In this article I want to warn you about the risks of losing control of your domain. When setting up a business online one of the first things you will do is register a domain name. The domain registrar allows you to register for a period of time to suit you. Whether you decide to register for just one year or two years or more, at some time that domain will become due for renewal. If you fail to renew your domain for any reason the impact on your business could be huge.
There are many horror stories online about people who lost control of their domain name. In some cases their web developer registered the domain on their behalf and they have now disappeared or there has been some falling out. This is the reason I always urge my clients to register their own domain name!
Read on to discover how this could happen and what you can do to try and prevent it from happening.
What happens when a domain is about to expire?
When your domain is about to expire your domain registrar will start to send you reminders. These reminders usually start 1-2 months before the expiry date and with most registrars they will send you multiple reminders before the expiry date is reached. It’s in their interest to keep you as a customer so they want you to renew, even if the domain only costs £10.00 a year to register.
These reminders will usually be in the form of an email. It’s wise therefore to check that the email they have for you on record is still current. It’s also important to make sure the inbox for that email isn’t full. You should also check spam folders from time to time as genuine emails can sometimes be incorrectly marked as spam.
In the event you fail to renew the domain name before the expiry date, all is not lost. Registrars will normally have a grace period where you can still renew at the normal rates before anyone else is allowed to buy the expired domain. This period is typically 30 days but can vary. When the grace period ends the domain goes back onto the market and can registered by anyone.
Why would anyone register my domain?
You might think that your domain name is too specific or niche to you for anyone else to want to register it. Don’t be fooled though. There are people who will register recently expired domains with no intention of using the domain themselves. Their motives for buying could be one of two reasons:
- They may try and sell it back to you at a hugely inflated price. If they do some minimal research online they may discover that your business is still active. If you have recent reviews or have posted recent updates to Facebook they will assume you didn’t intend to let the domain expire. For them it may be worth registering it for just one year at a cost of £10.00 in the hope of selling it back to you for hundreds or thousands of pounds.
- An expired domain may also be purchased if it has a good domain authority with lots of backlinks. Expired domains can be used to link to or promote another website they look after in the same niche.
When someone registers your expired domain name they will usually put up a very simple holding page. The holding page will often link to irrelevant websites or contain a message saying the domain is for sale.
Losing control of your domain – The impact
If you lose control of your domain name and it wasn’t your intention to do so the consequences could be many and varied. Firstly you may be linking to your domain from your Google business page, your Facebook page, Instagram page or via directories like Yell and Yell etc. Anyone who visits your website and doesn’t see what they expect may assume you are no longer in business. Many of us also have an email address that is linked to our domains, for instance info@, yourname@, sales@ etc. When you lose control of your domain name you will also lose control of any emails associated with it.
Within a few weeks or months of losing control of your domain you will notice a big drop in your Google ranking. Your old website probably had a number of pages and possibly some blog posts too. Many of these pages will no longer exist and Google will quickly notice. When you intentionally remove a page or a post you would normally set a 404 forwarder to let Google know what page to load instead. When you lose control of your domain you no longer have access to set up 404 forwarders. Another reason you will drop in the rankings is a high bounce rate. Normally visitors to your website will visit a few pages, for example the home page, about page and contact page. They will hopefully spend a few minutes visiting your website. When visitors see a holding page that is not relevant they will click the back button immediately. This is what is known as a high bounce rate, simply Google is tracking user behaviour and they have noticed that the website is not offering the searcher what they expected.
Your website domain address may also be on your business cards, as signwriting on a vehicle or as part of an ongoing marketing campaign! As you can see losing control of your domain could lead to all sorts of headaches, for something that only costs £10.00 a year to register.
Tips to prevent it happening
There are a number of things you can do in order to make sure you don’t lose control of your domain by mistake. The following are just a few suggestions:
- When you register a domain the registrar will usually have an option to set the domain to automatically renew. This will happen as long as the payment details listed on your account are current. Credit and debit cards do have expiry dates so remember to keep the linked card up to date.
- Make sure the email address the registrar holds for you is working and that your inbox is not full. You don’t want to miss renewal reminders!
- Check your domain expiry date and set a calendar reminder. There is nothing to stop you from registering your domain for additional years at any time. You don’t have to wait until it’s about to expire.
I hope this article has been helpful. Why not login to your domain registrar today and make sure you action some of the tips above.