A domain name will play a major role in your business’ digital branding, so it’s simply more efficient to buy it outright. From legal protection to search engine optimization, keeping hold of your domain name offers many benefits essential to your business’ growth.
This article will show you how feasible it is to buy a domain forever, what alternatives are available, and what associated costs go into maintaining an active domain.
What Owning a Domain Means
In the domain world, ownership equals domain registration. You register a domain name with a domain name registrar for market price.
Unfortunately, this means it’s not possible to permanently own normal domains.
This ownership of the registration rights will only last for a set period of time. If your bartending business bought cocktailshakers.com, you’ll need to repeatedly renew your registration if you want to keep it, or else you’ll lose your carefully chosen domain name.
Owning a domain, therefore, requires constant investment and maintenance to keep it active. The good thing is that even if you let your domain expire, you won’t lose everything you’ve worked to build.
💻 Domains versus Websites
As important as domains are, what you connect them to is arguably the real backbone of your digital business and brand.
A website contains all the content you post, from blog articles to online storefronts to pictures of your dog. The sum of these parts is your site, and your domain simply directs people to the website.
Domains are a gateway to websites, so when a domain expires and is no longer connected to a site, visitors cannot access the site’s content. To make sure your audience knows how to find you, be sure to keep your domain active.
The good news is that an expired domain doesn’t affect the website’s content itself. The content still exists, and if you manage to reacquire your domain or connect a new one, visitors will be able to view the site as if nothing had happened.
Pro Tip 💪 Using Free Domain Names
If you don’t mind your domain looking messy, some services offer domains that are just random mixes of numbers and letters but cost nothing. These are often used for redirection or download pages without any branding because when they expire, you can simply swap in a new domain.
Therefore, being unable to permanently buy a domain is more of a branding issue than anything else—it can’t cause you to lose your content and you won’t have to make a new site from scratch.
💵 Registering a Domain
When you purchase a domain, you become the effective owner of that domain for your registration period. While you own the registration rights, you have full control over the domain and can take legal action against anyone else trying to use it.
Every domain marketplace is connected to a domain registrar, which records all the purchased domains in the world and lists who owns them.
While you can’t permanently own a domain, purchasing the registration rights to a domain gives you ownership until the registration period is up. Domains have a one-year minimal registration period, up to a maximum of ten years.
You do have first-renewal rights, so when your domain’s expiration date is approaching, you can extend your ownership before anyone else gets a chance to buy the domain out from under you.
Some domain providers offer auto-renewal so that when your current registration would expire, you are instead charged for a new registration period and maintain ownership.
Expired domains enter the aftermarket and can be purchased by new buyers. Popular domains with strong existing backlink profiles are often snatched up quickly because of their high SEO value, so there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to buy back your old domain before someone else snags it.
Permanently Owning a Domain
Again, normal domains cannot be permanently owned. The only exception are top level domains (TLDs).
In a domain, the TLD is the part that comes after the Dot (think .com or .ly). This is paired with the part you choose, the second-level domain name. For instance, amazon.com is made up of the TLD .com and the second-level domain amazon.
Recent changes in how domains are registered and tracked allow you to create a new TLD, which you then own. You might not be able to own smithlaw.com forever, but you could own .smithlaw and use that for websites, emails, and more.
👍 Owning a Top Level Domain
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organization that controls TLDs, allows applications for new TLDs on a regular basis.
New TLDs that came about through this process include .pioneer, .bentley, or .channel. When a company registers a new TLD, they usually get a period where registration is limited so they can snap up a few domains before the public gets access to the TLD.
Pro Tip 💪 Watch For TLD Overlap in Your Branding
While you should always check your domain name and other branding terms aren’t in use by another business, it can be particularly devastating if you’re trying to build a brand using the name of a TLD. It will be very difficult to escape the shadow of whichever similarly-named company owns the TLD.
The cost to submit an application is a whopping $185,000, which is either partially or entirely nonrefundable if the application is rejected. Should your proposed TLD be accepted, you’ll need to pay $25,000 each year in upkeep fees.
ICANN will review your company’s capabilities to maintain your TLD, since they’re effectively delegating a part of the internet for you to run. Additionally, third parties can pay a fee to object to a proposed TLD. You need to run a large, successful company in good standing to even have a shot at owning your own TLD.
While it is possible to own your own TLD, the process is really only accessible to the biggest businesses in the world, and you’ll still need to share your TLD with the public.
Upkeep for Domains You Own
The biggest downside of not being able to permanently own a domain is the recurring costs. Instead of a one-time payment, you must constantly pay to keep your domain, as well as any other associated costs depending on how you use your domain.
Registration of your domain only lasts for a set period of time, which you choose when you buy it. The longer the period, the higher the initial cost. On average, registration costs $10.00–$20.00 a month for a new domain.
When this period has elapsed, your domain will expire and you’ll need to renew it, or lose the registration rights to the domain. Renewing a domain costs a bit more than the initial registration (around $15.00–$30.00 a month), and you’ll need to continue paying to renew your domain as long as you own it.
Many of the most-used domain providers like Google Domains, NameCheap, or Domain.com offer auto-renewal so you can hold onto your domain more easily. You just need to connect a payment type which will be auto-charged.
If you have a website attached to your domain, you’ll also need to pay for web hosting services. Keeping your website active and visible is done through web hosting, typically at a monthly cost. This cost varies with your specific web hosting package, as well as with your hosting provider, but usually ranges from $5.00–$150.00 a month.
The Bottom Line
While you cannot permanently own a domain, there are fewer risks to temporary ownership than you might expect.
Did this breakdown help you understand domain ownership better? Let us know in the comments, and share this article with any friends or colleagues looking to buy a domain name themselves.