The average person understands what a domain name is, but expired domain names and how the secondary domain name market operates are foreign to most.
What is a domain name?
Domain names date back to the early iterations of computing as a way for data to be stored across a network.
Overtime, as the internet was becoming a public utility, they became the digital addresses that information, and eventually websites, would be located at.
The first domain name ever registered was Symbolics.com back in 1985.
Today, there are hundreds of millions of active and inactive domain names, with more being registered every day.
But unlike buying a car or a sandwich, a domain name is never really “owned.” What does this mean?
When a domain name is registered at a place like GoDaddy or NameCheap, it enters the purchaser’s account and is under their control for the next year.
But at the end of that year, the registration must be renewed or the purchaser risks losing control of the domain. When this happens, the domain name expires.
What are expired domain names?
An expired domain is a domain name that was not renewed in time to keep it actively registered. When this happens, the expired domain eventually reenters the available domain name pool and can be scooped up by someone else (more on this later.)
For various reasons, the expiration process is important for not only the domain name owner but for anyone else who is interested in that particular domain.
So let’s say I forgot to renew blackcat.co in time and it expires. Using the helpful guide below, we can see how this process plays out.
The Expiring Domain Process
Once the expiration date passes, the domain becomes expired. During this time, the registrant of that domain cannot use it for their website or email address.
The registrant can, however, transfer the domain to another registrar during this time, but not without paying for it to be renewed at its new registrar.
That being said, there is still time for the registrant to renew the domain name for the regular renewal price.
But after a set period of time, the domain name will enter the Redemption Grace Period, or RGP. During this time, the domain name can be renewed by the registrant, but at an increased price.
As for the registrar, once the RGP period comes around, they begin the process of deleting the domain name. This generally lasts for 30 days and is the last chance for the registrant to renew their domain name.
It is also at this time that the domain name is marked as “expiring” meaning it will become visible to those searching for expired domains. More on this later.
After the grace period passes, the domain name is marked as “pendingDelete”, which means there are five days until it reenters the available domain name pool. At this time, the domain name is fair game for anyone who wants it.
But if the domain name is one sought out by domain name investors or another hopeful owner, then the efforts to claim it begin much sooner than the day it becomes available to register.
What is the expired domain name market?
Coming as a surprise to the layman, there is a seedy underground world of expiring and expired domain names. It’s not actually that bad, but to the uninitiated it comes off as secret and nay-mentioned.
So what does this market consist of? It is essentially made up of people searching for domain name before they expire.
That means during the pending delete period, the redemption grace period, and even the expiration period, a domain name can be in someone else’s crosshairs.
In fact, someone can take steps to acquire an active domain before expiration or during the deletion process.
This is known as a backorder.
A backorder of a domain is similar to the backorder of any other product – meaning the commitment to purchase something before it becomes available.
Domain names can be backordered by using a service like Namejet or DropCatch. These companies accept orders to attempt to register a domain the second it becomes available. In the event they successfully register the domain, the customer is charged. If not, the customer is not charged.
In the event multiple people place orders to backorder a domain, these companies act as an auction house and sell the domain to the highest bidder.
More and more, these expired domain auctions have become extremely competitive as expired domains become more valuable.
What makes expired domain names valuable?
For many reasons, expired domain names provide tremendous value to company founders, domain name investors, digital marketers, and the like. But why?
Most obvious to the layman is the quality of brand names that become available. Since the highest quality domain names were registered long ago, their value is tremendous when they enter the expiration stream.
For example, a domain name like Brand.com was registered back in the early 1990’s. Conversely, a domain name like brand.international won’t be registered until much more recently.
The former domain would cost six-figures (at least) to buy off the current owner, so when a name like that becomes free game to the highest bidder, the value is off the charts. The later, however, is lower quality and a substitute can be registered for likely much cheaper that the cost to backorder.
Similar to the last example, older domains provide a lot of value as well. Not just become the older a domain name is, the more brandable and useful it likely is. But also because aged domains provide a lot of SEO value.
Not only do search engines appreciate a domain that has been active for so long, but an aged domain will often come with prior relevant history and backlinks. These can help boost the efforts of the person bidding on the domain, whether they plan to resell it or build it out into a website or business.
A backlink is simply the occurrence of a website linking to a particular domain name. For example, if I link to Google.com as such, I have created a backlink for Google.
The more backlinks a domain name has, especially from high quality websites or publications, the more valuable that domain name becomes.
Ultimately, there are dozens of factors that go into making an expiring domain name valuable. That being said, it takes time and experience to understand what a valuable domain looks like.
How to find expired domains?
Let’s say you interested in learning more about expired domain names, or maybe you’re ready to buy one for yourself. Where should you start? Here are some great resources.
The holy grail of domains, expireddomains.net is arguably the best tool to research any domain name. Searches can be made on virtually every platform with tons of filters, making any domain search a breeze.
Websites like NameJet, SnapNames, GoDaddy, and DropCatch are great sources of expiring domains from the largest domain registrars online. Plus, you can always keep tabs on a domain name of your choosing by looking it up on WhoIs.com to see when it is expiring, and submitting a backorder of your own.
What can I do with expired domain names?
Expired domain names provide a handful of benefits. For starters, it is an opportunity to buy an aged domain name below retail cost. So instead of buying a one-word .com from an investor for six-figures, it’s possible to buy the same domain for five-figures in an expiring auction.
However, the thing that makes domain name auctions hyper-competitive is the fight for domains with high SEO value. Frequently, a domain that you’d otherwise think is worthless will receive hundreds of bids and sell for thousands.
Why is this? Because that domain used to be an active website and comes with a great backlink profile. Someone who is well-versed in SEO can utilize such a domain name to get a head start in Google rankings. By building a website on said domain name, or redirecting that domain to a new website, they can reap the benefits of authoritative backlinks with proper context.
Want to get into expired domain names?
One of our specialties is discovering and acquiring authoritative, high-quality expired domain names.
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