How to Take Ownership of Your Domain

Posted by Eric Tomlinson


Apr 21, 2022 3:49:05 PM

Your domain, or website address, is the face of your business online. It is how people find your business, contact your business and learn more about the services/products you offer. Most business owners would probably not know who actually owns their domain name.

 

That is the person/business who set up the domain, thus the ones who have control over access and changes. Now, there is inherently nothing wrong with having a designer, marketing agency, or other entity running your online presence. The problem arises when said designer, agency, or other person decides to hold your domain ransom in order to keep you from jumping ship and heading over to another designer, etc. That is why we feel it is always the best practice to own your domain name. It is always easier to give a designer or marketing agency access to your domain than to track it down later. Register it yourself, or with help, but always under an account, you set up. But what if it is too late for that and you can’t get access? Here are some steps you can take to reclaim your domain.

When it comes to website domains we find most people/businesses fall into two categories:

  1. You want to find out where your domain is located but don’t know where to start when searching.
  2. An old website agency or designer has previously managed your domain, and you aren’t sure how to get it from them.

If you fall in the first category here are some ways to find out who has control over your domain:

If YOU are the registrant - 

  1. Locate your login information (Usually an email from the hosting company)
  2. Once you find this you are all set.

If SOMEONE ELSE is the registrant - 

  1. Use Who.is (As in “Who Is Responsible for this Domain?”) to find out their phone number or email address.
  2. Attempt to contact the person who is the registrant and ask for a transfer request or contact info change

If the information on Who.is is set to private - 

  1. Look through all your email and records for any info on the domain.
  2. A developer or agency can often find things that aren’t as easy for others to find.
  3. As a last resort contact the registrar support/abuse line.

If you fall into the second category the following will guide you through some steps to attempt to retrieve your domain:

  1. Use Who.is to find out their phone number or email address.
  2. Find the registrar info. Examples of registrars:
    1. GoDaddy
    2. Bluehost
    3. Hostgator 
  3. Once you find out where the domain is located it is time to gain control over the domain. On the Who.is page you would want to look for a contact name, phone number and/or email address.
  4. Once you find the domain owner there will be a few choices here depending on what you find
    1. If you are the owner - great news! You are ready to go!
    2. If someone else is the owner, well now the work begins.
      1. Contact them via the contact info you found and explain to them you want to gain ownership over your domain. Any reputable agency/designer will help you through the process of transferring your domain over to you.
      2. If the contact is unresponsive or denies your request first thing would be to look at the contract of work. If they still refuse you can always seek legal counsel.
      3. Some of the registrars like GoDaddy have an abuse hotline but it’s not guaranteed to help get your domain back.
  5. If none of the above works the last resort is starting over with a new domain. That can really bite, but sometimes the time you spend fighting is better served getting the website launched. You can always still try and get the old domain back while the new site is launched. If you would happen to be successful it is a simple thing to forward one of the sites to the other.

Getting your domain name back under your control CAN be a daunting task, but don’t let it stop you from trying. It is something everyone, and especially every business, should be sure to do and make a priority. Because let’s face it, you wouldn’t want someone else controlling your home or business address and not letting you move if you wanted to. The same can be said for your website domain.

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Eric Tomlinson

Written by Eric Tomlinson

Eric Tomlinson is a 1994 graphic design graduate from West Virginia University. He worked for 23 years for The Dominion Post as a graphic artist, web developer, photographer and illustrator. Eric enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter doing various activities that include playing sports, being outdoors, arts, crafts, watching movies and much more.

Topics: Website, Website Development