Finding the right name to represent your company is challenging enough. But when you add in the complexity of finding the right business name that is also available as a domain name for your Internet presence, the process can easily become convoluted.
Once you have settled on that perfect name and URL, keep it safe from unscrupulous practices: register all the variations of your chosen domain name. Think of the added registration costs as your online identity insurance policy. With registration fees as low as $7.49 for each domain name, the premium is pretty reasonable. And as with most problems, it is always easier to prevent the misuse of your brand than to fix it after the fact.
Protection Against Cybersquatters
Registering the variations of your primary domain name is relatively cheap insurance against the unsavory and illegal practice of cybersquatting. Cybersquatters buy domains that are the same as or similar to existing trademarked names, with the intention of profiting from consumer confusion, or to extort money from the rightful owner of the trademark.
We will discuss below how to brainstorm all the variations of your domain name, but as a simple example, let’s say your business name is XYZ and you purchase XYZ.com. It would be prudent to also register XYZs.com. If you don’t, a cybersquatter could easily register that domain name and subsequently try to sell it to you for an unreasonably inflated price.
Cybersquatting is illegal under U.S. and international law, but like all litigation, seeking a court-ordered award for domain misappropriation is a long process with costs that are prohibitive to most small business owners. Just filing a case under the rules for Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) starts at $1,500, with no guarantee of your desired resolution.
Porn Funnels and Sneaky Competitors
If the threat of extortion by a cybersquatter doesn’t convince you to explore your domain name variations, then the possibility of a “porn pirate” should. In an effort to get new visitors, the owner of a pornographic website will register variations of your domain name to funnel traffic to their adult-only site. If this happens to you, potential customers may mistype your URL and end up at a website of pornography.
Other risks of unclaimed domain names come from your competitors, who like cybersquatters, may take advantage of unclaimed domains related to your business name as a way to divert traffic and business away from you.
Brainstorm All Domain Name Variations
Now that you are ready to take control of any domain name variations connected with your business name, how do you know what those variations are? Following is a list of suggestions to help you:
- Register your primary domain name in the three most common generic top-level domains (also known as gTLDs): .com, .net and .org. It is also worth seriously considering .biz and .info.
- Buy both the singular and plural forms of any nouns. If your principal domain name is Lawyer.com, for example, you do not want to miss out on potential customers who type in Lawyers.com – either by mistake or because they expect your website to be a plural name. Domain squatters know the value of plural nouns; they often register the plural versions of new domain names, so be sure to beat the bad guys by claiming your own plural domain name.
- Explore different verb tenses. “Cook” can include “cooking,” “cooker,” and “cooked.”
- If you domain name has two words, consider buying the hyphenated version. If your domain is Livingroom.com, for example, register Living-room.com also. Likewise, if you have a hyphenated domain, register the unhyphenated version.
- Look into common misspellings of your domain name. A user might easily type Wierdwidgets.com when trying to reach your site, Weirdwidgets.com. Twitter is currently in a dispute over the domain name Twiter.com (WIPO filing). It is worth noting that web users are used to deliberately misspelled business names, so consider how your domain name sounds and whether users might expect a different spelling.
- Think about all the homophones (words with the same pronunciation) for the prefix, root and suffix of your domain name. For example, someone might be told to visit Thebestsight.com, but instead type Thebestsite.com when they get to their browser.
- Finally, prevent complaint sites from being registered in your name by claiming Yourdomain-sucks.com. Disgruntled ex-employees have been known to wreak havoc on their former employer by setting up a “this company sucks” site, doing damage to a business’s reputation. Some of the more prominent “-sucks” sites include Mac Sucks, DisneySucks and Chase Bank Sucks.
Additionally, there are many domain name generators online, such as BustAName, Domain Name Soup and Impossibilty, to help you find available variations.
Buying All Domain Name Variations: A Worthwhile Investment
By doing a little extra work now and investing in domain name variations, you will protect your business against threats to your reputation, bad spelling by your customers, and Internet traffic diversion. The low cost of domain registration is a small price to pay to add to the value and security of your brand for the future. Think of the added registration costs as your online identity insurance policy. It’s much less expensive than the lost goodwill of your business, or filing a UDRP or lawsuit.
[Photo credits: Naomi Ibuki, Hetemeel]
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