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Unsnarling Domain Name Hairballs

Domain names are a kind of company collateral; they are an extremely inexpensive way to collect terms or phrases that might be useful in the future, even if they are not of value now. At an average price of $10 for uncontested .com domain names plus a low annual maintenance fee, spending a few hours a year exploring domain name options can be a good exercise for any company.

However, domain names that are not well maintained end up creating all kinds of problems. Even larger organizations consistently drop the ball when it comes to buying and maintaining them.

The problem is this: domain names may feel like an IT project, but really they are a marketing and company collateral project that happens to have an IT component. IT assets generally could care less about domain name purchase and maintenance and generally don’t prioritize them, which means that they are often hard to recover or manage in emergencies.

How do you prevent domain name registration problems from becoming a resource drain or even a marketing threat? Just follow these simple steps!

Step 1: Clean up your act. This involves two tasks:

Use the same registrar and account for ALL your domain names. All domain name systems provide essentially identical service. The small difference in price from month to month that GoDaddy or Tucows is providing for uncontested .com names is probably not worth the headache of maintaining domain names across multiple registrars.

If you do have domain names across multiple registrants, integrate them. This may cost as much as $60 per domain name and may require notarized identity information, but in the long run it’s worth it. This is also necessary if you are buying a name on a registrar at a premium that you really want.

Step 2: Protect and maintain your collateral. This involves three tasks:

Treat domain name transactions as if they were legal identity transactions, such as setting up a bank account. This might seem extreme, but in fact domain names ARE legal property and the amount of headache and overhead in correcting problems with them is directly related to that fact. If you have the most paranoid, picky accounting person in your company manage the domain name registration and maintenance process, many of the typical domain name problems simply won’t happen.

Treat your domain name login information as if it were irreplaceable financial data. Most passwords on the web are replaceable with low effort; if you lose them, most companies are willing to reconnect you with low effort. Not so with domain name registrars, who are dealing with what is essentially property. Losing your account data with a registrar can lead to transactions involving letterhead, notaries, etc. Keep your domain name registrar data–account ID, username, and password–in the same place as your other critical business information, such as your HR social security data.

– Commit to an annual automatic renewal of your core keyphrase names, and accept the possibility that you’ll lose ones that you don’t renew. It’s incredibly easy to poach unprotected domain names, so pony up the $200 or so a year you’ll need to keep your core ten domain names covered. If you have many more, it may still be worth it, but expect that if they are not renewed, someone else–most likely a poacher who will try to sell it back to you for twenty times what you paid for it, or, worse, a competitor–will get them.

Follow these easy steps, and domain name purchasing and maintenance will stay fun and easy…just like it’s supposed to be!

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