I have registered a large number of domains but I occasionally forget to set my whois settings to block my personal information from being displayed to the public. FYI, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to http://whois.domaintools.com/ and punch in your website address. You might be surprised to see what comes up. Fortunately, you can hide your information by changing the settings at your registrar or sending them an email. But if you live in Canada, and you haven’t hidden your whois information, you get a nice little reminder from companies that scour this public database.

I’ll give these companies credit, they are clever in how they attempt to make themselves look like a government department. Check out the scans I made of one envelope and form I received. It looks like something you would get with your tax return. If you have a domain and you’ve not hidden your whois info, you will get one of these about 8 or 9 months later reminding you to renew. It is actually an attempt to get you to unwittingly transfer your domain registration to them. You still own it, but they become your registrar. Sneaky. And considering I’ve been getting these for a few years now, they must be successfully converting people.

I’m not the first to raise this flag. But, for the sake of any small business owners out there, I’m going to add a little checklist that you can use when you purchase or renew your domains:

  • Hide your whois information by changing the settings at your registrar.
  • Remember who you register every domain with. Godaddy, Netfirms, etc.
  • Keep in a safe place, the name, email and phone number that you used to register this with. Many people forget they have domains registered under now expired email accounts and end up losing them outright.
  • Don’t share access to your domain with anyone except your it manager or web designer. Your entire site can implode but as long as you own your domain, you can rebuild it. If someone steals it, you’re in trouble.
  • Don’t forget to renew it. If you do, and it expires, someone else can take it from you and redirect all your traffic to a site/business of their choosing. I’ve actually seen this happen.
  • Register your active domains (ie. those with sites) for longer than one year. Search engines assume that a domain that has been registered for 3 years is more legit than one that is only registered for a year. This will help your SEO a touch.
  • Don’t mess with your DNS or MX records unless you know what you are doing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then enough said. Make sure you talk to your web designer or IT manager first as the wrong change could bring down your site and your company email.