Pros and Cons of Pre-Owned Domain Names
I don't know about you, but sometimes it seems like all of the best domain names have already been taken. On more than one occasion, I've come up with a great domain name for a site, only to find that someone else had already purchased it. I can live with that, but sometimes I've found that it has been purchased by some scum domain scavenger, and that's really annoying.
A domain scavenger is someone who purchases a whole bunch of domain names under the theory that people will want to purchase some of them during the year or two that they own them. These people are bottom feeders, as they hold many useful domains, demand huge prices, and do not provide any real value. It's not uncommon to find that a domain name is not available, to check the WHOIS information and find it is owned by "this domain is for sale". In fact, some of these scum have been known to purchase thousands of domain names made of up the first and last names from a phone book, in the hopes that at least some of the people will want their names as a dot com.
Anyway, domains are only purchased for a specific time period, and they do come up for renewal regularly. Quite often they are not renewed, and at that time the domain names may be purchased by others. Even the so-called "good names" are occasionally not renewed.
Sometimes domain names do not get renewed because the business that owned them is no longer operational. Sometimes the business still exists but has found it no longer wants or needs a domain name. Quite often the bottom feeders will allow their unpurchased domain names to expire because they don't have the funds to purchase them again or they feel the domains are no longer marketable or profitable.
Occasionally, the domain name holder has died or lost interest in their business or the internet. Once in a while a domain is allowed to expire because it has attracted some maliciousness and it cannot be maintained, and most often of all, the domain name holder simply does not realize that it needs to be renewed. In this last instance, the domain name is unintentionally expired and someone can purchase it before the owner realizes it.
In any event, regardless of why a domain name expires, you can often find yourself in a position to purchase one that has been previously owned. Note that in addition to expired domains, you can also purchase domain names on the after-market (by making bids) or from the domain name resellers (the bottom feeders mentioned above).
Some Advantages Of Using Pre-Owned Names
The name was part of a link exchange - Webmasters work hard to get their sites involved in link exchanges. This means the domain names are listed on other sites, and this is useful for getting traffic. If you take over a domain name, you can inherit these incoming links and the resulting traffic.
It was listed in Yahoo, DMOZ and/or Looksmart - A small industry has sprung up recently, which consists simply of selling tools and reports to allow people to quickly find domain names which are listed in Yahoo, DMOZ, Looksmart or other directories yet have expired. By expiring, these domain names are up for grabs, and all of the resulting benefits for the original site transfer to the new site. For a well placed entries, this can literally mean hundreds of thousands of hits per month.
There are hundreds of thousands of sites listed in Yahoo and millions in DMOZ. Anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred expire each month. Eventually the expiration would be discovered and the entry removed. However, if someone purchases the domain name quickly enough, the entry will remain and you will gain that traffic.
It has a good page rank in Google - Another thing that webmasters work very hard on is gaining page rank with Google, the number one search engine. A high page rank implies that the site appears nearer the top in search results pages. When you purchase a domain, you can inherit the resulting page rank and traffic. Note that you will need to duplicate the page or pages referred to by Google in order for this to work properly.
The Downside Of Using Pre-Owned Names
You inherit spam - If the previous owner received spam email, then when you take over the domain you may very well inherit it. Why is this? Well, when you own a domain name, you get the email sent to every single username on that domain. Of course, most email servers are smart enough to "bounce" email messages for users who do not exist, but that email still gets sent to the server. For a domain which received a lot of spam, it could mean a significant amount of bandwidth used just for junk messages to non-existent users.
You can inherit robot activity - I got a domain once which someone had listed with a number of robots (programs which perform automatic functions). These robots were exceptionally active and caused a tremendous amount of traffic - so much so that I had to give up using the domain for a couple of months until the robots stopped visiting.
You might inherit enemies - Sometimes people give up domain names for a reason. One of those reasons might be an enemy - someone (or a group) that is targeting the name for some malicious act. For example, the name might be the target of email bombs or denial-of-service attacks. In these instances, you could find yourself inheriting these issues.
The domain could be banned - If a site gets involved in spamming search engines (attempting to fool them for higher placement on the results pages), it can be banned. By purchasing these old domain names, you might be similarly banned. This normally would not effect your existing domains, but it might reduce the value of the domain name that you purchased.
Things to do before giving up a domain name
Be sure you really want to expire the domain - Once someone else purchases your domain name, you may find it impossible or very expensive to get it returned. You will lose access to the use of the name entirely. So be sure that you want to give it up before you actually allow it to expire.
Be aware of expiration dates - Keep an eye on your domain name expiration dates as you may not get notified by the registrar before expiration. This can happen because email is not a perfect delivery system, because of a glitch in the registrar system or even because you didn't check your mail or email for the renewal. Don't accidentally lose your domain names.
Change your email addresses - Once you lose access to a domain, you will lose access to any email that is going to that domain. Think of all of the private emails that you get, and imagine them going to strangers. Well, once someone else gets the domain he may receive those private emails.
Change any links that you can - If you are allowing a domain to expire, be sure you salvage any links that you might want to keep. While you can do this after a domain name expires, it makes more sense to do it beforehand. For example, if you had owned three domains that all went to the same web site and you allowed two of them to expire, you might want to spend the time to change the links to the domain name that you keep.
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