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Don't Let Those Domains Expire

Friday, February 14, 2003

In the land grab days of the Web, many people bought up the first domain that sounded good to them. In many cases, they were unsure how they would even use that domain. Later, as their online endeavors gained focus, they found a better domain. Recently, many customers have questioned us as to why they should continue to pay for both domains. Why not just let that old, ugly one expire? Well, we'll tell you.

First, many friends, family and customers know that old domain. They use that domain even though you've told them otherwise. They added that domain to their address books where it will remain for a seemingly interminable amount of time. In fact, if you look closely at the "to" field of the messages you receive, you'll no doubt see just how many people still send e-mail to you via your old domain.

The second reason is Web site traffic. A quick look at your Web site statistics (check out "referring sites" under "referrals reports") will show you just how many people still reach your Web site by that dreadful old domain name. But where does all that traffic come from? You've long since taken it out of all your brochures and print ads. Where are all these people finding that old domain name?

The most obvious reason is that people have linked to your site over time. Perhaps another Web site owner was trading reciprocal links with you. Perhaps a customer recommended your site in a forum somewhere. Regardless, the search engines found these links and, now, they too direct traffic to your site using the old domain name.

In many cases, search engines that no longer accept free submissions still link to old domains. The cost of submitting the new domain to the search engines would greatly outweigh the cost of simply renewing the registration of the old domain. In other words, people now-a-days pay to be where you're at: don't just casually toss it away.

So, what can you do if you absolutely have to be rid of the old domain for whatever reason? You will need to expend some effort (and possibly money) to ensure that doing so won't adversely affect your customers or put you out of contact with friends and family.

First, start by watching the "To" field in the messages you receive. If you receive a message from a legitimate source (a.k.a. not spam) that is addressed to an account at your old domain, take the time to reply to that person and ask them to update their address book.

Here's a tip. Many mail clients will allow you to set up "inbox rules." Inbox rules check all incoming mail for certain criteria and forward matching messages to predetermined locations. You can set up a rule to copy all incoming mail sent to the old domain to a folder. This will help draw your attention to these messages.

The second step you'll need to take is to have your site resubmitted to the search engines. If you are on a budget, you may only be able to have the free ones done. If you can afford the third-party fees, then have your site resubmitted to all the major search engines. Make sure that whoever does the submission knows to use the new domain, not the old.

Third, find out which Web sites link to your site using the old domain name. This is easier than it sounds. The Google Advanced Search will allow you to search for links. Simply type the old domain name (you may need to prepend "www.") in the field labeled "links" and click the "Search" button.

Now comes the hard part. You'll have to go through each one of those results and contact the ower of every one of those Web sites, asking them to update their Web site to reflect the new domain. Keep in mind that you are asking them for a favor. A curt or rude request may get your link completely dropped.

We recommend creating a list of sites which link to your site using the old domain name. For each site, create a list of pages which contain such links. When you contact the Web site owners, provide them with the list of pages and provide alternate links. The less work they have to go through, the more likely they will be to cooperate and the less chance for mistake.

Be forewarned, it can be costly to change your mind. Expired domain names now go through a redemption period. If you let the old domain name expire only to find that you've made a very bad mistake, it will cost you hundreds of dollars to reclaim that domain name during the redemption period.

The Internet has a memory which fades slowly over time. Consequently, the costs of letting a domain name expire are generally much greater than the cost of domain name registration fees for the next decade. Furthermore, the time involved can be monumental, and the process, tedious. Keep these things in mind when making your decision.


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