Is Private Registration a Good Idea for Small Business Domains?

November 24, 2011 by  Filed under: Domain 

When registering a small business domain name, many site owners are unsure of whether they should opt for private registration. This feature, offered by most domain providers, privatizes your registration data and prevents it from being seen in a public database.

First, the basics. Anyone can search for a registered domain name’s ownership information at a number of sites. This is typically called a “WHOIS lookup”, and returns a a variety of information including the name, phone number, email, and address of the domain owner.

For individuals registering personal domains, private registration is always recommended. But for businesses, hiding your domain’s ownership information from public scrutiny can hurt your credibility. For instance, if an online store does not accept third-party payment systems such as Paypal, some buyers will perform a lookup on the domain name to see if it returns a valid phone number or address. Your willingness to provide this information to the public can sometimes be the difference between a sale and a lost opportunity.

On the other hand, spammers use automated robots to extract email addresses from the WHOIS database. This, along with an email link on their website, is the reason small businesses still receive spam mail on their private domain names. Some domain owners even get physical mail from unscrupulous domain registrars offering to renew their domain names at exorbitant rates. These mailing lists are typically put together from WHOIS database mining.

By privatizing your business’ domain registration information, you can avoid a great deal of unsolicited mail. Another reason a small business might choose private registration is if they are working from home, and want to hide the fact that they have no dedicated business address or phone number.

The balance between privacy and credibility is one that every site owner must consider when registering a small business domain. If you plan on operating a site that asks for payment or other sensitive information, it is always good policy to make your contact information available in WHOIS lookups. You may receive more spam, but those few customers who will check are worth the hassle.

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