A hilarious news story recently made the rounds that talks about how Donald Trump (and/or his supporters) purchased the domain jebbush.com and set it to redirect to Trump's website (click here to see it in action). This prank made national headlines and a mockery of Jeb Bush's online presence for his presidential campaign. Politics and fun aside, this serves as a reminder about how important it is to keep track of your business or personal website's domain expiry dates.
Purchasing Domain Names
If your business doesn't have an online presence, it's as if it doesn't exist. It's usually one of the first steps new businesses take when launching, and established businesses often do updates and redesigns to stay current. Now imagine the domain around which your website is built expires and someone else scoops it up....what would you do? This absentmindedness would cause a mountain of trouble for your business, and it could be extremely difficult (not to mention expensive) to get it back!
Most domains are purchased on a minimum one year contract but in all the chaos and excitement of the first year of business, it's easy to see how the renewal date could creep up on you. Often times domains will be purchased for one year to start since there are so many uncertainties in the first year of business : it could fail, be renamed, get acquired, etc. It's also less expensive to purchase a one year domain contract and since many new businesses are built on a shoestring budget, this might be the best option at the time.
A quick note that you will often get a discount on your domain name purchase / renewal if you opt for a longer contract term! If your business isn't going anywhere, save yourself the trouble and a few extra bucks!
Renewing Domain Names
We've established that you own a domain for a set period of time but what happens when the renewal date approaches? First of all, it's important to remember that domain registrars and web hosting providers (such as GoDaddy, BlueHost, etc.) want your business and take many steps to remind you of your expiry date. It's in their best interest that you renew your domain name & hosting for another contract period so they make it pretty easy to do so. Odds are your plan will be set to auto-renew (meaning you'll be charged another year or so directly to the credit card kept on file) and you will receive several email reminders of this in the weeks & months approaching the deadline.
On the off chance that you need to manually renew your domain name, your account will keep the rights for the domain for a few days after the expiry. This grace period could be with or without penalty, depending on the domain extensions and your contract. In some cases, there is no grace period - once the domain expires, you will need to pay a redemption fee plus renewal costs to keep the domain. Personally I use GoDaddy for my various domain name registrations, all set to auto-renewal, and you can reference this page for info on their renewal policy.
In summary: Double check your account settings to see if your domain name is set to auto-renew or not. If you know ahead of time that you will want to keep the domain longer than the contract period, you can go in and set the auto-renew option right now and save yourself the headache in the future! You'll still get reminder emails from your domain registrar provider when the renewal date approaches but no action on your part will be required if they have your credit card on file.
Setting a Calendar Reminder
This is an old school method but it works! If you are a small business, it could be something as simple as a reminder event or appointment in your Google/Outlook calendar (shared with relevant employees) along with the account information and any notes on the current plan. Set it, forget it, then come back to it when you need to, especially if you purchased the domain name at the launch of your business. You could also set up an email reminder to be sent out in the future - this will have the same result.
It's also a good idea to make sure that account ownership is shared by at least two people in your small business. This way, if a person leaves, you won't be left hanging when the renewal date comes up. It's also wise to set the email associated with the account to something that will still be relevant even if there is turnover in your business (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org instead of email@example.com).
Dos and Don'ts of Setting Domain Name Renewals
- Do purchase domain names on longer contracts
- Do set up reminder emails / calendar events (and include any relevant info)
- Do share account information with at least two people in your business
- Do opt for auto-renewal options
- Don't ignore emails from your domain name registrar or web hosting provider
- Don't select manual renewal option if you think you might forget to act on it
- Don't delay your domain name renewal if you have been approached about the domain (it shows that your domain has value!)
- Don't forget to update your account information (e.g., email address updates, contact information changes, etc.)
Have you ever had a domain name renewal period creep up on you? Did you have any trouble renewing it or did you find that it was very straightforward? Do you use calendar or email reminders to stay on top of important dates? Leave us a note in the comments!