How to grab an expiring domain name.
The first question someone might ask is "why would I want to grab an expiring domain name?" We will show some of the many reasons why you might want to do this, as opposed to coming up with a new name and registering it. First, due to companies going out of business, sometimes very good domain names become available. If you were starting a business selling widgets would you rather have the domain name widgets.com or imsellingwidgets.com? While really prime domain names are rare to crop up and can be very expensive, they could be worth it for your business.
Another reason you might want to buy a existing domain name is that it has a track record. It is well known that search engines consider new web sites as less trustworthy and rank them lower than established web sites. If you could pick up a domain name that has 5 or 10 years of history behind it, then you are that much farther along in the search engine ranking game. If the site you pick up happens to have a lot of links to it you will also benefit from these links when the search engines look at your site. However, is must always be taken into account that history can work against you. Before trying to snag that perfect sounding web site, you must research it and make sure it is not subject to penalty by the search engines. Perhaps the previous owner violated search engine guidelines, promoted spam or ran a less than honorable web site. Your new business would not want to inherit this history.
When you find that perfect sounding domain name -- check it out. Go to the search engines and type in the name in quotes and see what comes up. Look at how many web sites link to the site. Check out the quality of the links. Links form major web sites are a great thing. Links form less than reputable web sites are a problem. Of course if you find no links to the web site that will limit the value of the site in terms of history and search engine performance. Is the site listed in the DMOZ or Yahoo directory? If so, that is a good thing however, it will often drive up the price of the site. Go to alexa.com and check out the site there. See how many links they report for the site. Then click on the way back machine tab and take a look at the history of the site. Look at it year by year and make sure the site was always a legitimate web site.
If you've ever had a domain name before, you know that it has an expiration date. If you don't renew it, you lose your rights to the name. However, what is not obvious is that domains don't expire when you think they do. There is a very complex process in place that dictates how domains expire, how they drop and how they become available. Figuring out when "the drop" occurs and being able to grab the name is the key to a successful capture. For 40 days after you think that your domain expires, it goes into "expired" status. During this time the original owner can register the name again without penalty and nobody else can grab the name. After 40 days the domain goes into what is known as "redemption". The domain is still not available to anyone else but the original owner can still get it back -- but only after paying a significant fee. Domains in the "expired" state quite often are renewed and they only get to this state because the owner forgot or procrastinated to renew and there is no penalty to renew. Domains that reach the "redemption" state usually are not renewed.
After the "redemption" phase, the domain enters what is known as the "locked" phase which is the actual deletion phase of the process. This phase is 5 days long and the domain is released for registration starting at 2PM Eastern time of the last day of the deletion period. The release phase lasts from 2PM until 5PM but the actual time when any particular name gets released is unknown. You must keep applying constantly in the hopes that you catch your domain. The entire domain cancellation process takes 75 days from the day the domain was listed as expired.
In theory, if you go to any registrar and try to register the name during this time period, you will be able to get the name. However, the reality is that there are likely many people trying to grab the name by working through companies specialized in grabbing domain names. They have sophisticated computers that pound away at the registrar of the name over and over again in order to catch the instant the name releases and is available. The odds of anyone being able to do this on their own are minimal.
Catching a expired domain during "the drop" is one of the things in life that require you use a service company. In all likelihood, you simply cannot do it yourself. Most of the domain companies like Godaddy offer backorder services. For a nominal fee they will attempt to acquire an expiring name for you. The success rate of these entry level backorder services is dependent on the amount of interest in the domain. If the domain is interesting to lots of people and some of them decide to use the high end domain snatching companies the entry level services will likely fail. Unfortunately, the higher level services come at a much higher cost. While the cost of entry level services is less than $20 the entry cost of a higher level service is at least $60.00. However the cost doesn't stop there. These services do not use a first come first served business model. What they do is grab the domain and then auction it off among the people who expressed interest in it. In the end your perfect domain name could cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. Fortunately, you can decide up front what the most you want to spend is. You can bid that amount and if you get lucky you get your domain name.
The following three companies comprise the high end of the domain name drop grabbers: snapnames.com, pool.com and enom.com. Each of these companies uses a propriety network of partners and systems to try and grab a expiring name as soon as it is released. It is impossible to tell which of these companies will be the one to succeed but if the domain is even the slightest bit interesting you can bet all three will try and grab it. So for you to grab that perfect name it means signing up with all three of these companies and backordering your domain name with them. Fortunately, signing up and placing a bid is free, you only pay if you win the name. In this way you pretty much insure that you will be in the running for the name once one of them captures it. Once the domain is captured a 3 day auction typically starts. You can bid whatever your maximum is and it will automatically increment your bid to just above the previous highest bid up to your maximum. Some of these companies will sometimes even run a second runoff auction between the two highest bidders in order to squeeze as much money as they can out of you. In all of this keep in mind that the company that grabbed the name got is for just a couple of bucks in cost. Every penny between that and what you pay is their profit. They all have a vested interest in getting as much money as they can for the domain name.
All of these companies also offer listings and searches of expiring domains which you can browse for free until you find that perfect name.
Is it all worth it? You have to ask yourself if the domain you are wanting is worth the price. If the answer is yes, than the above process and enough money will likely get you your domain name.