Pelland Blog

Domain Name Registrations Revisited

October 26th, 2020

I recently had some work done on my car, where I left the shop my wife’s key fob rather than removing my own from a crowded key ring. A few minutes later, the shop called to tell me that the battery was dead in that little-used key fob, requiring that I drive back to the shop and take my own key off of the key ring anyway. Domain name registrations are somewhat similar, where we give little thought to something that we do not use on a regular basis, but that lack of attention can suddenly become important.

One of my clients called me yesterday, when I was able to congratulate him on the impending sale of his business, a small marina on a lake in northern New England. He asked for advice on the transition of the business’s website, and I told him how he needed to ensure that the registrant information for his domain name was updated at the time of sale. The registrant is the owner of a domain name, even though nobody actually “owns” their domain name. Think of it as a long-term lease (from 1 to 10 years) that you enter into with a domain name registrar (the equivalent of a rental agent, in this instance.) That “lease” may be renewed indefinitely, as long as you keep up with your payments.

When selling a business, it is much easier and more efficient to leave the domain name registration with the current registrar. If possible, it makes more sense to simply change the registrant information (name, email address, and other contact information) to that of the new owner rather than fully transferring the ownership of the domain to a new account or a new registrar. When actual transfer of ownership is necessary, I have had transfers complete within minutes, and I have also had transfers that have dragged on for months or failed entirely.

Who “Owns” Your Domain Name?

In another recent instance, I was contacted by the new owner of a campground in Pennsylvania who is looking to replace the website that she inherited from the former owner. Upon doing a whois lookup, I immediately learned that not only had the domain name registration not been updated at the time of sale, but that the former owner never owned the domain name in the first place! The domain had been owned for nearly 10 years by the discount hosting services provider that the previous owner had been using, registered with one of its sister companies. In the attempt to rightfully transfer ownership, the park owner is at the mercy of the website host that they would like to leave.

In yet another recent instance, I was contacted by the owners of a campground in Alabama that has never had a website. The owners are interested in a website now, but the most logical domain name (the name of the park dot com) was registered earlier in the year by the owner of a local tattoo parlor who apparently dabbles in websites. I casually reached out to the owner of the domain on behalf of the campground, but he never even returned my call. In this instance, the campground’s only option is to seek out the next best domain name, but realizing that confusion with that most logical domain name is likely to haunt them for years to come.

Protect Your Existing Domain Name

Protect your existing domain name(s) from potential hijacking. Unless you are certain where your domain name is registered, know that it is locked to prevent transfer, and know its expiration/renewal date, do yourself a favor and perform a whois lookup. Go to and enter your domain name. Confirm that YOU are listed as the registrant, not your webmaster or your hosting services provider. This should list your name and your business name and address, along with your email address. You should also confirm that the domain status includes the words “Transfer Prohibited”, “Update Prohibited” and “Delete Prohibited”. If the information is outdated or incorrect, update that information without delay.

If the information in your whois lookup is not recognizable, you may be paying for a so-called private registration. That is probably the most commonly purchased domain name registration add-on, usually incurring an annual fee of $5.00 or $10.00. In almost all instances, a private registration is a waste of money, and it will prevent you from confirming your domain name registration details without logging into your account. When you actually do log in, you might be surprised to find – like the new campground owners in Pennsylvania – that your webmaster or hosting company is the actual registrant (owner) of your domain name. If that is the case, this is something that needs to be corrected immediately. You also want to confirm that the email address associated with your name is not an old AOL email address that you have not used in years, or that your domain is unlocked – which is roughly equivalent to the carelessness of leaving your parked car unlocked on the streets of a major city.

After the registrant, a second important piece of contact information associated with a domain name registration is the administrative contact. This will most often and correctly be the contact information for your current webmaster. The important things are for this to be updated if you change webmaster and for the associated email address to be valid, since the administrative contact is the one to approve (or decline) changes to your domain name registration. I have seen instances over the years where there is a falling out with a webmaster / administrative contact, a situation that can really put a domain name in jeopardy. Though this does not happen often, it usually involves a webmaster who is an estranged family member or a local webmaster who thinks he is owed money or who decides to become vindictive should you decide to take your business elsewhere. Take a moment to confirm that all of the information associated with your domain name registration(s) is correct and up-to-date, avoiding an encounter with last-minute surprises when you are ready to sell your business or otherwise need to make a change. While you are at it, check the batteries in your key fob.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Domain Name Registration Pitfalls

August 11th, 2015

Recent events have encouraged me to revisit a topic that I first brought to the public’s attention back in 2010. There is quite an online industry involved with domain name registrations, the buying and selling of domain names, and the consequences that involve expirations. Generally speaking, the people involved in these practices spend very little money while in search of tremendously large profits.

About a month ago, one of our clients – a campground in Connecticut – asked me to check into the availability of a more desirable domain name to replace the domain name that they had been using (but that was actually under the control of another individual, with the strong potential for a future dispute.) When I checked the new domain name, I found that it was listed as “for sale” at a price of $500.00. My client authorized me to intervene on their behalf, willing to pay as much as $400.00. Over the next few weeks of shrewd negotiations, I suddenly found that the domain was released, and I immediately registered it on behalf of our client for our standard fee of $35.00 – not the $400.00 that they were willing to pay or the $500.00 that the alleged seller wanted. What happened?

