Registering the domain you want is easy: simply type it into the Domain Search Bar on your preferred registrar’s website, click “Add to Cart,” check out, and now you have your domain…right?

Sure. Sometimes.

But what if the domain you have your heart set on is currently registered to someone else? Or worse, whoever it’s registered to isn’t even using it? Don’t lose hope just yet, there is a way to throw your name in the ring and potentially grab that domain when it expires.

This is the only guide you will ever need about backordering. Do you need all of this information right now?

Maybe, maybe not...

But you can click the links below to take you directly to the information you do need ASAP, and then bookmark this page to keep in your back pocket.

What Is A Backorder?

A large dog jumping into the air to catch a frisbee

A backorder is used to attempt to register a domain that has expired and is about to be released to the public. The technical term for this is “drop catch,” and both words are generally used interchangeably. When you request a backorder at a registrar, they will try to “catch” the domain once it goes through the full deletion process and is about to be re-released.

For example, if you have your heart set on owning spongebobquotes.com but it’s already registered to someone else, you can place a backorder for it in the hopes that the current owner will let the domain expire.

Helpful Definitions

If the sentence “The registrant didn’t renew their domain at their registrar and now it’s been returned to the registry that controls that TLD” makes your head spin, you’re not alone.

Below are some helpful definitions to make things a little bit clearer:

TLD

  • Top Level Domain
  • The string of letters after the "." in a domain name
  • Examples: .COM, .BIZ, .XYZ, .BINGO 

Registry

  • The company that owns and operates domain name brands (TLDs)
  • Some registries control a few TLDs, some control hundreds
  • Examples: VeriSign controls .COM, Afilias controls .IO, Donuts controls .SHOES

Registrar

  • That's us! Or a company like us.
  • We provide domain name registrations to the general public.
  • Essentially, a registrar is the middle man between a registry and the consumer
  • Examples: Sav.com, GoDaddy, Namecheap

Registrant

  • Whomever the domain is currently registered to
  • Examples: You!

 

3 Reasons to Place a Backorder

1.  Your domain expired and you want it back.

Maybe you forgot to renew your domain or had payment issues and now you are trying to recover it before someone else snags it. Placing a backorder request is a great way to increase your chances of getting first dibs when the domain becomes available again.

2.  It’s the best domain name ever.

Sometimes you just have to have that perfect domain name you’ve been dreaming about. Maybe it’s your name or your favorite movie or just a phrase that makes you laugh. Who wouldn’t want to be the proud owner of spongebobquotes.com? A domain could be valuable just because it brings you joy.

3.  You’re trying out a new side hustle.

You’ve heard the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” right? Well - someone else’s expired domain may just be a treasure in disguise. If you are able to catch valuable domains in a backorder, you can sell them for a profit. This is called “domain flipping.”

Domain Expiration Timeline Process

Every registrar has their own policies regarding domain expiration timelines. Most of these policies follow the same basic process:

Domain lifecycle graphic

Registering a domain is similar to signing a lease for an apartment. Like an apartment lease, domain registrations last for a specified period of time and can be renewed if you’d like to extend that period. Domains can be renewed for up to 10 years at a time, and most registrars offer an Auto Renew feature that makes it easy to ensure your domain doesn’t expire accidentally.

Every registrar handles the Auto-Renew Grace Period differently, but once the domain has been returned to the registry and has entered into the Redemption Period, the stages are the same regardless of the previous registrar.

Domain lifecycle with Auto Renew Grace Period highlighted

At Sav, the Auto-Renew Grace Period is split into two distinct parts. The current registrant is given a full 30 days to renew their domain after the date of expiration - in case they forgot to set up Auto-Renew, need to update their payment method, etc.

Then, if the current registrant does not renew the domain in that time, the domain is removed from their account on Day 30 and placed into an Exclusive Expiring Auction. This is a 10 day auction that anyone - including the previous registrant - can participate in.

Once the auction concludes, the highest bidder is given 3 days to make their payment. If they do not complete their payment within those 3 days, the domain will be deleted and returned to the registry on Day 44.

These auctions have no hard stop time because all Sav Auctions will be extended if a bid is placed in the last 5 minutes. This is why there is an extra 2 days built into Sav’s Auto-Renew Grace Period stage.

If there are no bids on the domain in the Exclusive Expiring Auction, the domain will be deleted and returned to the registry on Day 44.

Domain lifecycle with Redemption Period highlighted

On Day 44, when the domain is returned to the registry, it will automatically enter Redemption Period. This means that for 30 days (Day 44 to Day 74) the previous registrant has the option to “redeem” the domain for a fee.

