Don’t delete your domains…

….until you really understand the impact of losing them.

This isn’t a public service announcement by the domain name industry who want to ensure that every domain is renewed for eternity. Whilst that would be especially pleasing for the registry operators and the registrars who sell the domains, it is never going to happen.

Everyone who holds a portfolio of domain names should periodically carry out an audit on them to see if they are returning any value. Whether you own a portfolio of a couple or tens of thousands, you need to ensure that they all still hold value for you.

“We don’t have enough domain names” is not something you will ever hear a portfolio manager within an organisation say. Every year the same pressure to reduce the cost of their portfolio will be had with their registrar, who of course wants to see them spend more. So, in one corner there is a party motivated to increase the protection of their intellectual property but at a lower cost, whilst in the other corner there is a party who also want to increase the protection of their intellectual property but by buying more domain names and associated services. There is never a win-win but a stalemate could be reducing the number of domain names that generate value for a firm with new services that do.

Value can be measured in a number of ways – it isn’t all about the money. Some domain names are held defensively by organisations, for instance, either because they have previously been used in an infringing manner, or they simply don’t want someone else to register them. Others will be held relating to old marketing campaigns, brands or slogans which still generate some traffic. And naturally, some will be held because of the resale value they have.

But there is a danger when reviewing portfolios that names could be marked for deletion that have a risk to an organisation or an individual if they fall into the wrong hands. There are plenty of stories about domain names that have been deleted because they appear worthless but end up being sold on for significant sums but these aren’t normally the domains that are of concern. It’s the ones that have some other, often hidden, intrinsic value that we should be concerned about.

Most domain names have a history. Normally, that history is good. Like a car, they may go through a number of careful owners, being let to lapse before being recycled through the domain name life cycle and out again onto the open market to be registered. If a domain name is used for a nefarious purpose it is quite hard to find that out when it is repurchased and new registrant may have to deal with the sins of its previous owners. But while they are being held in a portfolio, they can acquire attributes that make them more valuable than a cursory glance may seem.

Therefore it is prudent that as part of any regular review of your domain names, and especially before you delete or decide not to renew any, that you follow these steps to determine whether you are about to give away any valuable IP or put your brand at risk.

  1. Where does your domain name resolve to?
  2. Where does your domain name rank in natural search?
  3. Is there any AdWord campaigns still using the domain name or keywords?
  4. Who owns other domains that use the same keywords?
  5. What incoming links are there to any websites that the domain name resolves to?
  6. Does the domain name have any monetary value?
  7. Are there any trademarks that align to the domain name?
  8. How would you feel is your biggest competitor acquired the domain name and started actively using it?
  9. How has the domain name been used previously both internally and externally?
  10. Is the domain name on any black list?

For most organisations the marginal cost of holding a domain name is negligible yet the potential return or on the flip side, damage, is significant. Over the next few posts we will go into detail about why you should follow the ten point plan for every domain name that you are thinking of deleting just so you know that you are not harming any revenue or reputation that they underpin.

Whilst there is no foolproof way to ensure that domain names with value are not cancelled, following a process that ensures you have done your due diligence before you press Delete will almost certainly mitigate the risk.

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