May 2003 Newsletter

Domain Name Management

**** The 4specs Perspective

Very little is written about domain name management, and not every one will agree with me. Large companies have their IT department to manage their domain names, so these comments are targeted to smaller and mid-sized companies where the marketing or sales manager handles the website decisions.

Don't let it expire - and lose it
Sounds obvious, but this happens every month to one or two product manufacturers. This is the strategy I use for renewals of the domain names we own. At the end of the year, as part of my year-end tasks, I renew every domain I plan to keep so none expire during the following year. The registrar I use presents all the domains in one list.

A friend was in a panic last month when her domain name was two days from expiring and the email address for renewal was wrong. She had not received any notices for renewal and forgot about the renewal date.

I recommend against renewing for 5 or 10 years as no one will remember when the domain name expires. Five years from now the email address used in the registration may no longer be valid and the registrar account and password may be lost. A non-functioning email address will make the renewal very difficult. The small annual savings is not worth the price of forgetting to renew.

How to recover a lost domain name
When a domain expires, some times a company will grab it and use it as a search engine or porn site, and attempt to sell it back. Covert Operations lost their name two ago: covertoperations.com is now registered by a search engine and is for sale. At one time it was for sale for $1,888. While they were upset, I think the price was a small one for retaining a name with links to it and search engine and directory listings. When they balked, the price went to $3,888. While covertoperationsinc.com works, in my opinion the other domain name has more value.

If the domain name is a registered trademark - such as coke.com - it may be possible to reclaim the name. This is one reason why I registered 4specs.com® as a federal trademark. If the name is not a registered trademark, I suggest you pay the money and recover the domain name. Chalk up the cost as part of the learning process.

A longer domain name has a cost as it is less likely to be remembered or guessed, and if you change names improperly, you can lose all the listings in directories and Google. I believe that a stable domain name with several years of history is worth $2,000 in the free traffic it brings to your online design information.

Primary web domain name
Many companies have multiple domain names, but point them all to the same website with different url's displayed. We recommend rewriting every domain to one primary domain. Some search engines consider having one website come up under multiple url's as spam, and will penalize all of the domains. Further, I expect that a Google search results criteria in the future could include traffic to the website. A website with identical key words and similar Google page rank to another page but that gets 5x the traffic is probably a better resource. So combine all of your traffic to one address. The Google tool bar gives Google a good indication of web traffic and users as every website visited is logged.

Here is an example to show how this works. Our original domain name was specs-online.com. If you visit specs-online.com, you will see it rewritten to our 4specs domain name.
http://www.specs-online.com/

This is done at the server level using mod-rewrite on an Apache server. The headers sent from the 4specs server include the 301 permanent redirect to tell a search engine that this is a permanent move.

Combine www and blank to one or the other. Search engines consider a website with and without a www to be different websites. We rewrite our url without the www to a www to concentrate all the traffic to one website. Take a look at how we do it, again using mod-rewrite on an Apache server:
http://4specs.com/

Different email domain name
If your domain name is more than 6 or 7 characters, you may want to use a shorter domain name for email. This makes it easy for someone to type in, from a business card for example. This means less errors when typing in the email address.

My recommendations are to not use a hyphen, and to stay away from i, I, l, L, 0, O's, and 1 as they can be confused. Pick three letters and 2 numbers for the email domain. Perhaps use the CSI section as the numbers - such as ct790.com.

Point all the email to one set of mailboxes, and connect the email domain to the website using a 301 redirect.

Moving domain names
There are two ways to move traffic from an older domain name to the new domain name. While doing our link maintenance on 4specs, I frequently find a page that says - "we moved and here is the new address" - except that the search engines do not realize that this is a permanent move and think the old website died. Here is an example that does a fast html redirect:
(link changed)

Here is another domain name that uses a "we moved page"
(link no longer works)

While this works for the user, the search engines do not understand that the website has moved, just that there is a new link and no data at the old link. We recommend that a 301 permanent redirect be returned so that search engines will follow the change. Most search engines and directories will make the change in 2 months or so. Companies that use a html redirect (as above) can lose the benefit of search engine referrals. Worse yet, some people think that using a html redirect for 3-4 months will mean they can cancel the url. If they used a 301 redirect they could.

Tracking down non-responding urls is a major task every month in 4specs maintenance. We have to telephone the owner of every non-working domain to see what is happening - new url, problems or out of business are the most common results of the phone call.

--------------------------------------

Colin Gilboy
Publisher - 4specs
Contact us