Most doulas and childbirth educators I work with on websites have never heard of domain privacy (although they do know a LOT about placentas), and bump into the question of website privacy for the first time when setting up their new domain and hosting account. The cost for domain privacy is usually around $12 / year, which is pretty negligible in the grand scheme of business costs, but I think we can all agree that those little things add up… It is definitely a business service that we can put firmly in the optional category, but there are some very real benefits for you to consider.
Domain privacy isn’t talked about all that much, and while the word privacy certainly sounds “good”, let’s take a closer look at what this provides. When we register a new domain, we of course have to provide our basic details (name, address, phone number, & email) in order to complete the registration. Domain privacy was created in response to the question:
What do they do with my personal information?
WITHOUT domain privacy>>>
All of the information you just provided for your domain registration will be visible in the Whois database which anyone can search through to find out who owns a site. For example, my domain is thewebsitedoula.com. If we go to Whois today and look it up, we get these results (note I have blurred out my address & phone number info, but left my email for y'all to see, because that's no secret!):
Now, that’s not inherently bad, right? It’s not like we are trying to hide who we are - as service providers our websites are already often feature our names, emails, and often phone numbers. If somebody wants that information, they can find it pretty easily. Still, most birth pros I talk with feel a clear discomfort with their home address being visible and connected to their business.
WITH domain privacy...>>>
Your name, email, address and phone number will not be visible on the Whois database. Your domain will still be listed, but the contact information will be hidden. Here are some good reasons why that might be a helpful thing:
1. Your contact information will not be vulnerable to marketing companies who scan the Whois directory to find emails and phone numbers for their lists.
2. There are little virtual creatures that crawl the internet looking for emails to add to their lists for spam. Yes, they are evil. Not publishing your email on your site, or on the Whois directory can greatly diminish the amount of spam you receive.
3. One of the more evil ways of hacking a site is to actually hijack it - forever stealing your domain and replacing the content with their own. Masking the email you used to register the domain prevents hackers from using that email to transfer your site away from you. For example, a good friend who teaches dance had her lovely website forever replaced by this, and had to change to a .net version of her URL:
Worse, another friend had her site stolen and transformed into something a little racier that I will Not share a screenshot from!
4. I’ve gotten a number of letters and emails over the years from companies claiming that my domain is about to expire and I need to renew NOW! Catch is, they’re actually trying to get me to switch to another domain registrar, and my domain is nowhere near its renewal date. In the same vein, I’ve seen a number of doulas on various Facebook forums asking whether or not the phone call they received from Google regarding paid ways to improve their ranking was legit. Short answer? These calls are a scam. Google will Never call you directly to ask you to pay money to improve your rankings.
5. Last but not least... Your home address is now harder for strangers or clients to find, an important personal safety consideration.
Alternatives to Domain Privacy
1. Install a good spam filter on your email.
2. Ensure that you have quality security plugins installed on your site.
3. Maintain a strong eye for spam and scams. Read any emails or letters you receive regarding domain with great care, no matter how official they may appear to be. Contact your host or domain registrar directly by phone or live chat to ask them if the information you received is accurate and requires action.
You now know more than you ever knew you needed to know about domain privacy for your birth or postpartum services website. Thankfully this is something you’ll only need to read & understand one time. Once you’ve made your decision, you can happily move forward with building your new website, either knowing that your privacy is at least somewhat more protected in this far too unethical world of ours, or having put your own spam protection measures in place and developing a keen eye for scams. To be honest, I’ve never had domain privacy for myself before. In the course of researching and writing this post, however, I've decided to go for it! Is domain privacy an essential investment for your business? Absolutely not. For those of you with concerns about online privacy, however, it could be well worth the investment.
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