Scott Rigsby is no ordinary Ironman. At the age of 18 he was involved in a motor vehicle accident which after 26 operations over the space of a decade left him as a double amputee. After battling depression and alcohol addiction following his accident he found purpose in his life and went on to become the world record holder for double amputee athletes in both running and triathlon disciplines. He set up the Scott Rigsby Foundation to similarly inspire others like him to live an active lifestyle and to take on and conquer challenges that may have seemed impossible before.
Earlier this year the foundation’s domain name, ScottRigsbyFoundation.org expired. With the domain expired GoDaddy auctioned the domain; attracting several bidders it was sold for $155.
So why did a domain with such personal connections end up being bought by someone completely unconnected? Over the years a website like Scott’s would have attracted a significant amount of web-traffic and with it acquired SEO value and backlinks. Some people try to find “aged” domains with this kind of SEO profile and then keep a watch-list to wait and see if the owner forgets to renew the domain; grabbing them if they do become available.
This is what appears to have happened to Scott’s domain which has been repurposed by an online gambling website seeking presumably to benefit from the website’s historical reputation. Whether buying domains to benefit from their rankings delivers SEO benefit is the subject of some debate, the Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Team suggests don’t bother, but many still follow this strategy.
Scott Rigsby is suing GoDaddy in the courts of Georgia for the loss of the domain; he argues that parts of his contract with GoDaddy were invalid and that they didn’t send him domain renwal reminders. It is difficult to see how Scott’s law suit against GoDaddy will succeed and the process is will be all consuming in both time and money. Whether other options such as a UDRP or false representation / trademark claim against the new domain owners might have been more effective have not been tested.
Scott is far from alone in finding his dropped domain name being caught by a third party; Dallas Cowboys and Microsoft have also faced similar issues. As always prevention is better than cure. Not only should domain name owners ensure they’ve set-up auto-renew and asked their domain name registrar to send renewal notices, but using a domain monitoring service to alert on domain expiration, as well as domain name record changes means that they can also be alerted for any changes which can give early warning to a domain name hijack.