Let me answer that question with another question. Have you ever received an e-mail from a company offering to sell you a “premium domain name” that is similar to your existing domain name? They contacted you because you were listed as a contact for your own domain name, and they were looking for a likely buyer who was willing to take the bait. I have had instances where I have received several consecutive offers from different companies, all offering to sell me the same domain name. The fact is that, in nearly every instance, none of these sellers actually owns the domain names that they are offering to sell. Sound confusing? Read on!

Protect your existing domain name.

First of all, protect your existing domain name from potential hijacking. Unless you are certain where your domain name is registered, know that it is locked to prevent transfer, and know its expiration/renewal date, do yourself a favor and perform a whois lookup. Go to and enter your domain name. Confirm that YOU are listed as the registrant and that the domain status includes the words “Transfer Prohibited”, “Update Prohibited” and “Delete Prohibited”. You might be surprised to find that your webmaster or hosting company is the actual registrant (owner) of your domain name – the scenario that our client faced and something that needs to be corrected immediately; that the e-mail address associated with your name is an old AOL e-mail address that you have not used in years; or that your domain is unlocked – which is roughly equivalent to the carelessness of leaving your parked car unlocked on the streets of a major city.

Whether you or your webmaster handle your domain name registration renewals, you will know if it has been allowed to expire because your website will suddenly become inaccessible. That in itself is not a reason to panic; however, you do not want to ever allow your domain name to go beyond the Redemption Grace Period (RGP) status as outlined in guidelines set forth by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). The guidelines (not rules) allow for a 30-day RGP term, after which your domain goes into “Pending Delete” status for an additional 5 days. At the end of those 5 days, it is purged from the registry database and becomes available for anybody to register. That could be anyone from a business with the same name in another state to one of your more vindictive competitors.

Unfortunately, some registrars add their own unique rules to the guidelines that have been put forth by ICANN. For example, GoDaddy will make you pay an $80.00 “redemption fee” on the 19th day. On the 26th day, they will enter your domain into a 10-day “Expired Domain Name Auction” and, if there are no bidders, will then enter it into an additional 5-day “Closeout Auction”, seeking every opportunity possible to profit from your oversight and increasing the likelihood that you will be unable to recover your domain name. Only if there are no bidders at this second auction will they release the domain.

Network Solutions has an even worse policy, stating that your domain name is subject to deletion at any time after it has been allowed to expire. They say that they “endeavor to provide a grace period that extends 35 days past the expiration date” but that the “grace period is not guaranteed and can change or be eliminated at any time without notice.” Network Solutions states that “a Redemption Grace Period (RGP) is not guaranteed and customers should renew their domain name registration services in advance of the domain name registration expiration date(s) to avoid deletion of domain name registration services.” Just when you thought that GoDaddy’s $80.00 redemption fee was outrageous, Network Solutions’ fee is far worse. Their policy continues, “If we decide to provide the redemption service to a customer, we charge a fee of $299.00 to redeem and renew a domain name registration during the RGP.”

The bottom line is that you should never allow your domain name to expire.

What happens when your domain is in this Redemption Grace Period? Basically, it enters a domain name limbo otherwise known as the domain name aftermarket, sort of like an enormous used car sales lot or automobile auction. What happens is that vultures appear out of nowhere. The practice is referred to by a number of names, with domain tasting and domain front running being the most common descriptions. Many registrars also encourage a process called “backordering” which allows interested buyers to move to the head of the line during the RGP. Some of these same registrars have also been known to provide information directly to these domain tasters, whenever somebody performs a whois lookup, checking on the availability of a domain name but then failing to register it immediately. Returning a few days later, you find that the domain name appears to have (not coincidentally) just been registered and is suddenly listed for sale at a very high price. The seller is hoping that you will still want the domain name and will be willing to submit to what is essentially highway robbery.

Typically, domain tasters work with a registrar that will even allow them a 5-day grace period to cancel out of the registration if you, the potential buyer, do not agree to pay their fee. However it is handled, these are people who are trying to sell you domain names that they usually do not even own, in many instances running auctions of their own, driving up the price if they find more than one interested potential buyer.

Knowledge is your best defense against fraud.

Understand that there are three basic components when you own a website: The site construction fee (usually the most expensive component, unless you have built a do-it-yourself site), the annual or monthly hosting fee, and the domain name registration fee. The domain name registration fee is by far the least expensive of those three components – unless and until you lose your domain name, when its recovery can be very, very costly. Our client was lucky in this instance, and I have successfully intervened in many similar circumstances, but nobody in business wants to rely simply upon luck. Follow the steps that I have outlined, and do everything necessary to prevent the loss of your domain name from ever occurring.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Does Long-Term Domain Registration Have Any Impact Upon SEO?

November 1st, 2009

In short, the answer is no.

