How to Own Your Website

‘Own’ Your Website and Safeguard Your Business’ Online Identity

Matt Jones Business Websites, Domain Registration Leave a Comment

How do you know when you own something? Feels like a dumb question, right? The most obvious answer would be, “Because I paid for it.” No brainer. But, in the online universe of websites, paying for a thing doesn’t always translate to actual ownership and, even scarier, could wind up costing you a lot more than you realize.

We’ve seen it happen before. A business hires a design firm to help them build a top-tier website, their primary face to the digital world. The business cuts a check to their design firm for tens of thousands of dollars (and often more) and comes away with a sense of satisfaction, believing they now “own” their website, their online identity, and it is safely housed with their trusted designers.

But then, sometimes without warning, their design firm goes out of business or worse, simply stops responding to calls and emails, disappearing into the void, leaving a potentially thriving company in serious danger of losing their website, their storefront, their online brand, and months or even years of established online rankings, traffic, and business credibility.

Now what?

While this catastrophe is not rare (at ALL, unfortunately), it can be completely avoided by taking the time to follow a few simple steps. Now, we know that you, as a smart business owner, need to focus your time on improving your business, your products, and your team so they can be the best they can be. That’s why we’re going to lay out for you our Owner’s Guide to Owning Your Business Online for free. BUT, also know that because we want you to succeed, we can get you set up, using these steps, and guarantee that at the end you’re in control of your business’s online home.

The Business Owner’s Guide to Owning Your Business Online

There are two basic things you need to have in order to be 100% in control of your company’s website. Within 30 minutes, you can set both of them up by yourself and be ready to build your company’s website, whether you hire a firm to do it, do it yourself, or use a full-service platform. Today, we’re going to outline a few steps you can use to secure these two items and then set yourself up to own your business online.

STEP 1. Own your domain name.

To own your domain name, all you have to do is register it yourself. Technically, you’re actually leasing your domain name since it has to be renewed each year, but it’s not a stretch to label it ownership in this sense. Visit a reputable domain registrar (e.g.,,… there are many others) and follow their process for 1) seeing if a domain you want is available and 2) registering it. Domain registration typically costs around $15-20/yr and it can be done in a matter of minutes.

NOTE: if you are going to use a full-service hosting platform like Squarespace or Google or Wix to save cost on designing and building your website, we still recommend registering your domain separately first. If you register your domain within Wix or Squarespace’s system but then decide to move away from that platform, it can be very difficult to extricate your domain from that service.

Now, if you just can’t do this process yourself, be sure that whoever you hire to do it for you uses YOUR name (or your company’s), YOUR contact information, and YOUR payment information to register the account. You may even want to have someone from your company on the phone with them, doing the process together. Ultimately, the goal is simply to have the account in your business’ name, under your control, and have the login credentials.

Go ahead and register your domain for 2-3 years upfront. You often get to save a little money doing so. Also, go ahead and add the Domain Privacy option. Without it, you’ll get hundreds of emails from no-name web design companies relentlessly hounding you to let them build your website.

STEP 2. Own your hosting.

Next, you’ll choose a web hosting company. If you are using a full-service platform like Squarespace, they will by default be your hosting company, and that’s fine. But, if you want to self-host your website (in other words, choose a hosting service and then build or have your website built by a design firm), you’ll want to select a hosting package from a reputable hosting company. The good news is, the company you registered your domain name with probably offers hosting as well, so it may be easy to simply use them and “keep it all in one place.” Which package to choose will be based on the needs of your company, so you might want to get some advice on this decision. The nice thing is, it’s not terribly difficult to up- or downgrade a hosting package if you find your needs change.

What is website hosting exactly? A decent comparison in the material world helps to define it:

  1. Your domain name is like the address of a house registered with a city: 123 Mulberry Street.
  2. The lot where the house is built is like the hosting package. It’s the actual space where the house exists.
  3. The house itself – bricks, wood, carpet, etc – is like the website.

A couple of notes:

  • Since you already have your domain in your own name, where you host isn’t as important because you can always just change a setting in your domain registrar account to ‘point’ your domain to a new host.
  • Like your domain registration, hosting also renews annually, so make sure you protect yourself from forgetting to renew your hosting package, as well.

STEP 3. Own all associated account credentials.

Many clients have come to us through the years in need of help but come to the realization they don’t know how to access anything related to their website whether it is their domain registrar, their hosting account, and even their website itself to make updates. This problem is easily prevented by simply saving the login credentials for the registrar, hosting, and website dashboard as you set each of them up. Saved in a Word document, spreadsheet, or password vault service, make it a point to have these credentials easily at your disposal.

And, you’re off!

Following these three easy steps won’t build you a website (that’s a whole process unto itself), but they will put you in a position of control as it relates to your business’ online presence. No matter what happens – your website designer folds or even passes away (yes, it’s happened) – you will have all the pieces you need to unlock the door for a new designer or, should the need arise, begin again. The point is, you own the address, the lot, and the building, just as it should be.

MATT JONES is the president of E-Street Media. He is also owner and president of Jones House Creative, a design firm that serves authors and creatives and helps to promote their work online.

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