If the domain is redeemed, it will be sent from the registry back to the previous registrar and will never enter Pending Delete. Expired domains being redeemed is fairly uncommon but it does happen.

Domain lifecycle with Pending Delete highlighted

If the previous registrant does not redeem the domain within the Redemption Period, it will be labeled Pending Delete on Day 74 and can no longer be redeemed. The Pending Delete status will last for 5 days (Day 74-79).

Domain lifecycle with Released highlighted

79 Days after a domain expires at Sav, it will be released from the registry. When it is released - if you placed a backorder request for it - registrars will immediately attempt to catch and register it for you.

How to Find an Expired Domain

Looking for a specific domain? Check the WHOIS Data.

Hand grabbing an orange that is attached to a tree

Although there is no way to definitively know the exact date an expired domain will be dropped from the registry, there are a few different ways to see if a domain you are interested in will be available soon.

If you are looking for one specific domain name’s status – perhaps your website domain accidentally expired or you want to see when yourname.com may become available again – then checking the WHOIS data is the quickest and easiest way to find the information you need.

The WHOIS Directory is the most accurate, up-to-date source of registration information. You can perform a WHOIS Lookup using either an online tool or a computer terminal. Both of these options will show the same information, but the online tool may be easier to interpret.

Let’s take a look at an example. Below is the WHOIS Data for spongebobquotes.com. On the left is a partial screen grab from ICANN’s WHOIS Directory and on the right is a partial screen grab from a Mac terminal:

Screenshots of WHOIS data for spongebobquotes.com

For reference, this lookup was performed on June 29th, 2021 (74 days after the Registry Expiration Date, highlighted above in red).

It may seem simple to just add 79 days to the Registry Expiration Date to find out when the domain will be dropping, and sometimes (as is the case with spongebobquotes.com) this will give you a pretty accurate date.

That expiration date can be misleading though.

For example, if we had performed a lookup for spongebobquotes.com on April 15th, 2021, the Registry Expiration Date would still show as April 16th, 2021… but we wouldn’t know for sure if the current owner of the domain was going to let it expire or not.

For more accurate information, we need to look at the “Domain Status” (highlighted above in yellow).

There are quite a few different “Domain Status” results that you may see, but the one you want to see - if you’re hoping to snag a domain that is already registered to someone else – is pendingDelete. When you see this status, it means that the domain can no longer be redeemed/ restored by the previous owner and it should be released by the registry within about 5 days.

If you see a status of pendingDelete paired with redemptionPeriod, this means there is still a small chance that the domain in question could be redeemed by the current owner. Every domain has to go through redemptionPeriod before it enters a pendingDelete status, so don’t be discouraged if you see this!

Just browsing? Check a Pending Delete List.

Library filing system

Most registrars that offer backordering services have a Pending Delete Domains list available to download. These lists are derived from official registry lists, are updated daily and include all of the domains that that particular registrar will attempt to catch when they are released (dropped) by the registry.

Pending Delete lists vary depending on which TLDs that registrar supports backorders for. While Sav supports backordering for nearly all (95%) of our TLDs, many other registrars only allow users to request backorders for 25%, 12%, or even 2% of their total available TLDs. You can see which drop catching services support backorders for specific TLDs here.

Keep in mind that these Pending Delete lists are not usually updated in real time. If you’ve checked a domain’s status with a WHOIS Lookup but it isn’t showing up on your registrar’s Pending Delete list, it likely just hadn’t been added by the time the list was released by the registry that day.

It may help to have some idea of what you’re looking for when checking a Pending Delete list for potential purchases. Thousands of domain names expire every day, so the lists can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t have any search parameters.

ExpiredDomains.net is a great resource if you want to really narrow down your search. They have a seemingly endless amount of filters for their domain auction lists. It is quite user friendly, although it may be helpful to check out a tutorial if this is your first time diving into the domain aftermarket.

Using Multiple Domain Backorder Services

tijana-drndarski-Sor2mKj58m0-unsplash

There is absolutely no harm in placing a backorder request for a domain with multiple services (as long as it’s free to place a request at that service).

Think of it this way: If you dropped your diamond ring into a lake, wouldn’t you want as many divers as possible to go in and try to recover it? In the end, only one diver will be successful since there was only one ring to recover… but you increased your chances of getting your ring back by enlisting the help of multiple services.

Sure, in that specific scenario you would probably have to pay each diver for their time spent attempting to retrieve the ring. But since many drop catching services have a “no catch, no pay” policy, and only one service can be successful in catching your desired domain, you will only have to pay for the backordered domain once - at whichever registrar was able to catch it.

How Much Does Backordering Cost?