I was one of four Web developers in a round-table session on broad-ranging Internet topics, presented at a trade association conference in New York this past weekend. In response to an audience question, one of my associates suggested that a longer-term domain name registration played a role in determining a site’s search engine ranking. The rationalization was based upon a presumption that a domain name registered or renewed for single-year terms was an indication of a “fly by night” business. Since it is always our policy to renew our clients’ domains (and our own domains) on a one-year basis, I had to take exception and question the validity of this statement.

Upon my return, I did a bit of online research, and this served to confirm that any suggestion that a longer-term domain name registration has an impact upon a site’s search engine ranking is total nonsense. Apparently this is a piece of misinformation that has been concocted and disseminated by GoDaddy(and often innocently passed along as “fact” by otherwise well-intentioned companies who use GoDaddy as their registrar of choice), in an effort to get people to sign up with them for longer terms. Long-term registrations are in any registrar’s interest because they reduce “churn”, the likelihood of a registrant to transfer to another registrar … either intentionally or as the result of being slammed by an unscrupulous registrar such as Domain Registry of America.

With some registrars, one must be very careful and wary about long-term registrations because they may be, in fact, banking your money (for 10 years, for example), while actually registering your domain on a year-by-year basis, essentially preventing you from transferring your domain to another registrar without suffering a financial loss and the loss of what you presumed was the remaining length of your registration. Do a whois lookup to check. The 10-year registration that you thought covered you through 2018 may, in fact, only be covering you on a year-by-year basis until 2018. In other words, if you transferred now, you may be in for the rude awakening that your domain has only been registered or renewed through 2010. Fortunately, this unscrupulous practice is quite rare.

In summary, there is NO reason to register a domain, or to renew a domain, for more than one year at a time, unless the discount for doing so presents a sufficient incentive in itself. According to Google itself, there is no validity to this recommendation.

Domain authority, on the other hand, does play a role in determining search engine ranking. Domain authority is a measurement of the accumulated length of time that a domain name has been registered, but it has nothing to do with the term of registration (or renewal) itself. Domain authority is directly related to the length of time that a website has been in existence and is part of the explanation for why older, established websites often appear higher in search results than newer websites that are otherwise superior in every respect.

Here are a few additional sources of reference:

My advice is to always question statements of this nature claim to present tips that appear to be a bit far-fetched, in this case the SEO equivalent of urban legends. Take the time to do a search, and discover the truth.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Beyond the Basic Whois Lookup

August 15th, 2008

When choosing a domain name for your business, there are three rules: short, memorable, and easy to spell. “Short” is pretty self-explanatory. You want the shortest available name that ends in .com. “Memorable” generally means that the name somehow directly relates to either the name of your business or the name of its key product or service. “Easy to spell” is also self-explanatory. If your name is Kodzuleskizicz, you may want to adopt the “Hollywood approach” and come up with a new “stage name” that will be easier to spell. In fact, this last example would be in opposition to all three of the basic rules, right? How do you find the names that are available? The basic tool is the whois lookup, a tool that will tell you whether or not a name is available or already registered to another company or individual. Every domain name registrar will have a whois lookup tool, usually embedded into the home page of their website. At Pelland Advertising, we have a basic whois lookup tool available at the following page on our site: The basic idea is that you cannot simply enter an address into a browser’s address bar and assume that a domain name is available simply because a site does not appear. Furthermore, you generally do not want to deal with trying to negotiate the purchase of a domain name which is already registered by another individual. At best, this is usually a costly process that is not worth the time and effort, let alone the expense. What you need to do is to get creative and to keep looking. In almost all instances, any domain name which is based upon a single word in the English language was probably already registered several years ago. The same goes with many of the most logical two-word combinations. Three-word combinations (or hyphenated word combinations or domains that end in anything other than the .com suffix) are far less desirable (and often get too long to be practical). How can you make the whois lookup process more efficient and useful? My suggestion is to try the free tools found at the Domain Tools website. One of the best of these tools is the Whois Lookup and Domain Name Source tool. This tools provides a wealth of useful information, not only when searching for a domain name but for checking the status of an existing domain name. It will show the basic whois records (name, address, phone number, and e-mail address of the registrant, administrative contact and technical contact, along with the nameservers, and dates or original registration and expiration), but it also shows a whole lot more. This additional information includes a screen shot of the site’s home page (along with historical thumbnails), the site’s title and meta description, the site’s DMOZ listing, server and registry data associated with the domain, a calculated SEO score, and the site’s Alexa, Complete and Quantcast rankings. Another very useful tool when looking for the best available domain name(s) is the site’s Domain Suggestions tool. With this tool, you enter your desired domain name or product concept to generate a list of possible names that might be appropriate, showing which ones are available (or already registered) under the .com, .net, .org., .info, .biz and .us top level domains. For example, I just entered the term “lawnmower repair” and found that (as well as .net, .org, .info, and .biz) was already registered; however, I was provided with several useful (and available) suggestions, including,,,, and others. Useful information? You bet! Take advantage of every online tool at your disposal in order to run your business smarter and more cost-effectively.

This post was written by Peter Pelland