Do you own your domain name? If not, what is the process to get it back?

Time and time again I come across an RV Dealer who thinks they are the registered owner of their domain name or they used to own their domain name but when they switched to a new website hosting company they changed the information without their knowledge.  Back when I first started this gig 10 years ago, buying, moving and managing domain names was extremly simple – all you needed to know was the domain name and you were golden pretty much.  That meant it was very easy to change Registrars, domain name contacts, DNS info, etc. 

Now, in order to even renew a domain name, you need the login username or userid and password with your Registrar to access your account.  It’s even more of a pain if you want to move hosting, especially since more and more hosting providers are utilizing one main account for all the domains they host.  I say it’s a pain, but it’s actually much more secure this way.

 One of the tricks website hosting companies pull is to set themselves up as the Registrant, Adminstrative Contact, Technical Contact and Billing Contact for your domain name.  What this does is prevent you from moving hosting because if you are not a contact on the account, you don’t get access to it.  It’s sneaky and they depend on you not knowing any better or double checking your domain name status to pull it off.  With it set up this way if you ever want to move hosting you would need to contact the provider and it’s at their discretion to allow you to move your website.  Even worse, they can charge you any amount they want to for you to buy your OWN domain name.  I know – nonsense right!!

Here’s a scenario I’m going through with an RV Dealer right now, whom we will call Mr. Ed.  Mr. Ed’s current website host / webmaster is the owner of their company domain name and they are unhappy with the results and customer service they’ve been getting from him.  After several failed attempts to get in touch with their webmaster, they were finally able to reach him and when he learned they wanted to move hosting, he demanded a lump sum payment of around $2,500+ or he was not going to release their domain name.  Well, Mr. Ed paid for that domain name and is not inclinded to pay anymore.  In the meantime, Mr. Ed had already cancelled his account with that webmaster and since he is not going to pay to get his domain name back, his webmaster can put whatever website he wants up there on Mr. Ed’s company domain name, including a porn website.  I personally would consult an attorney who specializes in domain name and internet issues and I’ve advised Mr. Ed that this is the best course of action.

I want to explain the terms in relation to domain name registration to you and if you have any questions feel free to email me.

Registrar:  The website you use to buy or manage your domain name(s).  The most popular are:  NetworkSolutions.com, GoDaddy.com and Register.com.  When buying a domain name you want to make sure the Registrar is ICANN accredited.  This is also the website you will go to if you ever want to update any of your domain name info and/or change website hosting.

Registrant:  This should be the owner or principal officer of your company followed by your company name.  This will be the “owner” of the domain name.

Administrative Contact:  This should be the same as the Registrant or another principal officer your comfortable having access to your domain name as a backup.

Technical Contact:  This should be a contact at your hosting company just in case there is an issue with your domain name, it’s up for renewal, etc.  There’s nothing worse than losing a domain name because the emails to renew it were sent to only one address on the account and that address either blocked it, put it in the spam folder or just didn’t get it. 

Billing Contact:  Depending on how your hosting provider deals with the renewals, this may be them or it could be you.  Either way works.

Remember, if you change your email address from the one listed on your Registrar you need to login and change it there as well – this is very important.

Now, in order to check your domain name there is a tool that will give you all that info and much more here:  http://whois.sc – once there type in your domain name (without the “www.”) and click the Lookup button.  The top part of that page will give you Page Info, Indexed Data, Registry Data, Server Data, DomainTools and then the WHOIS info, which is what you’re interested in checking out.

If that information does not reflect your company name, current email address, etc., you’ll need to get it changed right away.  If you have your Registrar login, you can access your account and make the necessary changes.  If you don’t have access to it you can contact your hosting company and they should have it.  If it’s on their master account ask them to update your domain name information for you and then go back a few days later and check the WHOIS to see if the changes are complete.  If for some reason neither of you have the login information, most Registrars have a “lost username and password” feature you can use to have that sent to the email address associated with the domain, which is another reason to keep your email address up-to-date with them.

Tip:  When doing research on domain names to buy, don’t use NetworkSolutions.com or NetSol.com because they will give you a certain number of minutes to buy the domains you’ve looked up or else they buy them, which locks you into using them as your Registrar.  Instead use http://whois.sc – look for the link that says Domain Search on the results page.

If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or give me a call.

Cindy 🙂

NEXT BLOG:  What do you mean “organic” search results?

How often should you update the “look” of your website?

How often should you update the “look” of your website?

This questions comes up often enough that I thought I better do a blog about it.

There’s really no strict quidelines on this, but in my experience the websites that tend to get better results, keep growing their traffic numbers and sales leads are changed every 18-24 months. 

Just think about the websites you visit more than once a week.  What draws you in?  New, interesting content will bring visitors back to your website time after time.

There are a few do’s and don’t when it comes to updating the look and content that I wanted you to be aware of:

DOs:

  1. Keep the navigation consistent throughout the website.
  2. If you add new features or tools, add instructions on how to use them.
  3. Set up a custom 404 error page if you are removing old pages – this will allow your visitors to browse your new pages for the info they are looking for.
  4. If you change your URL or website address, use a redirect on the old address pointing visitors to your new website.
  5. When reorganizing your website content make sure your visitors, potential customers, will be able to figure out and navigate to the content most important to them – for RV Dealers that would be your inventory.
  6. Make sure you have dynamic content (content that changes each time the page is loaded) on your homepage, such as Featured Units, as this will entice search engine spiders to index your website more often as they see the content constantly changes.

