It’s a common misconception that purchasing a domain name grants the new owner lifetime ownership of that address. In reality, domain ownership needs periodic renewal, like the tenancy agreement on a rental property. Failing to take the necessary steps to renew can cause significant issues, particularly in terms of search engine optimisation…
Domains are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. Among other duties, they’re responsible for deciding which top level domains, or TLDs, are available. These are the suffixes at the end of a web address – for example, the UK2 website’s TLD is .net. ICANN permits registrar companies like us to register and lease domain names to customers, who effectively buy the rights to an address without acquiring permanent ownership. Registration periods may last for anything between a year and a decade, depending what was agreed during the purchase of each new domain.
If a client chooses not to renew their ownership at the end of this pre-agreed ownership period, the domain name is returned to UK2. At that point we can declare the domain name expired. That’s fine if the client is happy to walk away, but it’s a scenario best avoided if the website is still needed. The search engines immediately write off most of an offline or inactive site’s SEO value, damaging its performance in ranking results. However, external links may still point to that domain, ensuring a degree of residual interest among the web crawlers. A domain that’s been dormant for some time can therefore be relaunched with a slight advantage over a newly-registered domain.
If this sounds like a scenario best avoided, remember that the automatic renewal of domains is a standard feature when purchasing a domain from UK2. This helps to prevent domain name expired scenarios from occurring by accident. Even if this (recommended) option hasn’t been selected from the outset, our customers are informed well in advance about renewals. We invite customers to renew their domain names and continue operating as normal, either by contacting us or through their login portal.
However, not all registrar companies and domain resellers are as proactive as UK2. Some will send a single reminder to their customers using whichever email address was registered at the start, while others simply don’t bother. In these situations, it’s up to the client to remember when their domain name expired. This can be achieved by viewing old correspondence with the reseller, or through a WHOIS lookup. Every website has a WHOIS record, detailing its creation and expiry dates. These can be found on a number of websites – Nominet is the official registry for domain names ending in .UK. A simple search engine trawl will reveal the best place to identify a particular site’s WHOIS lookup, and no login credentials or personal details are required.
If a domain isn’t renewed by the conclusion of the registration period, it technically ceases to belong to the client. However, ICANN has designed a couple of backups into the system, which companies like UK2 are happy to follow. An initial grace period of up to 45 days begins, enabling the previous owner to reclaim their domain without any complications. This is intended to cover unexpected issues like long-term illness or cash flow problems that may have prevented renewal taking place during the agreement period. After this, ICANN insists on a 30-day redemption grace period where the domain can still be retrieved with an additional late penalty fee applied.
When the redemption grace period ends, the domain name is treated as expired. It is then made available on the open market by the reseller. It is still possible for the previous owner to repurchase it, but this is rare since considerable reputational damage will have been done by this point. The hosting company may eventually decide to enter that domain back into the global registry, so anyone can purchase it through any registrar or reseller.