If there’s one request that I always cringe at, it’s to disable a site because a customer decides that it is in his best financial interest to “close shop.” Later, if we own the domain name and get notifications about its upcoming expiration date, the customer may already be long gone and is not reachable with any contact information we may have for them.
I can’t say this has happened a lot, but it isn’t unrealistic either. If there’s one thing you should keep when you decide to shut down your business, it’s your domain name (and let’s hope you grabbed your website files too). But why? Believe it or not, it’s an important element for ranking in search engine optimization.
Consider the idea that you are creating a brand new website. The domain name is unheard of and therefore is unranked. You search for your domain name in Google and find nothing. Weeks later, your brand new site is still nowhere to be found. Time passes, and your site may start appearing in the search results, but the progression is going very slowly. Google is crawling your site with caution. They don’t know you well and are determining if you can be trusted.
An element of trust is important for ranking well on search engines. Trust can be conveyed through linking strategies, like when your site is linked to from a site that Google already considers to be an authority, but age, too, plays an important role.
Why should it matter? Simple. Considering recent studies showing the spammy nature of brand new websites, how is Google supposed to know that your site is more legitimate than the other spam site (including on their own domain)? It doesn’t. Google is not human. Trust comes with time. Spam sites don’t last for a long time and certainly won’t be linked to from authority sites.
The problem is that if you lose your domain name, it’s likely gone forever. If it expires, it goes into a pool and it will get snagged pretty quickly if the domain name looks like a worthwhile investment on the part of people who actually make it their business to buy domain names that could make them rich. If you’ve made a name for yourself and have to shut down without keeping the domain name under your ownership, but later, you realize that you’ve made a regrettable decision, you might have a hard time getting your “brand” name back (especially if there are no associated trademarks). You’ll end up likely having to build a brand new name — and you’ll have to concern yourself with regaining that trust once again. If you don’t own the old domain anymore, you can’t set up 301 redirects to retain any rankings you might have. You’re back to the beginning.
Depending on the TLD (top level domain) you choose, your domain renewal shouldn’t be more than $15 per year in the worst case scenario. Even if you’re not sure you’ll ever use the domain name again, it’s a small price to pay for the time and money that you will have to reinvest in building your credibility in the search engines again.