When Registering a Domain Name, Buy All Variations

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

Cybersquatter: I Just Stole Your Domain Name In Every TLDRegistering 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Explore different verb tenses. “Cook” can include “cooking,” “cooker,” and “cooked.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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]

Uniregistry.com

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20 Responses to “When Registering a Domain Name, Buy All Variations”

  1. I remember about 5 years into my last publishing co, we were doing well, growing subscribers and revenue quarter upon quarter. Advertisers were on a waiting list. Life was good.

    Then I noticed one of my advertisers had registered my domain in an extension that I thought was only for not-for-profits. I was shocked. They had registered a .org, the “not for profit” version of my .com domain name.

    I couldn’t believe a customer would do that to me. Sure there were many imitations of my publishing co popping up left and right, but i had created the industry’s 800 pound gorilla publishing company and I had a better, catchier name. .

    At the time, I wasn’t aware that for $1500 I could file a UDRP and get it back. After all, I was the trademark owner on record with the USPTO and the name was a unique one. So I politely asked the customer if I could have the domain back. I offered to reimburse expenses. He said no. He thought he had a right to own the domain.

    With no apparent recourse, I cut off the advertiser. No more advertising of his company to my audience of hundreds of thousands of unique readers.

    After a few months of reduced traffic to his website, he recanted and transferred the domain to me. And I reinstated him as a customer in good standing. But it took me countless hours of troublesome thoughts, wrangling, discussions with my wife and a bunch of hour$ of discussions with my attorney. All for a $7.99 domain name registration.

    Lesson learned, the hard way.

  2. Joe Ellis says:

    Good advice. I typically do this for the most obvious domain extensions and variations. One of the perks of owning my own domain reseller site, http://www.DomainOfficials.com, is that I can buy my domains at wholesale prices. It is one of the reasons I’ve been trying to get folks to sign up as resellers – if you’re a domainer, it just makes sense to own your own reseller site. Even if you never sell to another customer, you’d make your signup fee back in no time, if you buy a lot of domains at cost.

  3. Paul Bliss says:

    I’m not sure this makes sense for everyone. A generic domain, yes. Branded? maybe. Even if you create value in a domain, and someone else picks up the “.co” extension, they’d have a hard time proving that they weren’t trying to gain from the work you put into building up a brand name.

    • Astrid William says:

      Great point, Paul. I think it’s even more important for branded domain names. Remember the hubbub about Chef Patrick and someone buying ChefPatrickSucks? Wow. That monopolized the blogs for a few weeks, didn’t it?

  4. Chuckie says:

    Uhaul.com and YouTube.com are good examples of the phonetics issue. For people unfamiliar, they go to YouHaul.com or UTube.com. Luckily, Uhaul owns both. YouTube.com is not as lucky.

  5. Wayne says:

    I have this query..If I register a Domain name before someone else that trademark’s it, even after a few years, who has the right of the Domain? The new trademark registrant, or the previous registered Domain name registrant?

    • Astrid William says:

      That’s a good question. I would think that you do, but I’m not a lawyer.

      If you were using a “brandable” domain name prior to someone else getting a trademark for it, then I think that means that they shouldn’t have gotten a trademark for it. I don’t know for sure. I’ll ask David Weslow, who was recently interviewed on DomainSherpa, if he can pop over here and provide some guidance. :)

      • David Weslow says:

        Hi Zonqor and Astrid – The answer depends somewhat on how the domain name is used before the new trademark registrant begins using its name/mark. If the earlier domain name owner uses the name commercially to promote and sell products or services, and the name is distinctive enough to qualify for trademark protection, he or she will likely be entitled to trademark rights in the name and could have “priority” to continue using the name in association with the products or services sold on the site. If the domain name is only used to display a placeholder page, the domain name owner would be unlikely to be entitled to trademark rights in the name and the later trademark registrant could be in a position to prevent the domain name owner from using the domain name in a manner that could be likely to cause consumer confusion with the trademark registrant or its products or services.

        • Zonqor says:

          Thank you for your answer, David, much appreciated.

          So therefore for all Domainers to know, is, that when you register a non generic word/s, to be protected you must trademark it or develop it. You cannot hang on to it and flip it later on, or have it parked, as someone might meanwhile TM it and u will lose it. This is going to reduce a lot of sales for Registrars from Domainers, if you just intend to flip it later on.

          Isn’t it in itself that when you register a domain you automatically have the full rights, do you have to lose it to the new trademarker?

          Now, if its TM’d in Europe but not America or vise-versa what happens then?What about the other Continents?

          Tnx ;)

          • David Weslow says:

            In the situation you described, you may continue to have a limited right to use the domain name in a particular manner, but the trademark owner’s later developed trademark rights could be a basis for preventing you from using the domain name in a manner that is likely to confuse consumers with the trademark owner or its products or services.

            Trademark rights are generally limited by country, so that is definitely another wrinkle to consider.

            • Zonqor says:

              Thank you for the advice, David, :)

              • Zonqor says:

                So if I register a trademark in Europe of a non generic Domain, what happens then when one trademarks it in the US?

                tnx once again

                • David Weslow says:

                  In general, assuming no bad faith by either party (e.g., intentional copying of someone else’s TM), it is possible for different parties to own identical TMs in different countries.

                  • Zonqor says:

                    David, so presumably, when it comes to the Domain registration and I’m from a small country but with a registered TM, but one has the Domain registered in .com plus TM in a small country and the other TM’ed only with, let say, .net but in the USA? Who has the authority internationally if both parties offer the same service

                    Sorry, but its a bit confusing and thanks for the continuance support :)

                    • David Weslow says:

                      It is possible that each side would have the right to continue using its name in the countries in which it was already operating, but the answer may also depend on the countries at issue, the timing of each side’s launch of their site, and a few other issues that are tough to summarize here. If you would like to continue discussing, please feel free to contact me “offline” at http://www.NewMediaIPLaw.com or through Twitter @NewMediaIPLaw.

  6. TJ says:

    HA! That is the BEST graphic I’ve seen in a domaining article!

    Good advice.

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