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Domain name renewals – a lesson.

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Monday July 17, 2006 )

A rather costly mistake on my part has spurred me on to write this article in the hope it may save others some serious cash and headaches.

If you own multiple domain names, it can be a bit of a challenge keeping track of when their registration renewals are due. Most registrars provide multiple notifications well in advance which is great; but I had this habit of getting the 60 day reminder and thinking “I have plenty of time to renew.

Then the 30 day reminder would arrive – and I’d think the same.

Then the 15 day reminder and I’d start getting a little more motivated: “I must renew that domain soon”.

The 5 day reminder: “I’ll do that Wednesday”

A final reminder: “I’ll do it now”

Being a somewhat organized person, I even had reminders set up in Outlook to flag me about renewals being due – but the reminder would pop up and I’d click the “later” button while muttering “yeh, yeh, I know!” After all, I’m a really smart guy and I knew I wouldn’t forget.

In one case, all these reminders just didn’t work – when I got to the “do it now” phase, the pixies on my keyboard immediately distracted me with some very witty jokes and gymnastics, followed by an engaging 2 hour conversation on global warming. I totally forgot about the renewal – I really hate those pixies, but damn, they are just so cute :).

It was a domain name that was attached to a site I wasn’t doing much with; but it was a good name and I did have intentions of developing the site at a later date. I didn’t notice the site being unavailable when the registration did finally expire, nor when the grace period also expired.

When I finally realized that there was a problem, I called the domain registrar about regaining control of the name. The good news was I could get the name back, but it was going to cost me around $200 to do so.

The grace period is a timeframe when an expired domain can be renewed usually at the standard renewal rate, although some registrars choose to add a service charge. After the grace period, a .com domain name status will change to “pending delete” (or similar terminology) for a period; and that’s when it *really* gets expensive and messy to regain control of a name.

Eeek! While this $200 fee was exorbitant, I really wasn’t in a position to argue – after all, the registrar had more than fulfilled their obligations by sending me multiple notifications.

There was an alternative – to wait for the domain name to “drop”; i.e. to be deleted from the registrar’s database altogether after the “pending delete” period was over. But I knew full well that the domainers would pounce on it the minute it did – it had PageRank, traffic, some decent directory listings and somewhat limited search engine presence.

Domainers, enterprising souls who acquire domain names for trading or monetization through the implementation of PPC ad landing pages, are masters at scooping up dropped domains – I had little chance of grabbing it again if I waited.

Also, given that the domain name was now showing a parked page with PPC listings on it (with the proceeds going to the registrar); I knew what search engine rankings it did have were probably going to be toast very soon anyway.

So, the moral of the story – renew your domain names when you get the first notification and make sure the admin contact email address recorded on your domain record is active and checked regularly. Oh, and ignore the pixies that live on your keyboard – I’m assuming everyone has these, or perhaps it’s just a feature on Dell notebooks :)

… just a side note …

When you receive renewal notices, check that the notification is from *your* registrar. Thousands of people are still caught out every year through unethical domain registrars who email/mail/fax what appear to be registration renewals, but they are in fact transfer notices. You pay their fees (usually much higher than what your registrar charges) and then your domain is transferred to their services. This is particularly a problem where the domain registrant and the person in charge of accounts payable are different people.


Guide to selecting domain names


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