Menu

Domains: Seven Things You Need to Know

These quick tips can help you manage your domain registration like a boss.

Photo Credit: tec_estromberg via Compfight cc

Looking for more info? Previously, we explained what a custom domain is and offered tips on picking out a good domain name. You can also browse our support pages on domain-related topics.

Many bloggers choose to make their web presence more personal by using their own custom domain (yourgroovydomain.com instead of example.wordpress.com, for example). If you’re thinking about registering a custom domain or already have one, there are a few important things you need to know that will help you successfully manage your domain registration.

Know the parties involved in domain registrations

When you purchase a domain via WordPress.com (or any other registrar), it might seem like a quick, click-the-button-and-it’s-done process. But several entities come together to make your registration happen smoothly:

  • ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers): a nonprofit organization that sets and enforces rules designed to keep the Internet secure and stable. Each of the 3 parties listed below must comply with ICANN regulations.

What is a top level domain (TLD)? The easiest way to identify a TLD is to look at the part of domain that comes after the last dot. Examples of TLDs are .com, .net., .org, and .me. You can find a list of TLDs that WordPress.com offers here.

  • Registry: an organization that manages top level domain (TLD) names. Each registry sets the rules and manages records for the TLD they own. Registries do not sell domain names to the public; instead, they work with registrars to do this. There is only one registry for each TLD.
  • Registrar/reseller: an organization that is authorized to sell domains to the public (WordPress.com, for example). There can be many registrars for each TLD. Registrars can also set policies for how they handle domains, but they must comply with registry and ICANN rules.
  • Registrant: the person or organization who registers a domain name. That’s you! 🙂

As you can see from this list, domain names are a little more involved than a simple purchase since they are subject to policies and regulations, most of which are set by ICANN and the registry.

Know who really owns your domain

What is WHOIS and what is it used for? WHOIS is a service that answers the question “who is responsible for this domain?”

Anyone can look a domain name up using WHOIS to learn information such as when the domain was registered and when it expires, the registrar of record, and contact information for the registrant (unless the registrant opts for privacy).

When you register a domain, the registrar is required to collect information from you, including registrant name and contact information. The name listed as the registrant owns the domain and has the right to manage it. This means that registrants can do things like point the domain to a different website, change settings that affect email delivery, or let the domain expire.

If you plan to register your own domain, you’re set! It’s not uncommon, however, for people to let someone else — an employee or web designer, for example — register their domain. If that person lists their name as the registrant, you might have trouble when you need to manage or renew the registration; what if that employee ever quits or if you can’t reach your web developer?

Not sure whose name is listed as the registrant? You can run a WHOIS search for most domains. If the domain has private registration, you’ll need to contact your registrar to find out who the registrant is. If you can access the account where the domain was registered, log in and verify the registrant name that way. Anyone who’s registered their domain through WordPress.com can simply head to the Domains page. If you have more than one site, you’ll need to select the site associated with your domain. Then select the domain and click on Contacts and Privacy.

Know who your registrar is and how to access the account

Registrar vs. web host — what’s the difference? A registrar sells domain registrations and maintains registration records. A web host (hosting service) sells space on a computer server that holds your website’s content and serves your content when someone visits your website.

Many registrars offer hosting service (and many hosts also register domains) but registration and hosting are two separate services.

In order to keep your domain registration current and manage your domain settings, you have to be able to access the account where the domain is registered (for example: if you registered your domain here at WordPress.com, you’ll need to be logged in to your account to manage your domain).

Don’t assume that your registrar and web host are the same. If you’re not sure who your registrar is, you can find this information by doing a WHOIS lookup. You should see results that look like this:

whois

If you are not able to sign in, contact your registrar to see what you need to do to regain access to the account.

Know when your domain expires and how to renew it

Domains at WordPress.com are registered for a year at a time. Other registrars may allow you to register a domain for longer periods. In order to continue to use the domain, you must keep your registration current. Typically, this requires you to sign in to the account where you registered the domain and process a payment to renew it. Many registrars also allow you to set the domain to automatically renew. This is a good option — just don’t forget to keep your payment information up-to-date.

