You Should Own and Control Your Domain

I have had a lot of situations where a client that has just come to me and is not in control of their website or domain. Sometimes the company that owns and controls the site for you has disappeared, or maybe the person that you paid as a middleman has disappeared. This often leaves clients with a short deadline to act before losing their domain name, and in turn the website and email. Websites and email can be replaced at a cost, but domain names, like, cannot be replaced because they are unique.

Prevent losing your domain in the first place

Preventing domain loss in the first place is the way to go. It means you as the company or client should be in full control of your own tech before an issue comes up. You have no middleman for billing, and you continue on with or without any designers you hire. It is your responsibility to pay the bills, but that’s life anyway. As long as your company owns, controls and pays for directly your domain, you can recovery from a wide variety of other issues.

Get it in your account, no middlemen

Your domain (.com) should be in your account. You should not rely on other designers, techs, or companies to manage this for you. You need to control it in case something were to happen to the company you use. A domain transfer takes a few hours, but it is one of my core philosophies as a developer focused on reliability. I want my client’s stuff to survive even if I disappear. Make sure your domain is something you control in an account in your name. Prepay it 2 years ahead (less is risky than 1 year, and more we could forget).

Recover lost domains

Domains can’t just be transferred back and forth unless you have permission on both sides. If someone controls your domain, you have to take a multi prong approach.

  • Backorder the domain immediately on a site like Godaddy so when it goes up for expiration sale, you are in line to buy.
  • Contact the owner of the domain. Mail, phone, in-person, social media, text. Do it all and more.
    • Have other people contact the owner from other area codes and emails too.
  • Attempt to call the registrar for the domain. Tell them the problem and let them know you want control. (last ditch effort)

Get a new domain and redirect the old one

If other options fail and you still have a little control over your website, you can do something called a 301 redirect. You’d buy a new domain and 301 redirect users from your old one to the new one. This gives users a transition phase, and also gives Google a transition phase to know this is the new site you want to be using, even if they go to the old address. This option works well, but is kinda a last resort. Don’t jump into this thinking it’s seamless, but know that recovery is still possible if you can control the website a bit.

No website access and no domain control

You’ve exhausted all methods of contacting the owner, you’ve tried to call the domain registrar multiple times and everything else you can think of. Backorder the domain about to be lost and, get a new domain and new website. Start fresh and notify your users when your new site is up of a change of URL. Hope for the backorder to go through so that when it expires you get it immediately, at which point you can point it to your new site.


I am here to help if you get stuck with this stuff. I’ve been through a ton of these and they are the only jobs I can think of that have a less than 100% success rate though. -Chris