Pelland Blog

Domain Name Registration Essentials

May 16th, 2014

In recent weeks, I have been in a position where it was necessary to transfer several domain names from one registrar to another. In another instance, I successfully negotiated and rescued a domain name that had been lost four years ago by a previous webmaster who had since dropped off the face of the earth. Time and again, I am reminded of the importance of choosing a reputable registrar AND being aware of your domain name registration details.

As most people know, nobody actually owns a domain name. Think of it as a long-term lease (from 1 to 10 years) that you enter into with a domain name registrar (the equivalent of a rental agent, in this instance.) If you were leasing an apartment or an automobile, you would probably try to avoid getting burned by somebody working out of a back alley or who prefaced the conversation with the words, “Have I got a deal for you!” The same gut feelings apply to domain name registrars. My general recommendations are to never choose a registrar based solely upon price, avoid registrars that are based outside of the United States, and to resist the lemming-like tendency to choose a registrar based upon name recognition. Just because a registrar advertises on the Super Bowl does not mean that it should be your first choice.

When the time comes to transfer a registration, I have had transfers complete within 24 hours, and I have also had transfers that have dragged on for a month. I have generally found that the worst nightmares involve working with registrars based in foreign countries. In one instance, I had a client willing to pay $500.00 for an unused domain name, the widow of the registrant eager to facilitate the sale, but a registrar in Norway that refused to cooperate and eventually prevented the sale from taking place.

The first step in preventing that you ever find yourself in this type of nightmare scenario is to check the status of your existing domain name registration(s), particularly if they were registered by a webmaster or somebody else acting on your behalf. The quickest and most accurate way to check the registration of any domain name (and also to explore the availability of new domain names) is to perform a whois lookup. Go to www.whois.com, and enter the domain name in the “Whois Lookup” search box in the upper right of the page. If checking an existing domain name, the first thing that you want to check is the “Registrant” information. This should list YOUR name and YOUR business name and address, along with YOUR e-mail address. If the information is outdated or incorrect, update that information without delay. If the information is not recognizable, you may be paying for a so-called private registration. More on that later.

Another important piece of contact information associated with a domain name registration is the Administrative Contact. This will often be the contact information for your webmaster. The important things are for this to be updated if you change webmaster and for the associated e-mail address to be current and correct. Nothing will hold up a domain name registration transfer like an old e-mail address that has not been used in years. Finally, check the expiration date on your domain name, just so you can be aware of that timeframe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you register or renew a domain name:

  • Avoid Add-Ons: I mentioned private registrations earlier in this article. That is probably the most commonly purchased domain name registration add-on, usually incurring an annual fee of $5.00 or $10.00. In almost all instances, a private registration is a total waste of money, and it will prevent you from confirming your domain name registration details without logging into your account.
  • Don’t Take the Bait: Domain name registrations can be registered for terms from one to ten years. Unless there is a significant long-term discount, I would suggest registering domains and renewing those registrations on a year-to-year basis. Of course, any registrant would like to have your business locked up for the maximum 10 years. In fact, one registrar (GoDaddy) actually spread the misinformation several years ago that a 10-year registration would enhance a domain’s search engine placement.
  • Be Aware of Scams: The reason that registrars would like you to register for 10-year periods is because of the domain slamming that contributes to the already high rate of “churn” within the industry. Be particularly wary of any mailed solicitations that you WILL receive in the mail from a company using the names “Domain Registry of America”, “Liberty Names of America”, or “Domain Registry Services”. The letters always show an icon of the American flag or the Statue of Liberty next to the return address, which will also show an address in either Buffalo or Niagara Falls, even though the company is conveniently located over the border in Canada – beyond the reach of prosecution by a number of otherwise eager state attorneys general. The letters imply that you are at risk of losing your domain name and must renew it now. Your domain name expiration date is probably months away – remember, the actual renewal date will appear in the whois lookup – and the fine print at the bottom of the letter will explain that by signing and returning the form with the required fee, you will actually be initiating the transfer of your domain name to the new registrar.
  • Beware of Country Code Solicitations: You will probably also receive e-mail solicitations (spam) from companies (usually in China), alleging that another company has “expressed interest” in registering the .cn version of your domain name. They further imply that they are paying you the “courtesy” of offering you a right of first refusal to “protect your trademark”. They will then offer you the dubious opportunity to register the .cn (the country code for China) and various other versions of your .com domain name. Doing so is a total waste of money.
  • Avoid Working with Drop Catchers:Drop catchers are people who make a living offering expired (dropped) domain names to businesses with similar domain names. When a domain name is not renewed by its registrant, it goes into a 30-day grace period, then another 5 day lock period. It is during this time period that drop catchers, without even having to actually register the expired domain in most instances, will offer it to you for purchase.Usually, they will imply that the domain name has a high value and will be going to auction. In fact, if it is of interest to you, it is highly unlikely that it will be of interest to any other business, unless there are many businesses with names similar to yours. Sometimes the drop catcher will insist that the name will go to auction. Either way, if you really want the domain name, I typically offer only $100.00, and the drop catcher will generally jump on the opportunity, since they rarely have other prospects and will have just earned about a $90.00 profit.

