How to get back a lost domain name

You are probably reading this because either you have lost a domain name that you wish to regain or you want to know what it takes to get back a domain you have already lost. If you are the former, that’s bad news, but lets weigh the options.

Relationship between Domain names and real estate

It’s not a stretch to think about domain names as real estate in the physical world. People buy land for distant and immediate purposes depending on their objectives. Some want to immediately use the land to build a home, farm or build a factory while others will defer to use it as a form of investment. Why? because we all agree that land appreciates in value over time.

Domain names are the digital version of real estate. People might register a domain name to immediately use it to run a website or they could purchase it in the hopes of reselling it in the future at premium. The latter are called domain name squatters.

Domain name squatters

Domain name squatters buy catchy or rather keyword-heavy domain names in the hopes of reselling them at a premium to a willing buyer in the future. Dot coms are especially a hot piece of real estate due to their high demand. Today in 2019, it’s nearly impossible to get a dot com with English words or phrases that hasn’t already been taken. Wonder why this website is sitemonki.com and not the intended name sitemonkey.com?

Domain name squatters in the meantime monetize these domain name by parking them. Domain name parking is the registration of an Internet domain name without that domain being associated with any services such as e-mail or a website. A parked domain name has a temporal page with display Ads that’s showed to visitors that in cases mistakenly type the domain in their browsers.

Example page of parked domain awesomehomes.com

One domain name squatter says they generate upto $100 a month from their parked domain name. Given that they pay an annual renewal fee of $10, that’s quite some profit. Once an interested buyer walks in, that domain name resell from as low as $50 to as much as $2M depending on it’s intrinsic and perceived value.

What’s the value of domain name

Assuming we are talking about non-registered dot com domain name such as sitemonki.com, it’s value is between $8-$12 depending on the registrar you use. But for a domain like sitemonkey.com which is already taken, the math is not so clear. According to domain name valuation or appraisal tools like https://www.freevaluator.com/ or https://www.estibot.com, sitemonkey.com is currently about $500.

How they came up with this figure is not very clear, but according to anonymous squatter, they say they came up with the value by multiplying the age of domain name(time since registration till now) by renewal costs. Since sitemonkey.com is 18 years and renewal of .com is $10/year, then that’s $180. That’s not even half of $500. If the domain is parked and monetized with Ads that attract say $15/year that brings us to $270 for the last 18 years. Combine this with accrued renewal costs, we come to about $500. But this is not all.

Other factors that determine the value of a domain include a domain’s TLD. Dot coms remain the most popular and most people always gravitate towards them. Keywords is another factor. If a domain has catchy, friendly and memorable keywords such as say hotels.com, greathomes.com, hotpizza.com etc, their value spikes. This is because keywords are especially useful in Search Engine Optimization(SEO). Others factors include spelling, length and brandability which are all fuzzy metrics at best. With these combined, the squatter of sitemonkey.com might ask twice or more of the $500 we have calculated above.

Conversely for newly registered domain name like sitemonki.com, it costs less. EstiBot estimates it at less that $100 right now. If I lost it to a squatter, that would be a good offer.

Contacting Squatters

So with a rough estimate of the domain name value, you now have to contact the owner, squatter or hijacker. The best place to start is querying whois information of the domain name. Whois provides contact information about the current owner of any domain name such as email, phone number, country, postal code etc. There are several whois tools out there, but a good one is https://who.is.

If you are lucky, the contacts are updated or truthful and you can reach them accordingly. But sometimes, the owners put fake contact information because it’s a requirement or add whois privacy which conceals information of the owner. In this case, you might have to either wait until the domain name expires and you register it assuming the current owner hasn’t renewed it or contact services of third-party websites devoted to domain auctioning and reselling. It’s possible for your lost domain name to have been listed there. There are several marketplaces such as Sedo, Flippa, eBay, Godaddy, namejet.

Using Legal means and ICANN

The above options are really like the equivalent of out-of-court settlements. If all fails with the Squatter but you badly need your domain name back, you still have the very difficult, expensive and bureaucratic option of using legal means. ICANN short for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is a nonprofit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces and numerical spaces of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation ~ Wikipedia. They are arbitrator of domain name conflicts and with the help of a lawyer, you might regain your domain.

It will cost you at least $1300 to file a complaint of 1 domain for a 1 person dispute panel (you can get up to 5 people on a panel.) End-to-end timeline from when you submit the complaint to when you get a judgment is about 30 days or more. As part of your complaint, you need to prove all three of these things:

  • The domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights; and
  • The owner(s) have no rights or legitimate interests in respect of the domain name; and
  • The domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

See why this is the least path you want to take?

Be proactive

You do NOT want to lose a domain name if you really want to keep it. Treat it like your health; prevention is better than cure. The costs of regaining your domain name back are far more prohibitive than those of keeping it under your control. I have already given tips on How not to lose your domain name to squatters and they are quite simple and easy to follow. More importantly you should sign up to a domain name monitoring and protection service such as Site Monki for as low as $50/year.

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