I was recently asked by a website owner if they should just give up their domain name when they are ready to close down one website and start a new one. They called their domain registrar who told them to keep it but they wanted to know “why” and if they hold on to it when, if ever, can they get rid of their registered domain.
First of all, the domain registrar is right – you should hold onto your old domain. You may think that because you’ve got a copyright or you’ve trademarked your name that no one else can use it. Can anyone take it and use it? Of course they can!! And when they do it can be very annoying and embarrassing on the web. Remember US laws, especially trademark/copyright laws, extend only as far as US borders and only as far as your cash will pay an attorney to enforce them for you.
A little story to illustrate. A non profit decided to disband and of course shut down their website. They also decided NOT to dedicate funds for the future maintenance of their domain. When they stopped paying for the domain a company in India bought it after grabbing all the text on the site without permission. The Indian company refused to take off the names of the officers, their phone numbers, and addresses, and continued to use the content and web address.
Why would a company that has nothing to do with your product or service want your domain and content? They resurrect the site with links to their business, thus cashing in on your interesting content and all the hard work you’ve done to drive traffic to the website.
When you’re ready to shut down a site I recommend doing one of 3 things:
1. Remove all files from the server and put up only a one page site that says it’s closed. Then when it is no longer being cached in Google search results you should consider giving up the domain name.
2. Take all of the files off the server and point the domain name to the new website. This useful option will direct your current visitors to your new venture.
3. Why let a some other company make coin from your hard work? Why not leave up your site and add some affiliate ads or Google Ads? If your content is good you’ll still be getting visitors and turn a profit by just letting the site sit.