    The domain name registration that I recently rescued after it had been lost four years ago by an old webmaster was registered with a drop catcher. Although I was able to persuade him to do the right thing and release the domain name to my client at no charge, this is a highly unlikely scenario and a stroke of extremely good luck. The most common registrars that tailor their services to working with drop catchers are SnapNames, Enom, Pool, and GoDaddy.

When you transfer a domain name from one registrar to another, it will renew the registration and extend the expiration date by one year. This is a reciprocal arrangement that applies to all registrars. Also, once a domain is transferred to another registrar, it will be locked from further transfer for 60 days.

If you are wondering why any of this is important, just keep in mind that your domain name is essentially your second business name. Losing your domain name can be just as damaging as a wildfire or flood that devastates your business. Whether you handle your domain name registration(s) yourself or have a trusted webmaster who handles that responsibility on your behalf, take a minute to check the details of your registration and be aware of the scams and pitfalls that proliferate in the online industries.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Let’s Debunk 8 Website SEO Myths

August 8th, 2013

Maybe you are familiar with the concept of urban legends, plausible but untrue stories that are perpetuated by people who blindly accept and share this misinformation when they read it online. In the old (pre-Internet) days, these were often referred to as “Old Wives’ Tales”, and included nonsense such as how it takes swallowed chewing gum seven years to pass through a person’s digestive system or how you will drown if you go swimming less than an hour after eating. Some of these tales still persist, although most of us have smartened up to the newer wave of wealthy Nigerian widows wanting to share their fortunes and the alleged family members stuck in an airport with an urgent need for a loan.

When it comes to websites and what it takes to attain top search engine rankings, the myths seem to be never-ending, and new scams surface (and older scams resurface) on a regular basis. The fact is that quality content, well-written text, and incoming links are all important factors when the Google or Bing search engine robots are evaluating your website, but the following bits of frequently espoused advice are purely fiction.

1)    Companies can provide top search engine placement. Those telemarketing calls that we all receive, with a pre-recorded message about your website’s poor search engine placement and how the caller’s company can remedy the situation, are sheer rip-offs. First of all, you are only being called because you have a business telephone number that is on a telemarketing list. The caller has not looked at your website and does not even know if you even have a website. They DO know that you probably have money in your bank account. Most of these callers imply that they are affiliated with Google, but they have no connection whatsoever.

2)    Hyphenated domain names are better for SEO. In reality, long domain names and hyphenated domain names should be your last choice, and they have no impact upon SEO. Which example makes more sense – SpaceCenterCamping.com or The-best-campground-near-the-Johnson-Space-Center.com?

3)    The .com extension is ranked higher by search engines. Not true; however, the .com version of a domain name should always be your first choice because many people subconsciously think of .com when they think of domain names. If your domain name is WonderlandCamping.biz, it will be ranked just as highly as WonderlandCamping.com would be by search engines, but many users might inadvertently type in the domain name with the .com extension, usually bringing them to the website of another business (which beat you to the .com), making the .biz extension less desirable.

4)    An older domain name is more valuable than a newer domain name. An older domain name with a high existing search engine ranking is better than a new domain (which spends time in what is referred to as the “Google sandbox” before it gains traction), but there are also older domains that – due to their former content – have actually been delisted by search engines. Typically, the people making this argument are ones who have a domain name that they are trying to sell. The point is that the age of the domain name, in itself, has nothing to do with search engine ranking.

5)    If you register your domain name for the maximum 10 years, it shows the search engines that you have a serious business, so they will rank your website more highly. I actually sat on a roundtable a few years ago where one of my competitors made this outrageously incorrect statement. The fact is that this myth was intentionally started by GoDaddy, in an attempt to get people locked into their service for a longer period of time. It has zero effect on search engine ranking.

6)    Buying sponsored search advertising will influence and improve your organic search engine ranking. This is patently untrue. One has nothing to do with the other, although significant increases in the amount of traffic to, from, and within your site could be a contributing factor in a search engine’s ranking algorithms.