If your domain is registered through your WordPress.com account, make sure you’re logged in and head to the Domains page. You can then click on the domain to view expiration and renewal information. You can also click on Payment Settings to update your payment information.

Know what happens if you cancel a domain or let it expire

Important: Make sure the email address you have on file with your registrar is up-to-date, as they’ll use it to send you domain expiration warnings. If you have an email address associated with your domain, don’t use it in your contact info: if the domain stops working, so will the email address.

 

If you cancel a domain or let it expire, you risk losing it forever. Even if you’re able to get it back, it might involve additional costs.

Once a domain expires, there’s generally a brief grace period during which you can renew at the standard renewal price. Once the grace period passes, the domain enters redemption. During this phase, additional fees often apply to renew the domain. It’s also possible that your domain could be auctioned off. You can read more about the expiration process here.

If you cancel a registration, you are giving up ownership of the domain. Generally, there is a small window of time in which a registrar can re-activate a canceled domain if you made a mistake and want the domain back. Otherwise, depending on the TLD and when the domain is canceled, it might be released in a short period of time and be available again to register, or it might be held until the original expiration date. In some cases, the domain is not released and therefore, is not available to register again.

Know what your responsibilities are

As a registrant, you are responsible for complying with policies and terms of use related to your domain. You are also responsible for the registration and use of your domain, including manually renewing your domain before it expires or keeping your payment information current if your domain is set to automatically renew.

A quick note about privacy: Once you register a domain, your contact information is available publicly. If you prefer to keep your information private, most registrars offer privacy protection, or private registration, using a proxy service. If you opt for privacy, only the proxy service’s info is displayed publicly.

ICANN requires you to provide accurate and up-to-date contact information. For new registrations, registrants are often required to verify their contact information within 15 days of registering a domain. If there is no response to a verification request, the domain can be suspended, which means you can’t use it until the contact information is verified. You may also not be able to renew the domain while it’s suspended.

Know how to get help

If you have questions about how to register, renew, or manage your domain, it’s best to contact your registrar directly. At WordPress.com, we have support documentation that can answer many common questions about domains. In addition, you can contact our Happiness Engineers, who are happy to help with any questions or problems you have with registering or using a custom domain with your WordPress.com site.

Show Comments

59 Comments

Comments are closed.

Close Comments

Comments

  1. Am I evil if the first thing I thought of when I saw the phrase “Master of your Domain”, was the contest in the fourth season of Seinfeld?!

    In all seriousness, this article was quite informative!

    Liked by 7 people

    1. Nah, that just means you have an appreciation for word play and Seinfeld (both are good things in my book). Thanks for reading and for the comment. 🙂

      Liked by 5 people

    1. Hey there! Yes, you can change your registrar by transferring your domain. Per ICANN, registrations have to be at least 60 days old before they are eligible for transfer and your current registrar may have additional requirements. If your domain is registered here at WordPress.com, this support page will walk you through how to transfer it.

      Remember that registration and hosting are different services, so you don’t have to transfer your domain to use it somewhere else. For example, if your domain is registered here, you can point it to a site hosted by a different company.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

      Like

      1. Ah, that’s a great question! Wild West Domains is a domain registration partner for WordPress.com. So that means that you’ll manage your domain through your WordPress.com account (including renewals, transfers, etc) but the “official” registrar is Wild West Domains.

        Like

    1. Thanks! Sorry it sounds like it came a bit late for you but if there’s anything we can do to help, please contact our fabulous Happiness Engineers (there’s a link at the bottom of the article). Cheers!

      Like

      1. Hey there! WordPress.com takes a lot of the work of managing a site (hosting, backups, security, etc) off your hands and we have support staff ready to help with any questions or problems you may have.

        With domains, the good news is that once you set one up, as long as you keep it renewed, you generally don’t have to do much else with it.

        That said, you can hire a web developer or other professional to do things for you if that’s easier.

        Hope that helps!

        Like

  2. If I am blogging with wordpress, would it be best to buy my domain through them as well? or can I still buy it on godaddy because it makes no difference?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! That’s a great question. 🙂

      The short answer is you can absolutely choose to register a domain here or at GoDaddy (or any other registrar).

