I’ve got a short story to tell you…

Check out this snapshot from 2011. Web design has come along way!In late 2006, I graduated from undergrad and I was ready to be a real grownup with a real job. At this time I purchased JackieZimmerman.com so I could build a portfolio site and get a job in marketing. I knew I’d need to share my design work online in order to be considered so I bought the domain and started the job hunt.

I got my first “real” job in early 2007. I let JackieZimmerman.com fall to the way side. Fast forward a few years and it’s 2011 and I’m in grad school. I’m ready for the job hunt again, so I revive JackieZimmerman.com and by the time I finish grad school in 2012, I’ve got my next job lined up, the website had done it’s job and I let it fall to the way side again. This time I made a huge mistake. I let the domain go because I thought “I’ll never need a portfolio site again! I’ll never need another job again! I’m so brilliant with my young 20-something knowledge!”. I didn’t renew the domain and it was sold in a bulk auction. This was a decision I would come to regret for the next ELEVEN YEARS.

A screenshot from the WaybackMachine, that has the text The Design Portfolio of JackieZimmerman coming soon with a thick green border.

Check out this snap shot from 2011. Web design has changed a lot sine then.

As time passed, I realized there were still applications in which I could use that domain, primarily in the health advocacy work I do. I tried to get the domain back but now instead of the usual $12/year, JackieZimmerman.com was going for $750. No way. Never in a million years would I pay that much so I bought an alternative domain, JackieZimmerman.co. Throughout the years I would check in on the domain, at one point it was up to $1,500. Every once in a while I’d reach out to the existing holder and low ball them with an offer but they never went for it. I had all but given up on it.

Earlier this week I got an email from a domain seller, which I totally thought was spam. They said they would sell the domain for $200. I knew this was close to the cheapest I’d ever see it…but it’s still wildly inflated so I counter offered for $150. I was shocked to see they accepted my offer…but I still thought it was a scam. So before I paid them a dime, we used Escrow.com to broker the purchase. I wanted protections on my $150 in the event that it was, in fact, a scam. Today they seller shared the Transfer Code (which you need to transfer a domain from one owner or host to another). I put the code in and the transfer failed. I was SURE it was scam. I tried the transfer with another registrar, and sure as shit…it worked. It went through. After 11 long years of waiting and enough sarcastic doubt to fill a yacht… I owned JackieZimmerman.com again.

So that’s the story. It may not seem like a big deal but I never, ever thought I’d get that back again. Which leads me to the actual info I wanted to share here, which is why you NEVER sell/not renew a domain unless you are CERTAIN you will never want it again.

What happens after I don’t renew my domain

Most often abandoned domains are purchased in bulk by domain squatters. These companies buy your domain and they sit on it and sometimes you might go to them to try to buy it back and they will skyrocket the price because now you have created demand.

Sometimes when I would check in on JackieZimmerman.com the price would be around $750. If I checked it again within a few days it would be over $1,000. So they know when you’re searching online for that domain and they are adjusting the pricing accordingly.

How can I find out who owns my domain now?

You can use a service called WHOIS to look up registration info on your site. Back in the old days this was nice because you could reach out the person who owned it and try to broker a deal directly. However now, with privacy concerns, most of us buy domain privacy which hides our personal info from the world wide web. This means its harder to contact domain owners, and sometimes it’s impossible. If a domain squatter has your domain after buying in bulk, you can reach out to them with the email address you find in the info listed. They may or may not respond but they will always inflate the price.

How can I get my domain it back?

The short answer is you can’t.

The long answer is you can get it back quickly if you’re willing to fork out the money for it but we’re talking about something that usually costs less than $20/yr getting inflated up to thousands of dollars. It might be worth it to you but it wasn’t for me.

What you can also do is purchase a similar domain, if you recall I purchased JackieZimmerman.co. I’ve had domain registrars through the years reach out to me on that site, and offer to sell me the matching .com. They all still wanted too much money. The domain was bought and sold about 9 times over the last 11 years buy domain squatters. It all comes down to cash.

I typically recommend that you say goodbye to that domain, and get something different. It can be heartbreaking but it’s so difficult to get them back.

How can I prevent losing my domain?

AUTO PAY IS YOUR FRIEND! Once you have a domain you care about, set that puppy to autopay and you won’t have to worry about losing it. Most registrars give you a 60 day grace period to change your mind after you do not renew your domain but once those 2 months have passed you might as well kiss it goodbye.

If your domain is bundled with your website on your hosting company, make sure that if/when you cancel your hosting plan that you still own your domain.

I typically recommend just keeping domains for at least a few years even if there is no website directly connected to it. For $12-20/year its a worthwhile investment in your ideas. If the domain is your name, I recommend putting that sucker on autopay and never looking back. It’s far to hard to secure your name in the first place, unless you have the most unique name on the planet, and you never know when you’ll need to promote yourself.

And MOST IMPORTANTLY….Own your own shit. Never let a designer/friend/wizard purchase your domain on your behalf.