How to use Domain Names to Protect your Online Brand

It is important to begin developing strategies to protect your business’ brand as soon as you launch its web presence. A key element of your online brand is a good domain name.

You can find strategies for selecting a good domain name in a number of places. However, some basic principles to keep in mind are to try and keep the domain name simple, keep it close to your business name or how people refer to your business, and make it easy to pronounce and spell by avoiding hyphens, numerical characters and unusual spelling if you can.

Once you have selected a domain name that is available, you should register your domain with a reputable domain name registrar (a service that Digital Pacific provides). It is then time to start protecting your brand. It’s best to start doing this before you launch your presence, as the process will become more difficult and costly as your brand grows in popularity.

Prevent Domain Prospecting

Domain name prospectors buy domains that might be used by businesses that aren’t yet online. They are gambling that once a business decides it wants the domain name, it will be prepared to buy the domain off the prospector for an inflated price. This is also referred to as cyber squatting, and is a practice that has extended to buying similar sounding domain names and obvious misspellings of common words. Prospectors will often set up small portal web pages at a domain and use broadly relevant links to take advantage of affiliate marketing and advertising. These portals generate revenue through page views, high click through rates and affiliate purchases.

Domain prospecting is an issue for you and your business because typos happen all the time. Less savvy internet users may not even realise that they have typed in the wrong address and will think that a domain prospector’s useless page is your business. This is not a good outcome for you as you are unable to control the experience that these potential clients have while they are searching for your products and services.

Strike First

A quick and effective way to stop someone from squatting on variations of your domain name is to register the most likely variations yourself. You should consider registering variations across the major top level domains of .com, .org and .net, as well as the country level domains of your main markets for maximum protection. For example, in Australia this means registering .com.au, .org.au and .net.au domains where possible. AuDA, the body responsible for the governance of Australian domain names, places specific restrictions around registering many of the .au domains. This will reduce the likelihood of opportunistic squatting around your .au domain names, but will not protect you completely.

Guard Against Bad Publicity

Another domain name phenomenon worth watching is disgruntled customers (and sometimes competitors) using variations of your domain name to publish negative impressions of your brand. A common technique is to add the word “sucks”or something similar to the end of a domain name and use the site to publish negative reviews and opinions of a service. A well-known example is the large number of sites that have been created to discuss the service of PayPal (try typing “paypal sucks” into Google for a taste). While it won’t be economical to register every potential offensive domain, it could be to your benefit to own and control the more obvious options if you operate business that focuses on customer service.

Be Ever Vigilant

Protecting your brand through domain name ownership is not a “cheap and easy” task. Less reputable organisations will continue to look for new ways to gain an advantage off the back of your brand, and different techniques will continue to be developed. However, protecting your domain name has clear and immediate benefits for all businesses serious about owning their brand and reputation online.

Shane Perris

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