Don’t pull a Rolling Stone!

image courtesy of Flickr user WrestlingentropyWell, that was embarrassing…  Last week, reports surfaced that the good folks at rollingstone.com—yes, the Rolling Stone—forgot to renew their domain name.

So instead of being greeted with this (their website), they were greeted with this, a parked page that their domain registrar, Network Solutions, put up in its place.

To be fair, Rolling Stone quickly blamed the incident on a “glitch,” which might have been some sort of DNS issue, but for the purposes of this blog post, let’s just say they flat-out forgot to renew their domain name.

Why?  Because believe it or not this happens all the time.  Ordinary people like you and me inadvertently let their registration lapse, and sometimes lose their domain name for good as a result.

So don’t pull a Rolling Stone.  Not only is it embarrassing, you could be putting your brand at risk.

A lesson in domain afterlife

Most people aren’t aware of what happens to a domain after it expires.  And it’s a little more complicated than you might think.

Let’s go over the typical stages of expiration (in this order):

1.  Grace period. Depending on your registrar, this could be anywhere from a week to 30 days.  You can renew your domain during the grace period without penalty, but your domain may be routed to a parked page in the meantime, just like the one used for rollingstone.com.

2.  Redemption period. This period can also vary at different registrars, but you’re usually looking at 30-40 days.  During the redemption period, the domain is still retained for you, but there is often a hefty fee to purchase the domain back.

3.  Deletion period. This can take anywhere from a couple of days to a week.  During the deletion phase, your domain cannot be renewed until it’s completely released to the public, at which point you will have to compete with anyone else who might be making an attempt to purchase it (unfortunately there are “bots” out there programmed to snatch up domains as soon as they are released; this for the sole purpose of selling them back to the previous owners for profit).

What you can do to avoid a “Rolling Stone”

Fortunately, these steps are rather simple:

1.  Keep the email address at your registrar up-to-date. A renewal reminder will be sent to the “admin” contact they have listed for you.  If you registered your domain through your web hosting provider, be sure all of your email contacts with them are up-to-date as well.

2.  Know what your expiration date is. If you don’t know when it expires, find out and put it on your calendar.

3.  Renew now. You can renew your domain in advanced for up to 10 years.  If you can swing the cost, you won’t need to worry about your domain for a decade.

4.  Check your website regularly. You might be thinking… With a grace period AND a redemption period, how would anyone not realize their domain expired?  Well, when was the last time you pulled up your domain on a web browser?  If you don’t remember, make it a habit.  Not only will you avoid losing your domain, you’ll catch any other issues your website might be experiencing.

So what do you think of the existing practice of handling expired domains?  Fair, unfair?  Let us know in the comments below.

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