Getting your hands on the domain of your dreams could cost you $1 at one registrar and $100 at a different registrar. Why do the prices differ so much?

Hands counting twenty dollar bills

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that affect what you actually end up paying for a backorder:

Registration Cost

Most domain backorder services include a year of registration in their price, which means the price of a backorder is going to be at least the cost of registering that domain for a year.

Using Sav’s Pricing as an example, a .COM domain currently costs $8.69 to backorder but a .NET domain costs $9.88. These prices are based on the registration costs associated with the TLD.

Premium Pricing Tiers

Some TLDs have Premium Pricing Tiers, which means that the registry can decide that a particular domain is more valuable than another domain with the same TLD. For example, gem.luxury could be priced at $40 but a similar domain like diamond.luxury may be priced at $5,000.

What makes a registry decide that one domain is more valuable than another?

Memorability and desirability.

Shorter, easy to remember domain names are generally higher in price than more niche domains. For example, spongebob.art may be priced higher than cool-funny-spongebob.art.

Another reason some domains are deemed to be more valuable is the use of industry keywords. This is the case with gem.luxury versus diamond.luxury: the keyword “diamond” likely has a larger search volume in the industry and is therefore more sought after.

Most registrars will tell you upfront which TLDs contain domains in premium pricing tiers, and will show you the estimated price of the specific domain you placed a backorder, so you won’t be surprised by the end price that is higher than you expected. It is a good idea to double check these estimated prices before the remove-by deadline approaches, just to ensure that you have enough time to remove the backorder if it is out of your price range.

Extra Fees from the Registrar/Drop Catching Service

Some registrars will require you to purchase a “credit” before you can even place a backorder request. Other registrars may not technically charge any extra fees but build hefty hidden fees into their starting prices. Sav never requires users to purchase credits to use our services, and backorders are always free to place. In addition, Sav’s backorder prices are a fraction of other drop catching services.

Multiple Backorders on the Same Domain

Six fishing poles set up on the back of a boat

Although there are one or two drop catching services out there that only allow one user to request a backorder on a domain, nearly all registrars allow an unlimited number of users to place a backorder for a domain. So what happens when 20 people all want to capture the same domain? An auction.

Auctions can be tricky to predict. Depending on the domain’s perceived value, you may find yourself in a bidding war and end up spending well over the initial backorder/registration cost. Alternatively, you could be the only bidder and snag your domain for the minimum bid.

Some drop catching services automatically put captured backorders up for auction, even if there was only one user who placed a request for that domain. Be sure to read up on your preferred service’s policies.

What Happens When A Backorder Is Caught?

When a domain is successfully captured by a registrar, one of three things will happen:

  1. You’ll be charged the backorder price and the domain will be sent to your account.
  2. A private auction will start.
  3. A public auction will start.

Which of those three things will happen depends on how many different users placed a backorder request for the same domain. Although some registrars will automatically start an auction even if there was only one request for the domain, those are few and far between.

Generally, if you are the only one who placed a backorder request for a particular domain at the registrar that was able to capture it, the domain will be automatically awarded to you without going to auction. You’ll be charged the backorder price and the domain will be deposited into your account.

If multiple users placed a backorder for the same domain, there will be an auction.

Two dogs playing tug of war with a toy

What’s the difference between a private auction and public auction?

A private auction is conducted only between the users who placed a backorder for the domain. Most registrars will automatically place the starting bid on behalf of the user who placed the backorder first. The other users will be notified - usually via email - of the auction beginning and invited to place their bids.

A public auction is conducted amongst - you guessed it! - the public. The auction will begin similarly to a private auction, with the starting bid being placed for the user who placed the backorder first and the other users being notified.

Once a public auction for a domain starts, anyone can place a bid - regardless of whether or not they placed a backorder for it.

Whether the auction is public or private, you may get lucky and walk away with your domain at the minimum bid. Perhaps the other users who originally placed a backorder request changed their mind or missed the email notifying them of the auction.

Or, as is the nature of auctions, you could find yourself in a bidding war. The good news about a bidding war is that it means other people see that domain as valuable - and if you walk away victorious, it is more likely that you’ll be able to flip the domain for a profit.

The downside to bidding wars is that you’ll have to pay a higher price for the domain than if you were the only bidder in the auction.

Woman biting a pencil while looking at her computer screen in excitement

Is it worth it?

It depends.

If you originally placed the backorder request because you’re attempting to get an expired domain back, you will have to decide if paying the higher price is going to pay off in the long run.

Do you have an established company that will truly lose revenue if you were to change your website domain name?

If so, it’s probably worth the extra money to secure your domain. And if you are the highest bidder and you are able to register your domain again: be sure to set up Auto-Renew with an up-to-date payment method to avoid an accidental drop in the future!