DON”Ts:

  1. Don’t put up pages that say “under construction” and just leave them there for weeks, months or worse years.  If you don’t have the content, don’t add the page.
  2. Don’t use AOL, Yahoo!, Hotmail or another generic email host for your business website.  Using domain name related emails does several things for you:  1.) It makes your visitors feel you are a legit company, 2.) It makes your visitors feel like you are a bigger company than you might actually be, and 3.) If email issues arise, it’s much easier to track down and fix the problem – those generic email guys are not really set up for business emails.
  3. Don’t build your website totally in Flash.  Yes, Flash is cool but your website will not get indexed in the search engines, which is how most of your website visitors will find your website.  You could have the coolest, flashiest website on the internet but if no one knows it’s there it doesn’t do you much good.
  4. The less clicks the better… don’t force visitors to make a bunch of clicks to get to the content, especially inventory.  That will just frustrate them and they will look elsewhere for an easier-to-use website.

Remember, if you are building your own website or having a design firm do that for you, make it as easy-to-use as possible.  Give your visitors as much info about your company as you can to make them feel welcome, give them a sense of familiarity and make them feel like they are already an important part of your company.  Think of your website as an extension of your company, like an additional location.

If you need help with designing a website from scratch, redesigning a current website and/or website maintenance and updates let me know.  My design and programming team are dedicated to making your website a success and are experienced in all facets of the process, including search engine optimization.  Take a look at our Portfolio and other services we offer here:  www.netsourcervs.com.

Cindy 🙂

NEXT BLOG:  Do you own your domain name?  If not, what is the process to get it back?

Website Design: Comparing Apples to Apples

With 2009 right around the corner, the website design projects are pilling up on our project board.  I’ve come across a number of people over the past few weeks who are confused by the two different types of website designs available:  template and custom built.  There are pros and cons to both, which is what I will be going over here.  Education is key to all this “online stuff” and I want to make sure, no matter who you use for a website provider, that you know what you are getting.  Unfortunately, there are some providers out there selling a “custom” solution when it’s really a template.

With a template website the design, navigation, layout and color scheme is pre-defined.  You simply choose the design and color you want and we, as website providers, plug your content into their respective pages or sections. 

Template Pros:

  1. They are less expensive because it takes a lot less time to set them up.
  2. They can be set up very quickly, we’ve done them in as little as 2 weeks.

Template Cons:

  1. They are not as flexible to optimize for the search engines.
  2. You are usually limited on the number of pages you can have in your website as the designs are only built with a certain amount in mind.
  3. If you decide you don’t like the provider and want to switch, you can not take the website design with you, as templates are typically the property of the provider.
  4. You run into the high likelyhood of having other companies in your industry with the same exact design as yours, which could cause visitor confusion.

With a true custom website the designer starts with a blank screen.  They build your website based on the color scheme you use in other marketing and/or your logo, the other websites you’ve shown them that you like the look and feel of, and your specific needs / desires / functionality you want for your new website.  If you have no idea what you want that’s ok with us.  We’ve done many, many custom website projects with clients who really didn’t know what they wanted or needed in their website, which is our area of expertise as 1/2 of our design team are graphic artists as well.

Custom Pros:

  1. The sky is the limit with the design, features, programming, functionality, etc. 
  2. You dream it and we can do it – Flash animated header, movies, fly-out menus, 360 tours, custom graphics, custom logos and more.
  3. Your website will be unique, no other company will have a website that looks like yours.
  4. The design is yours to take with you no matter what hosting provider you have.
  5. Flexibility to use all the different search engine techniques that will help your website get the highest “organic” or free listings as possible.

Custom Cons:

  1. Because the designer has to build it from scratch, it will be more expensive to set up.

You can either go out and buy an already built house that may not be what you want but you can fix it up or you can build it from the ground up.  Sometimes the “fixing up” of the already built house will end up costing you just as much, if not more, than the home you could have had built to your specs.  You also run the risk of the already built house never being what you want, no matter how much fixing up you do.

It’s been my experience that if you are a new company, or new to the internet, or have a tight budget, then the template design is the way to go.  It’s just enough to get your feet wet, get your name online, start building your “virtual” web presence and so on.  But, if your company has been around a long time, especially online, a custom built website is the best decision usually. 

If you are not sure what you need, just give me a call (1-866-643-4625) or send me an email (cindy@rvusa.com).  I’ll review what you have currently, check out your current positionings in the search engines and a few other places and make a recommendation for you. 

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t care which provider you end up using for your website.  I want to make sure you know what your getting into, you understand the process of setting up a web presence and give you a heads up on things to be on the look out for.  One of those “heads up” items is your domain name.  It should be registered to your company, not the person or company providing your website or hosting.  I’ve seen this time and again where a dealer didn’t know any better and either lost their domain name or had to pay the provider for it and they can charge whatever they want.  I’ve seen some hosting providers register the domain name to them so that if your unhappy with them or their service and want to move you can’t.  It’s just not good business.  We always register the domain name to our client.

RVUSA.com templates: www.rvusa.com/designs

RVUSA.com custom examples:  http://www.netsourceinc.com/portfolio_rv-dealer.asp

Cindy Spencer 🙂