There have been several blogs posted regarding websites and suggestions about how to make yours as effective as possible but have you considered one of the most important aspects of your site – the domain name? The domain name, or url, not only provides the world at-large the means to access your website but also plays a vital role in Search Engines. It is literally your site’s ‘address’ on the World Wide Web. Considering the importance of this wonder, you would want to do everything you can to make sure it is kept safe. There are many site owners who have no idea who is really in control of their vitally important domain name however.
So, how do you find out information on a domain? The first place to start is with a registrar. A registrar is a company that facilitates the actual purchase and management of domains. Every domain in the world can be traced back to a relatively low number of registrars; although there are more today than in the past. Some of the most popular registrars are GoDaddy, Network Solutions, and Tucows. Each registrar maintains a search function called ‘whois’ which displays the registry information for each domain. Using this function, you can usually determine what you need to know about your domain.
Let’s use GoDaddy as an example. If you go to http://www.godaddy.com, you will easily spot their domain search tool. Type in your url and click on the ‘Go’ button. The results, predictably, will indicate the domain is not available for purchase – you already own it (hopefully!). What you will see is a link to ‘get info’. Clicking on that link will show you the information we are looking for including four of the most important elements: the registrar, registrant, administrative contact, and technical contact. Another critical piece of information you can find on this page is the expiration date of your domain – don’t let it expire or you will be subjected to a most painful, read costly, process to get it back. I did a search for google.com as an example (sadly, it was already taken.)

domain_whois

The first item listed in my example is the ‘Registrant’. This is the holy grail we are looking for – the registrant is the owner of the domain. You should definitely see the name of your dealership listed here as the registrant or at the very least the name of the Dealer Principle. If you see the name of your website company or the name of a techie who designed some aspect of your website, you could very well be up the creek in desperate need of a paddle. As far as the registrar goes, the registrant is the one in charge and changing this piece of the registry is a very difficult process. If the domain was accidentally registered with a hosting company listed as the registrant and they realize the error of their ways, the process to correctly list your dealership will be simplified to some paperwork and proof of ID but can still be very time consuming. If the domain was intentionally registered with the wrong registrant information, you are looking at a very difficult process which will involve lawyers. That is why it is so vital to know the status of your domain – especially at the time it is being registered.
We already discussed the registrar but the information you see on this screen will let you know the specific registrar through which your domain is managed. Each registrar’s whois registry will be able to show you the actual registrar for your domain – you do not need to hit yours on the first try – but sometimes you will get more information if you do go directly to the managing registrar (most of the time there will be a direct link to your registrar’s whois page).
The Administrative and Technical contacts are also important as these are the contacts, depending on the registrar’s policies, who will be receiving notifications for the domain such as renewal notices, requests to transfer the domain to a new registrar, requests to access the account, and so on. Generally, the Administrative Contact is the one who will receive a forgotten password email if it is necessary. It is normal to have a GM, New/Used Car Manager, or Internet Director as the Administrative Contact and the Technical Contact although it is perfectly acceptable to have the website provider as the Technical Contact. If you look up these contacts and do not recognize the names and emails or they belong to a former employee, you need to take steps now to correct the situation. Requests to update these contacts are originated through the registar and each one may have slightly different procedures. Start the process ahead of any expected changes to your website hosting – otherwise, you could hit a major roadblock you were not prepared for.
So, who is in control of your website domain? Ultimately, it is the registrant but the administrative contact is pretty important as well. Both of these should be very easily accessible contacts for the dealership. There are a lot of ‘R’ words involved in domain names:

Registrar = the company through which a domain is registered and managed
Registry = the list of important domain information
Registrant = the owner of a domain as listed in the registry

Make sure you know this vital information about your all-important domain names before a situation arises that causes you pain, time, and potentially a lot of money.

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