      The longer answer is that most people find it easier to register their domain under the same account they have hosting for a couple of reasons:
      – it simplifies things (renewals, logins, etc) since you have everything under a single account
      – there’s an extra step involved to “point” your domain to your website if you register it elsewhere.

      So, if your site is here, but your domain is registered at GoDaddy, you would need to add Domain Mapping here and then make some changes to your domain set up through your GoDaddy account to get things working. If you register it here, it will work with no extra steps. Our Happiness Engineers can help you with that if you decide to register your domain at GoDaddy.

      Like

  3. This is really informative. I didn’t know that domain registry and domain hosting were two different things!

    So do I pay for hosting separately? Or please could you give me a li’ll explanation on that? I don’t really understand where it comes in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey there! Here at WordPress.com, we don’t charge for hosting, which is why you won’t see any hosting fees or prices here.

      If you want to host a website at places like GoDaddy, Bluehost, or Dreamhost, you’ll need to pay for hosting. Costs vary, depending on what type of hosting you need.

      Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for answering Wendy! I’ve been doing some research on many of the loopholes and mines that are hidden with domain registries. It seems like ignorance is bliss in this case. I’ll contact the happiness engineers for further support.

    Great article and very helpful!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I am trying to start a new blog and I have being looking up ways to start one. Various resources suggest getting a web hosting company which include easy download of word press,etc. Do I have to do all that? Cant I just get my domain name and hosting service straight from the WordPress website? Please help!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Howdy! There are actually two types of WordPress.

      WordPress.org is where you can download the WordPress software and then install it at a host of your choice.

      WordPress.com offers managed hosting, which means you don’t have to download or install anything and you don’t have to arrange for hosting. You just create an account and you’re ready to go!

      So which version of WordPress is right for you? The answer is: it depends. 🙂

      This should give you a good overview of the differences to help you decide what the best option is for you: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

      This is a longer piece, but provides a more detailed explanation: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/com-or-org/

      Hope that clears things up!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for the quick response and great resources.
        They really helped with understanding the 2 different types of WordPress. I think I will stick with wordpress.com for now since I am just starting out and later along the line, I can decide whether to move or not.

        Thanks once again.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. I have a domain and hosting for my web site at Godaddy. I am building a replacement web site here on Word Press. When it is completed what choices do I have to have my domain and or hosting moved from Godaddy to Word Press. Should I leave my domain registration at Godaddy and move the hosting from Godaddy to Word Press? Or What? Thanks for helping

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Herb!

      Let’s address the domain first and then get to the hosting question. 🙂

      At this time, WordPress.com is not able to accept incoming domain transfers so your best bet is to leave the domain registered at GoDaddy and point it to your site here. We have a support document that will walk you through how to do that, or you can contact our Happiness Engineers for help.

      Hosting is free at WordPress.com and is included when you create a site here so no need to move hosting here. Your content hosted at GoDaddy might be a different story. If you plan to use that content here, you may be able to import it here. If you no longer plan to use any of the content at GoDaddy, you might not need hosting there anymore but it’s best to talk with GoDaddy about that since they will be able to look at your specific account.

      Hope that helps!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Herb,

        Another commenter had a similar question, which I answered here.

        The version of WordPress available at GoDaddy is WordPress.org. There are a couple of links in my pervious reply that explain the differences between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

        Hope that helps!

        Like

  7. Hi Wendy -thanks for the excellent article about domains. The only thing I could possibly add is the significance of private registration if you want to keep your personal information offline and out of public view. ICANN does require that every domain owner provide contact information (and keep it current) but this also exposes personal details that some may not wish to publish on the Internet. Adding private registration means that a domain owner’s details remain with the proxy service while the proxy service’s details are published online instead. Again, thanks for such an informative article.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Excellent point! I didn’t go too much into that as the article was pretty long already, but I may edit it to add a quick note about privacy. You explained it really well, by the way. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Quick question: If you have registered your domain as a .com address for example, but later on decide you’d rather switch back to a .wordpress.com address, is it possible to do that without losing your site?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, you can switch the ‘primary domain’ of your site any time you like (any others you have attached to the site will redirect to that primary one). So you could revert to the .wordpress.com address (it stays attached to your blog even when you activate a custom domain) any time.

      Liked by 1 person