Or do you have a small, startup company that could survive a rebrand if it meant not shelling out more than you can afford in a domain auction?
If this is the case, consider seeing if a similar name is available, perhaps maybe even the same name with a different TLD.

If you placed the backorder request because you’re looking to sell it for a profit, consider how much you could potentially sell that domain for. Then decide what an acceptable profit margin would be for you. Subtract your minimum acceptable profit margin from what you expect the domain could be sold for down the line and use that number as your maximum bid for the auction.

For example: if you’re bidding in an auction for spongebobquotes.com, and you think you could sell it down the line for $100 but you need to make a $20 profit...then you should spend no more than $80 in the auction.

Of course, all of this is subjective. If you feel like spending a few million dollars on the domain of your dreams then more power to you!

Direct Transfer Domains VS Pending Delete Domains

Two dirt roads separating in the forest

The aftermarket for buying expired domains works a little differently from registrar to registrar. Some registrars auction off “direct transfer” domains, which means that the domain is listed and sold to a buyer before it goes through the registry’s complete expiration cycle.

Expiration Timeline

At Sav, these “direct transfer” domain auctions are called Exclusive Expiring Auctions - and you do not need to place a backorder in order to participate. When a domain registered at Sav expires, the user has a 30 day Auto-Renew Grace Period during which they are free to renew their domain.

Once that 30 day period is over, the domain is listed in a 10 day Exclusive Expiring Auction. On day 40, if the domain did not sell at auction, it will be deleted from Sav and returned to its registry.

Once a domain has been returned to the registry, it will go through a Redemption Period and will then become a Pending Delete Domain.

Other registrars may list a domain for auction immediately after it expires, while it is still in Auto-Renew Grace Period. This means that even if you are the highest bidder in the auction, the previous registrant could still renew the domain and you will walk away empty handed. These registrars may also require you to place a backorder for the domain in order to participate in the auction - even though it technically hasn’t been “caught” in a backorder. This is also referred to as a Pre-Release Domain Auction at some registrars.

How to Place a Backorder

As every registrar is different, their procedures for placing a backorder will naturally be different as well. Many of them will have FAQ Articles that give step-by-step instructions on how to use their backordering platforms.

If you’re planning on placing a backorder at Sav, the process is very simple!

Just login to your account (or create an account if you don’t already have one), click on the tab that says My Backorders, enter the domains you want into the Add Backorders field and click the “Add Domains” button.

Your backorder requests will then be listed under the Active Backorder Requests section on the same page - along with the estimated backorder price (at Sav, this is the same as the registration cost), the estimated renewal price (how much the domain will cost to renew in one year), and the date you added the domain to your backorder list.

 

A Sav backorder requests page

 

What if I Place a Backorder and Then Change My Mind?

Decided against spongebobquotes.com? No problem!
If you’d like to remove a backorder request for any reason, you can click the trash can icon next to it in your list or type it into the Bulk Remove Backorders field and click the “Remove Domains” button.

Most registrars, including Sav, require you to add or remove your backorder request prior to the 24 hour period before the registry is scheduled to drop that domain name.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hand raised with multicolored nails and a black watch

Are Backorders Guaranteed?

No, placing a backorder does not guarantee that you will acquire the domain. When a backordered domain drops, multiple registrars/drop-catching services can try to catch and register it. Certain registrars have higher catch rates than others, but drop catching is still unpredictable.

And don’t forget about the possibility of an auction! You probably won’t know if multiple users have requested a backorder for the same domain as you until you get an email inviting you to the auction, so always be prepared for that possibility.

Are there SEO benefits to purchasing an expired domain?

This is heavily debated amongst the SEO community. The truth is, there is really no way to know what the benefits are, if any. SEO is tricky to predict and search engine algorithms are constantly changing.

Many Domain Investors do choose which domains to purchase or bid on based on certain SEO factors (i.e. PageRank, WHOIS Registration Date, Backlinks, etc.) so even if these are not of use to you...it may make the domain more valuable if you choose to flip it for a profit.

Is anything included with a backordered domain?

Any domain caught in a backorder at Sav will include one year of registration, free Privacy Protection, free SSL Certificates, free DNS powered by Cloudflare and a free Website Builder trial.

Lots of colorful presents in a pile

Whether you’re trying to recover your own expired domain, finally get your hands on your dream domain (hello, spongebobquotes.com!) or start flipping domains for a profit, you should have all of the tools you need to make it happen!

Abigail Bell

Abigail Bell

Abigail is the Marketing Coordinator at Sav. Outside of work, she enjoys mystery podcasts and DIY projects.