One of the biggest mistakes business owners make with their websites is giving over control of the domain to someone else. Having someone else design your website and even do the marketing for it is often a good idea, but there’s a difference between contributing to and owning.

Every web designer has stories of trying to help out a new client with their website migration, but then hitting a snag when it came time to re-point the domain. Reason being? The client doesn’t actually have control of the domain, and the previous web designer is being petty and difficult about releasing it.

I’ve never understood this personally. If someone doesn’t want to work with me anymore, let them go. It’s a shame, but nothing is gained by ransoming their property and looking like a jerk in the process.

In some cases clients had to pay some sort of trumped up fee to regain control of their domain. In other cases it took legal action to sort out. The simplest way to avoid this mess is to hang onto it.

But isn’t the domain involved in making the site work with the hosting?

Yes, but primarily as a pointer. Any competent web designer can access your domain wherever it’s registered and make what is usually a few minutes of changes.

Your Web Design Is Separate From Your Domain

Even if it’s your first time purchasing a web domain and you have no idea how it works, there are some straightforward solutions.

Tons of websites will handle domain registration for you, from well-known names like Godaddy to other familiar platforms like Google. What’s nice about the bigger ones like Godaddy is that they list a support number right on their website, so you can walk through the process with a rep right over the phone.

The best part of that is that the process isn’t overwhelming, but you retain control. The account you created with registrar (let’s keep assuming Godaddy for simplicity) is yours, and the new domain you’ve purchased is tied to it. You can give someone else your login information or set them up as an authorized admin so they can help make needed changes, but it never leaves your account.

Many people think the web hosting and the domain are the same thing, which is where a lot of the confusion around this process comes from. Let’s use an analogy to clarify.

Your domain is like your phone number, and your hosting is like your phone.

You can get a new phone (new hosting and website) with the same phone number attached to it (same domain), since both the phone number and domain point to where the rest of it happens. When someone dials your phone number, your carrier routes it to your phone the same way DNS servers route web users to your hosting when they type your domain.

You wouldn’t hand over administrative control of your cell phone plan to someone else and risk getting locked out of your phone, so holding onto your domain serves the same end.

If someone helping you out with your website requests control of your domain, ask for specifics about what they need to do. Chances are the move is entirely unnecessary and only serves their ends.

If you’re about to start a website or are thinking of moving one and want some guidance, you may want to check out my consulting services.