Effective management of your domain name portfolio is vital to ensure that you retain ownership of your assets.
Simple mistakes can have dramatic consequences. In a very recent case, a large company had a former employee listed as the contact in the domain whois details. The result – several super premium domains expired and were snapped up at auction for over $30,000 AUD. This is far from being an isolated case, it happens on a daily basis.
Best practice approaches for protecting your domain assets
First and foremost, you should make sure that you have accurate details in your domain whois records and registrar account(s). Registrars will typically send alerts in the lead up to a domain expiring, and these are vital first warning signs that could prompt you to renew a domain. If your contact details are incorrect – you will not see these notifications, it is that simple.
If a domain is owned by a larger business or other organisation (i.e. rather than a sole trader or individual investor), it is a very sensible approach to use a generic email address, which more than one person can access. Using the email address of an individual employee is problematic if they leave the organisation, as illustrated by the case mentioned above.
Know your assets
Keeping an accurate record of the domains that you own is fundamental to effective portfolio management. It does not have to be a full time job managing your domains, the process can be as simple or as complex as you make it. There a number of approaches that you can take, and the best one for you will depend on your preferences and the size of your portfolio. For example, you could use a simple text document, a spreadsheet, a database, a private website, or even a tailored software solution.
The tools listed below are ones that I use for my own portfolio. To give some context, my portfolio is just short of 600 domains at the time of writing, but I have used these same tools for many years now and they were just as effective when my portfolio was significantly larger.
Portfolio management tools – spreadsheets
In addition to a software program that I use for managing my portfolio, I also use a custom built Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to manage many aspects related to my domain portfolio.
Spreadsheets offer a lot of flexibility, but they also lack some of the more advanced features offered by online platforms and software solutions. There is also some technical knowledge required in order to get the most out of using a spreadsheet for managing a domain portfolio.
A simplified version of the spreadsheet that I use is free to download for our readers! The template includes a number of useful formulas to automatically populate fields with useful information about the domains in your portfolio.
Get your free domain portfolio template – no strings attached!
Like the template? Let us know in the comments!
Portfolio management tools – software solution
I have been using a desktop software program called ‘Domain Punch Professional‘ for a number of years now. I wish I had known about it many years prior, as it could have saved me a lot of time!
It simplifies many portfolio management tasks, for example it can query the whois details, flag domains that are soon to expire, bulk check domain availability, and much more. Unfortunately, .au domain names do not make the expiry dates publicly available, so some features will be less useful for .au domains (one of the reasons why I also use a custom spreadsheet).
The software allows you to assign one or more categories to domains, which is a great way to group domains by topic. I have found this to be a real time saver, as wading through a larger portfolio can be frustrating if the domains are not sensibly grouped.
Do not rely solely on others!
One reason to keep your own records, is as an insurance policy of sorts, because sometimes things can go wrong, very wrong. There are more details about the impacts from that unfortunate 2011 incident here.
If there is some catastrophic event that impacts on your registrar, then having your own records will at least put you in a position to quickly identify:
- what you own; and
- what might be at risk (e.g. renewal due).
Most registrars offer an ‘auto-renew’ option, whereby your domain will be automatically renewed when due and your saved payment details will be charged accordingly.
Auto-renewal can be a useful backup plan, but of course it still relies on accurate (current) payment details. For example, many people have still lost domains despite having auto-renew enabled, due to expired credit card details.
Extended registration period
For domain extensions that allow longer registration periods (e.g. up to 10 years for .com domains), it is worth considering extended registration periods for your most valuable domains.
Some registrars also offer automatic ‘top-up renewal’ in order to maintain an extended registration period. For example, I have some .com domains that are far too valuable to lose and these are registered for 10 years, with an automatic ‘top-up’ renewal enabled to maintain the extended registration period.
Unfortunately, .au domains currently have a maximum (and fixed) renewal period of two years, so this additional safeguard is not available to Australian businesses. I recently raised my concerns about this matter in a submission to auDA. If you share these concerns, consider making a submission to the auDA 2015 Names Policy Panel Issues Paper (submissions close 1 June 2015).
If you hold a large number of domains with one registrar, you may have access to more personalised services, such as dedicated representatives for your account.
Dedicated staff that are familiar with your portfolio may alert you to unusual activity, such as premium domains expiring due to renewal fees not being processed.
Trademarks can also provide additional protection for your domain, and this is particularly true for .au domains, due to a robust policy framework that helps to protect trademark holders.
Whilst a trademark can help you recover a domain in some circumstances (e.g. if a domain expired and was registered by another individual), naturally this is a recourse of last resort and there is no guarantee that the outcome will be in your favour.
Unfortunately, the frequency of domain thefts is growing rapidly. For this reason, using a reputable registrar with robust security is hugely important. We will cover security considerations in more details in future articles.