I work with a non-profit that has had a Web presence since 2000. They changed their name a couple of years back and rebranded everything around the new name. The old domain hung around, and even though it forwarded to the new one, it caused confusion and brand dilution. The director wanted it gone.
We let the old name expire.
Having been around for over 10 years, and having some inbound links and press coverage, the old name had pretty potent Google juice. The name got snapped up by somebody in Russia, who put up a horrible mix of some of the old site content and links to a pharma selling what claimed to be Cialis.
The organization discovered this two days before a major, much-publicized fund-raising event. The old site — Cialis links and all — was number 2 on a Google search for the organization’s name. The new, shiny Web site was number 9. Still on the first page, but essentially nowhere.
Angst and hair-pulling ensued. In the end there was nothing I or anybody else could do to rescue the situation.
Over time we will improve the new site’s SEO. With luck and persistence, we may even kick the Russian spammer’s butt in the Google department. For now, lesson learned: Just pay for the old domain name. Forever.