Every website has a domain name that helps to form its identity. Over time, this domain name can become extremely valuable, not only emotionally, but also digitally. The digital equity behind a domain name impacts the website’s success in nearly every area, including search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing (SMM). Despite its importance, a domain renewal can easily be overlooked in the midst of a company’s busy schedule.
The most recent company to fall victim to this was marketing giant and automation software developer, Marketo Inc. Fortunately, a good samaritan noticed the issue and promptly renewed the domain for them. This individual was kind enough to give the domain name back without asking Marketo for a hefty sum of money. Marketo was able to resolve this issue by midday on the day of the expiration, but the situation could have escalated. We use this case study as a learning opportunity for Marketo and other brands.
What Exactly Occurred?
Although Marketo Inc. is a billion dollar company, somehow, they failed to maintain an automatic renewal of their own website domain. The oversight was noted on a Tuesday morning when customer complaints over its inactive reporting systems came pouring in. By Wednesday morning, the status of marketo.com had been changed to “pending deletion” by Network Solutions, the company with which Marketo registers their domain.
The forgotten $35 domain renewal fee affected more than just the marketo.com website and apps, though. Millions of the company’s emails, tracked hyperlinks, forms, and client reports that rely on the domain to operate completely vanished as well.
It was Travis Prebble, a senior applications engineer in State College, Pennsylvania, who then took the initiative to renew the domain on Marketo’s behalf. One $73.98 Twitter invoice later, and the domain had been renewed. Although, the recovery period took longer to ensure all systems were back and fully functioning.
How Did This Occur?
Network Solutions manages more than 6.6 million domain names, with around 45% of the company’s revenue coming directly from domain name registrations. Domains near expiration have the option of auto-renewal or direct communication with the registrar through multiple renewal reminder notifications.
While it has yet to be clearly identified whether it was a Network Solution glitch or a Marketo oversight that is to blame, the damage impacted the company and their clients for a substantial amount of time. One could assume, in hindsight, that this minor oversight could’ve been easily avoided, however, this is not the first time that such an oversight has taken place.
In 2010, after generating over $10 million in funding for their new social media site, Foursquare managed to let their domain name expire. The company cleared up the issue before it went public, citing an expired credit card as the reason for the failed renewal attempt. That same year, the Dallas Cowboys also temporarily lost their domain name, after failing to turn on the auto-renew setting. Even digital goods giant Sony slipped up in 2014, when they failed to renew SonyOnline.net, one of their major gaming sites.
Clearly, domain expirations are embarrassing, but they can also be disruptive to business. Typically, your company will receive one or more notifications in the run up to the domain’s expiration date, but sometimes those can be missed. Take these preventative steps to ensure that your domain never accidentally expires:
Almost all domain registration sites have auto-renewal features. Making this setting your default can save both time and troubles. The named administrator will still receive notifications of the upcoming expiration, but it will be taken care of when the date rolls around.
- Multiple Named Administrators
Setting up auto-renewal notifications on multiple administrator emails ensures that information doesn’t get lost with changes in leadership and contact information.
- Updated Credit Card Information
Maintain updated credit card information on auto-renewal accounts. Even if a payment fails, the registrar will contact the customer multiple times to update this information so there is an opportunity to correct it.
With regards to SEO, domain name expirations put you at risk of losing hard-earned equity. If you were to permanently lose your domain name, it would mean moving your entire website to a new domain. This would confuse your website’s audience, and it could also cause you to lose all of your built up digital equity. Any backlinks to your old domain would be broken, search queries for your old name would be ineffective, and keyword associations would need to be rebuilt. Google does offer a change of address tool to help combat this issue, but there have been some problems with this process in the past.
Checking your domain health and status tends to be something that slip through the cracks, procrastinated or put aside until it becomes too late. Even major companies sometimes become complacent, but such a simple mistake can lead to disastrous customer experiences, and wasted time and money. Make sure to check on your domain’s renewal date, update your payment information, and check on it from time to time.
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