Your domain is an essential part of your branding, but it’s also something that you can’t actually own. This is something a lot of first-time website owners don’t realize; they assume that it’s a one-time purchase. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and all you can really do is lease a domain in one-year periods. That means that the domain can expire, and someone else can lease it.
If someone else grabs your domain after you let it expire, it can be difficult and costly to get it back, if you can get it back at all. Essentially, you have to negotiate with the new owner to try to get it back. Generally speaking, people buy up expiring domains for one of two reasons:
- They want the domain for themselves, and have been waiting for it to become available
- They recognize that the domain was probably allowed to expire in error, and see it as an opportunity to sell the domain back at a substantial profit
In either case, the new owner of the domain isn’t likely to let it go cheaply, so where you could have renewed your domain for $15.00 or so, you can now expect to shell out hundreds of dollars to retrieve the domain. To make matters worse, it can take quite a bit of time to negotiate with the new owner, finalize the purchase, transfer the domain, and direct it back to your server. That means that your website can be inoperable for several weeks or longer.
Obviously, these are all major issues that you want to avoid at all costs. Luckily, you have a number of options available to you to ensure that this doesn’t become a problem.
Register for Multiple Years and Renew Early
The first and best thing that you can do to protect your domain is to register them for multiple years at a time, and renew them long before they are due to expire. This will ensure that you don’t lose your domain, and give you ample time to address any billing issues that might happen to come up.
Use Automatic Renewal to Protect Your Domain
Most domain registrars give you the option to turn on automatic renewal, which renews your domain every time it’s due to expire and charges your credit card on file. Generally speaking, the auto-renew feature is turned on by default because it benefits both you and the registrar. I’ve worked with a lot of different domain registrars over the years, managing thousands of domains, and I’ve yet to find a registrar that didn’t offer this service. If you’re not sure whether your registrar offers auto-renew, contact their help desk.
Auto-renewal is a fantastic back-up feature, but you shouldn’t count on it as your primary defense. Keep it as a backup only, and manually renew your domain early, and for multiple years.
Keep Your Billing and Contact Information Current
Finally, you want to ensure that your billing and contact information on file for the domain is current and accurate. ICANN will email you about this once a year – don’t ignore it. Use that as an opportunity to verify that everything on file is up-to-date, that way your registrar can reach you if necessary. Ensuring your billing information is current is also necessary for auto-renew to work.
Prior to your domain expiring, your registrar will attempt to contact you to remind you that the domain is set to expire soon. While there’s no hard and fast rule about how many times the registrar will contact you, it’s usually at least a half-dozen times before the domain actually expires and takes your site offline. This gives you ample advance warning that you need to renew.
The problem is that, if your contact information is inaccurate, then you’ll never receive the notices.