7)    Link exchanges and reciprocal links will improve your search engine ranking. This is also usually untrue, unless the other businesses have something in common with your business, such as serving the same niche of customers. If you own a shoe store, and your website has a page of links to the websites of the major airlines, this is going to do nothing to enhance your search engine ranking.

8)    Load time is no longer important because most people have high-speed Internet access. Actually, load time is still important. Faster loading pages have lower bounce rates (representing the numbers of people who reach a site but leave almost immediately) and their rankings will be higher. This does not suggest that a page should be all text and no graphics, since that type of content is unlikely to persuade visitors to follow the intended call to action.

All in all, it helps to exercise a bit of common sense before concluding that anything and everything that you read online is reliable and true. Even if something sounds plausible, get a second opinion. Either ask somebody whose knowledge you trust, or do a Google search for the claim to see if there are either differences of opinion or a downright disproval.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Inside Scoop on Domain Name Registrars

April 16th, 2008

When it is time to register a domain name these days, there are understandably times when some of us almost yearn for the “Good Old Days” when Network Solutions held a monopoly on registrations. Prices have certainly come down, but it has become more important than ever for the buyer to beware and to remember the old adage that you get what you pay for.

For starters, we all know that the “standard” price for domain name registrations back in the days of the NetSol monopoly was $35.00 per year. I just performed a search on Google for the term “cheap domain name registry”, and the first page of results included listings which allegedly offer domain name registrations, some including free website hosting and others claiming to include free website design, for $6.95, $5.95, $2.85, $1.99 and $1.00. What … no registrar is willing to pay me $100.00 for the privilege of registering a domain name? Remember TINSTAAFL: There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.

For any company to provide registrar services, they must pay the necessary fees to ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). These fees begin with a non-refundable $2,500 application fee (scheduled to increase) and end with added per-transaction fees. So how can any registrar stay in business offering $6.95 (or less) registration packages? How can they do this and still buy expensive ads on the Super Bowl or 10-12 page spreads in IT magazines? Quite simply, add-ons and fine print.

If you should ever fail to renew your domain name registration, does your registrar offer a renewal grace period? In many instances, the “bargain” registrars will put your domain name on the auction block the second that it expires, where it will be bought up two seconds later, and where you will have lost it forever. This practice is known as “drop catching”. Quite a price to pay for an oversight, isn’t it?

Of even greater concern are the registrars who routinely engage in deceptive marketing practices, using any combination e-mail scams, junk faxes or direct mail. You may have seen these solicitations. They usually look like invoices, until you read the fine print at the bottom, and they generally arrive months before a domain name registration’s renewal date, sometimes listing inaccurate renewal dates in an attempt to trick the recipient into making an urgent decision. In most instances, these shady registrars are trying to get you to transfer your domain name registration(s) from your existing registrar into their portfolio. In other instances, they are trying to get you to register variations of your domain name under a variety of worthless country codes (such as .cc and .cn). These solicitations are a spin on the old “slamming” techniques that had been used by long-distance telephone companies back in the 1980’s. One of the most notorious companies is Domain Registry of America. Do a Google search for their company name, and (after the link to their own website) you will see an entire page of websites warning about these scam operators. Another similar outfit is called Liberty Names of America. Same scam. Check out a Google search for their company name. My recommendation to my clients is to save any solicitations from these companies. Eventually, there are likely to be some sort of class action legal actions in response to their deceptive marketing practices, and your letter, fax or e-mail could allow you to be included in any settlement.

As if these were not bad enough, a new registrar scam just came to my attention last week, when one of my clients received an e-mail solicitation. This one, from a company in Hong Kong called Asia Network Online, claimed that it was sending a “courtesy” notification that a (fictitious) person was attempting to register versions of the client’s domain name under a variety of TLD’s (top level domains), including .hk, .cn., and .info. First of all, there is no registrar who would offer any such “courtesy”. Secondly, if somebody did, in fact, want to register the .hk version of a domain name, they would take the money and run. If it smells like a scam, it is because it IS a scam.

Do I have a suggestion for a registrar whom I have learned to trust? Yes. I hesitate to make recommendations because there are so many good registrars out there. My best advice is to avoid any company which has an offer which appears to be too good to be true. Over the years, I have been very happy with a company called directNIC, located in New Orleans, Louisiana. Their basic registration fee is $15.00 per year, and they offer a variety of added services, many at no additional charge. And, yes, they do have a grace period.

This post was written by Peter Pelland