need to do to keep your website accessible, but domain management is actually an ongoing process that needs to be taken care of. If you have a large website or multiple websites with a portfolio of domain names, effective domain management becomes an even greater necessity.
How to manage your domains
So what’s actually involved in domain management? Keep reading to discover the most important steps in managing your domain(s).
1. Domain name registration
First of all, you need to register your domain name or multiple domain names. Typically, you’ll choose a domain name that’s relevant to your brand, short, easy-to-remember, optimised for relevant keywords and appealing to your target audience. You’ll also need to check the availability of your chosen domain name as it must be unique to your website.
Ideally, your domain name registration strategy should align with your trademark registration strategy. This means you need to consider the location of your business as well as your potential for future expansion. For example, this may make you choose a “.co.uk” TLD (known as a country code TLD or ccTLD) instead of a generic “.com” TLD (gTLD) if you want to focus on UK markets. You may also want to consider locations and jurisdictions where domain registration is safer or cheaper.
Depending on the size and nature of your business, you may want to register multiple domain names. These domain names could cover different jurisdictions (e.g. gTLDs and ccTLDs), related terms or even typos of your main domain name. You may also choose to register new domain extensions such as .pizza or .wtf to help you position your website within a niche and win as much traffic as possible.
Register domain typos
Registering domain name typos can help you redirect traffic from mistyped domain names back to your main website, ensuring that all customers can access your site easily. In addition, this strategy could help you reduce the risk of typosquatting, which is a type of cybersquatting where cybercriminals create fake websites with domain names that are very similar to legitimate sites to steal the personal information of people who accidentally visit an incorrect domain.
2. Choose a domain name registrar or a web hosting provider
Once you’ve selected your domain name, you’ll need to register it with either an independent registrar or a web hosting company like Fasthosts. You can use the registrar’s website to make sure that your chosen domain name is available.
There will be a fee to register your domain name and it won’t be registered forever. Typically, you can register your domain name for a year or a few years, and after this you'll need to renew your registration.
3. Domain name renewal
Perhaps the most important element of domain management is domain name renewal. Failing to renew your domain name on time could mean that you lose it, which will prevent people from being able to access your website.
In the worst case scenario, cybercriminals could be waiting for your domain name to expire so they can immediately buy it once it becomes available – this is known as cybersquatting. Once they have your domain, they will charge you an excessive amount of money to get it back.
Your domain registrar or web hosting provider should notify you when your renewal date is approaching, so make sure the email address linked to your account is being monitored. As soon as you’re notified, you can contact your registrar or follow their guide on renewing your domain name to ensure that you keep your domain for another term. Some registrars may even allow you to automatically renew some domains, which is a great idea for high-priority domains.
4. Renew SSL certificates
In addition to renewing your domain name(s), you should also renew your SSL certificates if applicable.
SSL certificates establish an encrypted connection between a server and a client, such as a website and a browser. This means that SSL certificates can boost the security of your website and keep visitors’ data safe, which will then increase the trustworthiness of your site.
Therefore, if you have SSL certificates or any other records associated with your domains, you need to keep track of their expiry dates too so you can manage renewals. This information should be kept in your control panel if you registered your domain with a web hosting provider like us.
5. Update and change domain names
Another important aspect of domain management is deciding whether your current domain names are fulfilling your needs. Are they all still relevant to your business? Have your aims or needs changed since you registered?
The renewal process presents a fantastic opportunity to rethink your domains. Some may be important enough to auto-renew, whereas you may decide to let other domains lapse if they’re no longer serving a purpose. To keep on top of domain management, you should set aside some time at regular intervals (e.g. once a year or once every few months) to review your domain registration and trademark strategies.
6. Keep Whois records up-to-date and accurate
Whois records contain information about who owns a domain name and how to contact them. Having accurate, accessible information for all domain names is essential for maintaining the integrity of the domain name registration process.
For each domain you own, you need to ensure that your Whois information is correct and complete. You should provide your information when you initially register a domain, but details could change over time. Failing to update your records could result in you losing your domain name.
7. Configure nameservers
As mentioned earlier, nameservers are a key part of the DNS lookup process. Nameservers retrieve IP address information from DNS records when prompted, allowing web browsers to request website content from the correct IP address.
For your website to be accessible, your nameservers need to point in the right direction and have the correct DNS information. If you ever change hosting providers, this could cause issues if you don’t update your nameservers too. Check your control panel or contact your registrar to ensure that your nameservers are always up-to-date.
Your web hosting company may also provide their own nameservers for you to use. This may be an easier solution if you don’t have your own custom nameservers or you don’t want to use third-party nameservers.
8. Track domain performance
Another domain management task you’ll need to do is tracking the performance of your domain(s). This may be particularly important if you have a large portfolio of domains because you’ll need to decide whether certain domains are performing optimally or whether you may need to retire them.
The key metrics you use will depend on your business and your personal aims, but common things to track include traffic, bounce rates and conversions. Useful performance tracking tools include Google Analytics and Google PageSpeed Insights.
9. Domain name security
Last but certainly not least, you’ll need to keep your domain names secure against cybercriminals. We’ve already touched upon the dangers of typosquatting and cybersquatting, but what else should you look out for?
If your domain is ever accessed without your authorisation, you may notice things like incorrect Whois information, DNS and nameserver changes and even domain deletions. To keep criminals out of your accounts, you should always use secure and unique passwords, enable two-factor authentication and limit account access to specific IP addresses.
Domain names can also be locked to prevent unauthorised changes and transfer attempts. You should always turn registrar lock on by default so that thieves can’t request that a domain name be transferred. Someone will have to have access to your account to turn registrar lock off, so make sure your account is secure too by following the steps above.
To make your account even more secure, we would recommend using a different email address for logging into your registrar account than the one associated with your domain name. In the past, hackers have used Whois information to find the contact details of the person who registered a domain name, allowing them to more easily steal a domain. The email you use to log into your account should be from a secure email service and should be checked regularly so you don’t miss any renewal notifications or security warnings.
Domain management tools and software
Regularly checking your domain names and records is a necessary part of owning a website. For owners of smaller websites, setting aside some time to manage and review domains at regular intervals throughout the year shouldn’t be a huge issue, but if you have a large portfolio of domains, things could start getting a bit tricky.
If you’re worried about losing track of your portfolio of domains, it may be a good idea to invest in domain management tools and software. Many people use Excel to manage domain portfolios, but this isn’t ideal for tracking dynamic data. Your domain registrar or web hosting provider may already offer their own management tools, or you could opt for third-party software that can be integrated into your existing control panel.
Alternatively, you could outsource your domain management to an external party. This option usually won’t be necessary for small website owners, but it could be worthwhile for larger corporations with bigger portfolios and budgets. With expert domain management services, you can rest assured that your portfolio will be in good hands.
Wondering where to start? Register your domain with Fasthosts to take advantage of 24/7 support, robust domain security, complete DNS control and affordable fees. Get in touch to boost your online presence today.