What a stroke of luck. After pretty much giving up hope of ever reclaiming this web address I managed to contact the current owner and made him an offer to buy it back.
For those not in the know, TechMadeEasy.co.uk is a website that I set up in late 2009 while living in Budapest. It seems strange as I type this to consider that 2009 was over a decade ago now, but I digress.
For about 5 years I wrote original content on Tech Made Easy which covered product reviews, how-to guides, news articles and the ocassional blog post, like this one.
I loved what I did and by 2013 it was even starting to churn out a decent income for me. Not so much that I could afford to blog full-time like so many others, but enough that I could invest in products to review and get a new laptop or phone should I need to.
I made great contacts with a number of PR agencies and tech companies and was very privileged to be able to start regularly reviewing products and software for them in an honest and down-to-earth manner.
After a while the reviews actually became the most popular part of the site, and because I could earn money from affiliate marketing they became the core of what the site was about.
Then I threw a spanner in the works…
In 2014 my then-girlfriend (now-wife) and I moved to Nigeria for my day job and quickly I found it very difficult to continue writing. Opportunities for review samples dried up and, combined with the stresses of a new job, I just stopped writing.
To be honest I didn’t even notice when the hosting expired on the site, which meant that I had no opportunity to backup the data and, sadly, over 5 years worth of content was lost forever.
The only reason I found out about the expiration was when a friend approached me sometime in 2017 and said “hey, I love the new look of your site, I’m glad you’re writing again”.
It turns out that some smart cookie had leased the domain name (no law against it, my lease had expired) and had created his own site in place of mine. What’s more, using some rather clever analytics tools he’d worked out which incoming links to the site (that is, links from other sites to mine) were most popular and created flimsy equivelant content which had the same web address as my original article.
Why? Well, ad revenue. You see, some of these links were extremely popular, it wasn’t inusual at it’s peak for Tech Made Easy to receive several thousand visitors per day. Most of these visitors clicked on links from other sites and those links were concentrated on around 20 of the most popular articles on my site.
By creating alternate versions of my original pages on his site, with identical links, he was able to take advantage of all of those page views and the associated ad revenue. In essence he was gaining financially from my hard work.
There was nothing I could do. He had leased the web address legitimately after I had allowed it to expire. The only thing he did which was against the law was creating an email account using the domain which was identical to my old account and using this to gain access to my LinkedIn profile. I didn’t find out about this for several months and in the meantime he had used this access to approach several of my PR contacts about business opportunities. He was also posting updates, as me.
I got control back of my LinkedIn profile relatively easily, but after taking some legal advice I decided the best thing to do would be to move on. By this time I’m a husband and a father, working full time and studying towards a degree in my spare time, I didn’t need the hassle.
But something stirred in me. It bothered me that all of the content I had written was lost forever. You see the original ethos of Tech Made Easy was to provide answers to those with tech problems. I took solace in the fact that even though I was no longer writing, I was still helping others. To know that all of that content was gone really bothered me, so I leased a similar web address and began writing new content.
Now, a few months ago I was discussing this with a friend and I navigated to the imposters site to show it to him… but it wasn’t there. In fact, no page loaded at all. I ran a WHOIS search for the address and found that he’d allowed his lease to lapse in the same way that I had. Whether he did this purposefully is unknown, I suppose after a few years with no new content the ad revenue probably started to dry up.
I made enquiries with my hosting company about leasing the name back, but it turns out someone else had got in first; a UK based domain registration company, who will remain nameless.
This is quite a common occurance. Companies in-the-know will buy up domain names with expired leases in the hope that the previous owner will come grovelling to them and ask if they can buy back their domain… which is exactly what I did.
I didn’t tell the company that I was a previous user of the domain, I felt they might bump the price up if they realised how invested I was in it. Whether or not this made a difference I can’t say, but in the end I managed to buy back the domain for a reasonable amount of money, and over the last couple of days I’ve migrated most of the content from the new site I created back over to this one.
So what’s the plan?
Well, there’s no way I can write as often as I used to. I’m in a very different place to where I was two years ago, let alone 11. My hope is that I can at least get back to what the original site was about; helping people. I’d love to get back to the point where people would email me to say thank you, that I helped them out of a tight squeeze and that I’d had a positive impact on their lives.
As a techie there’s something very humanising about that.