Why Keeping That Old Domain is Important

Companies and individuals abandon domain names for a variety of reasons. For the record, there are not a whole lot of *good* reasons to switch your main domain — it’s generally a Bad™ idea, but we can get into that in another post.

Let’s say, arguendo, that you have already decided to change your primary domain. What do you plan to do with your old, no longer going to be used, domain?

Ideally, you should 301 redirect the old domain to the new domain. If you’re completely rebuilding your site from scratch and all of the old URLs are going to change, it’s still a good idea to 301 the old domain to the new domain. It’s an even better idea to 301 all of the old URLs to new, equivalent pages on your new site.

This advice assumes that you have:

  1. Had your site long enough for it to have accumulated some decent inbound links. If your current site has absolutely no backlinks then we can talk about the pros and cons of 301’ing; however, in most circumstances, you want to 301 the old URLs to their new equivalents.
  2. Not done anything stupid with your site, like gotten it banned from the engines or blacklisted in some way. If the domain is completely burned, then ditching it and running far far away is probably your only course of action. To people that fall into this category, I’m not talking about you, so feel free to move along.
Hoard domains, not kittens.

Hoard your old domains like cute kittens. On second thought, don't actually hoard kittens. It's mean and you'll end up on a TLC reality show.

Operating under the assumption that you’ve had your site for a fair bit and it’s got some backlinks and you’re not a dirty spammer/evil-doer…

Do NOT just let the domain expire and definitely do not release it before the end of its registration. Even if you’re not going to use it for just a 301…. even if you’re not going to use it AT ALL… your best bet (in almost all cases) is to keep it.

I know it will cost you $8 a year to maintain a domain you’re not using, and yes, I do know we’re in a recession. The facts are that some very bad things can happen if you release a used domain into the wild.

Bad™ Things That Can Happen

A competitor might get it. If your old domain was keywords only, and there’s nothing trademarked or trademarkable about it, there is absolutely nothing preventing a competitor from snatching up that domain and using it as their own, or 301ing it to THEIR site to take advantage of all of the inbound links you just flushed down the toilet.

If your old domain contained trademarks, you might be able to get it back, but the cost of filing a UDRP is upwards of $10,000 DOLLARS. It’s only 800 pennies a year to hang onto the domain and prevent the whole mess in the first place.

Besides, you’d have to notice someone is doing something they shouldn’t in the first place. If don’t care enough to renew the domain so you can sit on it, you probably won’t bother checking to make sure it isn’t being used by someone else, either.

Someone who doesn’t like your business might start using it. Recently, I discovered that a local chapter of a national not-for-profit organization was being impersonated online and that the fake site was being used as “proof” of the damaging claims the impostor was making on social networks and forums. Most people aren’t savvy enough to go check a domain registration to confirm the legitimacy of a site, so with the right illegally used logos and a cheap shared hosting account, this guy was able to set up a site that looked and read like the “real” site and even had backlinks to it from real government sites and other civic organizations.

The worst part about this story is that a couple years ago, someone else at the real organization had also noticed the fake site and spent the (large sum of) money to file a UDRP — and WON — but then no one kept tabs on the domain and it was allowed to expire again and the same guy went and re-registered it and put everything back the way he had it before.

Want to know the worst part of the story? (Yes, there actually is something even worse…) The domain they gave up (twice) had their full name in it. The new domain is all initials. 8 letters strung together that make no sense to anyone except to the people at the non-profit. All that hassle, and they would have been far better off keeping the original domain in the first place. :(

Someone who has no clue who you are, but is much better at marketing than you are might pick it up. Again, especially if your old domain had no trademarks in it, there is nothing stopping someone else from grabbing that domain and using it (and taking advantage of any accumulated backlinks you had).

The Moral of the Domain Story

Once the domain is registered by someone else, it is highly unlikely you’re going to get it back without giving up a sizable chunk of change — either to the new owner, or to a lawyer. It is much easier to just pay the 8 bucks a year.

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Why Keeping That Old Domain is Important

10 Responses

  1. Shhhh. You are supposed to let everyone leave their old domains to lapse so I can collect their domains link juice and pass it on to MY projects!

    Nice post, Its about time we heard the voice of The Cshel again.

    Alex Bruner October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am #
  2. Nice to see you in the Searchengineland daily links :)

    Patrick Sexton October 13, 2010 at 7:46 pm #
  3. I like cute kittens and aged domains!

    Chris Campbell October 13, 2010 at 8:11 pm #
  4. This is just how the business goes. Domain grabbing might be mean, but hey, if you throw gold away and I’m around to to pick it up… why not?

    But rebuilding a non-profit organisation is a bad thing, I agree.

    Mark Weihnachten October 14, 2010 at 3:19 am #
  5. Nice post, I should definitly hoart some Kitties….ehhhh….Domains.

    Alex October 14, 2010 at 4:18 am #
  6. Remembering obscure domain names years after they’ve been redirected happens too. Sometimes I still type iflyswa.com instead of southwest.com. Another case for redirects instead of abandoning the site..even if you magically have all of your inlinks pointing to the new site, you have people with bookmarks and people that remember old URLs but not their mother’s birthday going to your old domain.

    Keri Morgret October 14, 2010 at 4:51 pm #
  7. People need to start seeing domains as an asset. You can put more things in it and make it valuable or you can keep them and do something, like support your other primary sites with links.

    Yu Yu Din October 15, 2010 at 5:44 am #
  8. Domains are valuable – your input is priceless

    We like the ideas you share, please blog more :)

    Ben R April 27, 2011 at 8:41 am #
  9. In testing, I have found that aged domains get indexed more quickly and begin increasing in rank more quickly than a brand new domain, but did not determine the ultimate rank of the site.

    Alex June 27, 2011 at 3:13 am #
  10. You’re right, domains i’ve let down have been bought to park (ads and trying to sell) or bought by someone that wants to enjoy links to that old domain, so I guess it’s a good idea to keep it.

    Pierre Aribaut April 16, 2017 at 10:54 am #

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