Why it is best not to let your domain expire

When does a domain name expire? 

Your domain will expire if you do not pay the annual registration fees for it to the registrar within the stipulated period.  

After a period of quarantine (or redemption), the domain name is released. Anyone who so wishes can then register your domain name. In our article on domain drop catching, you can read about how drop catchers register domain names that become available right away and then sell them to the highest bidder.

Good reasons not to renew your domain name ... 

You may obviously have a good reason not to renew your domain name: the name of your company has changed, you have embarked on other activities, the campaign for which you registered your domain name is over, etc. 

Good reasons, aren’t they? It would be crazy to continue paying fees in order to keep that old domain name.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Wrong! 

If you do not renew your domain name, anyone can register it – including hackers and pranksters. And that can have serious consequences. 

The havoc others can wreak when they register your expired domain name is really incalculable. A competitor can hijack your customers or blackmail you on your domain.

Some recent examples:  

  • Ethical hacker Inti De Ceukelaire bought the nac2012.com domain name in 2017. It was mentioned in a tweet from 2012 in which Donald Trump announced that he would speak at the National Achievers Congress. The hacker uploaded an anti-Trump YouTube clip on the nac2012 website. Result: Trump’s original tweet now refers to the clip, not to the congress.  

  • In the Netherlands, ethical hacker Wouter Slotboom managed to intercept e-mails intended for police officers for a year and a half – not by using super smart hacking methods, but by simply registering the old domain names previously used by the police.  

Best practices for an expired domain name  

You might conclude that the cost of maintaining a domain name which is no longer used is minimal compared with the potential damage you risk suffering by not renewing your domain name.  

But does this mean that you should keep all domain names you no longer need for ever and ever? Of course not. Follow these tips:  

For your website 

  1. Place an automatic re-direct on your old domain name to refer visitors to your new domain and website.  
  2. Monitor traffic on the old domain to see how many people are still going to your old website.  
  3. Go through the referrals to see how they wound up at your old website. Your old domain name may still be listed with third parties, e.g. on websites with opening hours, tips or review of your products, etc. Write to those websites and ask them to upgrade your domain name.  
  4. Check internally also in your own back office (online and offline) whether all references to your old domain name have been replaced by the correct address, e.g. your letterhead, standard forms, etc.  
  5. As soon as you notice that traffic to your old domain name is drying up, you can consider not renewing that domain name any longer. This might take several years.  
  6. Bear in mind:  the registration fee for a domain name is usually only a few dozen euros per year.  The cost for that extra renewal  is slight compared to the damage you could suffer.  

Don’t forget your e-mail addresses  

It is important to apprise your contacts of your new domain name and corresponding e-mail addresses.  

The old domain name can keep cropping up especially with e-mail addresses. When a correspondent wants to write you an e-mail and he starts typing your name in the ‘To’ box, his e-mail programme will complete the address automatically with the known – but outdated – details.  

This problem can be solved only if your correspondent removes that outdated e-mail address manually. So follow these steps:  

  1. Create an automatic reply for e-mails sent to the old address. Indicate precisely to your correspondent that the e-mail address is no longer in use. Ask him not only to send the e-mail to the new e-mail address, but also to remove the old address in his e-mail programme and webmail.  
  2. You can also create an automatic re-direct for your e-mails. They are then forwarded automatically to your new address, and you won’t miss a single e-mail!  Depending on your e-mail address, ask your e-mail provider to do this, or you can do it yourself in the settings of your webmail (with Gmail, for instance).  
  3. Mention the new e-mail address as much as possible in all communication. For example, create a signature with your new address in your e-mail programme.  
  4. Check regularly whether e-mails are still arriving at the old address.  It is worth keeping your domain name as they do.