A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a warning about the latest domain name scams that are sent through the mail. Those types of scams are trying to trick you into spending unnecessary money with them, but they are not stealing your domain name from you.
With so many domain name scams around, it's difficult to recognize when you get a legitimate domain name renewal notice. Those notices are easy to overlook or dismiss as just another scam.
Domains and Google's Ranking Algo
Back in March 2005, Google filed a patent called "Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data" which you can read more about here and here. In a nutshell, that patent led to a lot of speculation about how Google uses domain name ownership and registration periods in ranking. It accounts for the history of the domain and its previous update and content history.
Here's an important excerpt from the patent application:
Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. … Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain and, thus, the documents associated therewith.
Basically, that says you should always register your domain name for the longest possible period, which right now is 10 years.
Google has never given confirmation that they are indeed using the domain registration period as part of the ranking algorithm. Even still, there's certainly no harm in registering your domain name for as many years as you can afford.
But what happens when you overlook that domain name renewal? Unfortunately it happens from time to time. It's your responsibility to pay for the registration of your domain name and renew it before the registration period expires. Because of all the scams, my own company manages and monitors the domain name renewals for our jewelry clients. We cut through the domain scam rhetoric a lot faster.
Unless someone is watching out for you, it is easy to miss your domain renewal notice. Every domain name registration company has slightly different policies with domain renewals. GoDaddy, Register.com, Network Solutions, and all the rest can set their own policies with what happens the day after your domain expires.
Here's a detail of some of my experiences...
Symptoms of Non-Renewal
If you don't renew your domain name on time, you are usually given a 2 week grace period where the registrar will cause intermittent website interruptions. This usually manifests itself as a website that is reachable one minute but unreachable the next.
Instead of interrupting your website service, some registrars will deactivate the email functionality of your domain name in order to get your attention. This might translate into bounced emails or emails that never send or arrive.
If your domain name has a top level extension of .com, .net, .org, or .biz, you are usually afforded a 14 day grace period after the renewal date before they completely shut off your domain. During those 14 days, you will experience the interruptions I've explained above.
Most of the domains with 2 letter extensions, like .us, .mx, .me, .ly, .it, have no grace period. You will lose them the day they expire. Don't wait until that last minute because they will be completely gone.
Dangers of Non-Renewal
After the 14 days grace period, your domain is deactivated and drops into a redemption period. During this redemption period, you can still renew your domain name, but at a hefty fee. You have to call your registrar and ask them for help with this procedure.
Technically, the redemption period begins the day after your domain expires. Some registrars allow you to continue to use it for the first 14 days of that redemption period. In my past experience, I know that the total redemption period lasts 30 days. After that the domain is for sale to anyone.
Many companies will pre-purchase those domain names that are close to expiration or in redemption. They then take ownership of the domain name the day after the redemption period ends.
There's no way to recover a domain name if you let it slip. That's it. You've lost it.
Domain names with live website have organic traffic and previously built links. Purchasing a domain name means you are also purchasing all that organic search and link traffic. It will take Google quite a while to notice the change in domain name ownership and reset the search results. Until then, the new domain name owner will capture all that organic search traffic and link traffic that once went to your website.
There are a number of sleazy business models built around this expired domain purchasing strategy.
Here are a few I can think of:
- Hard core porn sites. Diamonds might be a girl's best friend, but your diamond buyers certainly won't be expecting to see those types of girls on the home page of your jewelrystore.com domain name. I can't think of anything more embarrassing than this, yet through the years I have seen it happen to more than one jeweler.
- Link building schemes. Some companies specialize in making internet life a living hell for website owners. These people will gobble up freshly available domain names to add to their link building scheme. Unsuspecting website owners who buy into these schemes find themselves heavily penalized by the Google Penguin filter and have to go through this crazy link removal process.
- Your competitor. Yep, that's right. If your competitor has a smart marketing agency, they could monitor your domain name and buy it right out from under you. However, this strategy has some legal ramifications if they point your lost domain name to their own website. Usually your competitor will just point your lost domain to an under construction notice. This removes you from organic results and still helps them without capturing your links or ranking.
It's best to renew your domain name for 5 or more years at a time. You will always receive bogus renewal requests for other scam services before the expiration of your domain name. Those requests will arrive via regular mail and email. Keep in mind that ONLY ONE of them will be valid, and you must eventually renew your domain name otherwise you will lose it.