The last thing you have to worry about when running a web site is getting your domain name pulled from right under your feet, often times without you even knowing. Domain names are your address on the internet, your location in cyberspace, linked to, and published in dozens of search engines, directories and web sites around the globe for visitors, friends, colleagues and customers to find you.
It's easy to forget to pay a couple of your bills from time to time - heck we have all done it, but the good thing about the civilized world we live in, is that we get reminded time and again through 2nd, 3rd and final notices that a bill needs our immediate attention, otherwise a certain service will be discontinued, giving us ample time to pay our bills and continue a service should we want to receive it.
You would imagine the same common courtesy from domain name registrars, who basically hold every web site owner's livelihood in the palm of their hands, but unfortunately some registrars apparently can't wait to get rid of you long enough to transfer your now popular domain name to a higher bidder.
Three years ago we helped my uncle purchase a domain name for his speedboat business, designed him a web site, placed him on search engines, and drove tons of traffic to the site through search engine marketing and dozens of link exchanges with major boat manufacturers around the globe. Last year, my uncle went on a conference to Atlanta, GA to present his products to an investment group. He called minutes before his presentation to let us know that his web site had been transferred into a pornography site overnight and that his pitch was going to fall on def ears without the site in place!
We quickly punched up the site and sure enough his speedboat site had been transformed into a less than tasteful display of human flesh in not so family-friendly positions. We were all irate and embarrassed about this situation, so we called our hosting company, then the domain name registrar, and sure enough, they had dropped the ball. They informed us that they are not in the habit of sending email notices to their clients, and that it is everyone's responsibility to check the expiration date of their domain names "at least a few times a year".
We quickly bought a similar domain name to salvage the business, but this incident raised another question - how did this porn web site quickly gobble up our domain name when for the life in me, I can not find the slightest connection between their newly erected site (pardon the use of words) and our domain name, which clearly sounded like a speedboat or a boating component.
Our guess is that someone affiliated with the domain name registrar knew of the high rank of our site (and probably hundreds of others just like it), knew the importance of the domain name, and purposely jumped on the opportunity to turn our mistake into a costly profit. About two months later, we received an email from the registrar that the owner of the porn site would like to offer us our old domain name back for "only" $5000.00!
We never recovered from this domain name fiasco, as countless boat related businesses removed our links from their sites, search engines dropped us from our high ranks, and hundreds of customers assumed that our business was a sham. My uncle's lawyers quickly jumped on this case, but unfortunately by the time a couple of threatening letters were exchanged, the domain name registrar disappeared and closed its doors, perhaps to open up again under a different name in another part of the world.
My advice is to buy your domain names from companies that are legitimate, and have been in business long enough to understand customer service. Check your domain name expiration dates every 6 months, or better yet sign up for automatic renewal, a service offered by most major domain name registrars such as Register.com, NetworkSolutions.com and VeriSign.com ensuring that your name will remain yours, even if you should forget to pay their annual bill. Also, if you ever cancel, close or change a credit card that may be on file with one of these registrars, make sure to update your information with them as quickly as possible.
Creative Director & Partner
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Irvine, CA 92619