What’s in a Domain Name? Your brand, your business!
There are thousands of websites living on the internet that hold fringe domains for major brands. These sites take an internet user who types in the wrong domain in the address bar for a well known company name and send the traffic to other websites — most likely for “referral fees”Â. It’s important to not let your brand be affected by a similar scenario where you run the risk of blurring your brand image and sending users who intend to find your company’s services and products to other websites.
I am puzzled how so many big brands – well known brick and mortar companies – and organizations have not paid proper attention to their brand relative to their domain names. Too often a business owner or head IT person forgets to register all of the domain names surrounding their business and products. This oversight can leave a business vulnerable to lost traffic and a blurry brand image.
When a company neglects to register the proper domain names, variations and fringes of relevant domains, a blurring of the brand begins and unsuspecting web surfers browse on through, never reaching their intended destination!
Following are a couple of real world examples of major brands getting it wrong and they’ve allowed “fringe”Â domain names to get the best of them; they’ve fallen victim to domain name prospector’s who profit directly from their brand.
Hello, anybody home? Is this Wal-Mart?
I would never mistake a Wal-Mart while driving down a highway. I hate them and frankly they SCARE me! They destroy the landscape (personal rant…) With huge, well-lit marquees standing tall above all other signs (even the Golden Arches) and massive footprints on our landscape and of course “Low prices — Always” – who could miss that? (that’s the part that really annoys me — sorry — personal rant continued…)
It’s clear though that many people do LOVE Wal-Mart and they look for them on the web. But on the web, it may be a different story than driving down the street. There are individual internet users who will mistake a fake Wal-Mart for the real Wal-Mart. If a user were to type into their browser bar www.wall-mart.com what they would get:
ALERT: Hey un-savvy web surfers, that’s not Wal Mart! This site is referring traffic to yet other websites.
I say, who was the genius long ago who registered the domain name www.wall-mart.com? Something is going on there.
Or better yet, see www.wallmart.com
(Server not found!) Are you kidding me???? Is this because so many people are mis-typing www.walmart.com that this server gets overloaded? Well fix it then!
This is an example of a major corporation (to say the least) leaving their web traffic in a lurch because they are not paying proper attention to their domain names. What happens to the user who lands on this site is that they probably become frustrated when they are sent to comparison shopping website such as www.bizrate.com or something of the like. This can negatively impact a brands image on the web.
I know some people who have actually just started to learn to use the internet. For sure, they may spend a Ã‚Â½ hour on that website and the affiliated sites to which it sends traffic. I know even more internet users who have been on the web for many years and still don’t know when they are not on the real corporate site. Eventually they realize it, become frustrated and are forced to go to Google or Yahoo! Search to resolve their navigational dilemmas — all to find Wal-Mart on the web?
Other big brands — like major league sports and their franchises — the NBA, the New York Knicks have allowed this to haunt them as well. Reference: The New York Knicks
Hey un-savvy web surfers, that’s not the official site of the New York Knicks! It’s a fringe domain, an orphan domain sending traffic to alternate locations.
In another post, I’ll address what it is that these “fringe”sites are doing on the web. But, for now, what do these sites with the odd, simple link-related content do to your business? They blur your brand image and perhaps more important for (the small or medium sized business) is that they redirect YOUR valuable traffic.
The above examples apply to major brands, companies and organizations, but they provide lessons for the small or medium sized business. What can one learn from these examples of domain name hijacking and brand protection from fringe domains and orphans sites popping up around your brand?
Protect your Corporate Name, Brand, Branded Products and Services online:
Reasons to protect:
- The above examples!
- Domain name prospectors snatch up domains specifically to hijack companies and their brands and charge a ransom for the name as they are misspelled. Don’t let them force you to pay exorbitant rates for your own name either in .com, .net? .info or any other name?
- Why would you want to get into protracted court battles over Trademarks, Service Marks and domain names?
How to protect; rules of thumb:
- A small to medium sized business should be willing to spend somewhere between 2%-5% of an annual internet marketing budget on domain name acquisition for its major company trademarks, service marks, and brand names. The budget should be higher as the company is early on in its internet presence — say years 0-5. Beyond that, the budget can be much lower.
- Register private if you don’t want to be contacted at all by domain name “prospectors”Â
- If you are even thinking about starting a company or taking a company to the web — GO GET THE DOMAIN that you want, and register as many names as possible around that. Register the possible variations and extensions:
- Commerce related extensions such as .com, .net, .info. Consider .org and others secondarily if your interest may be to create a user group, blog or a community around your brand. If you are in travel look at the new offerings in .travel and if you are looking to go purely mobile, look at .mobi. There are more to consider — too many to list here.
- Hyphenated versions of your major names
- Misspellings of your major names
- Register your corporate domain name for as long as possible and set it for auto-renew options in your accounts. Register all of your domain names for at least 1 year.
- Register domain names for products and services that are not rolled out yet and possibly any nick names of your products. (Example — BMW.com — Bimmer.com???? or M3.com ??Ã¯)
- Register a couple of creative names and or variations of your company’s name and / or products and services for future blogging and social marketing concepts.
- Optimize your content. Optimize, Optimize, monitor, watch and react; optimize again.
- Monitor how the search engines treat your site, content and domain against other domains. Watch for variations of your domain name that may be sneaking up on you with irrelevant or competitive content or possibly content that can damage your company’s brand or image. You’re must take advantage of your site’s search optimization.
- Don’t register domains purely for Optimization purposes. Stick to your brand and names that are relevant or creative plays on your company’s name AND, last but not least…
- A final rule of thumb is related to your content. AHH CONTENT — Beyond your domain name, keep your content relevant and current and you will win on the web. Offer up new and interesting content to your users and be active in online communities in your business vertical so that your name is consistently distinguished and so people know who you are. Any domain name with good solid, relevant content should be enough to protect your brand. Develop solid content that accurately reflects your business, the web surfer intending to find you will find you and they will know exactly who you are.
Domain Name Resources:
Random, but interesting article on domain name battles – http://www.sdsc.edu/SDSCwire/v2.11/domains.html