You have a domain name for your website. It works great: you love the name, your customers and fans know it by heart, and people can easily find your website.
But as your site’s popularity grows, there’s also a growing threat. Nefarious people might try to take advantage of the hard work you put into your business by registering typos and other variations of the name.
There are ways you can protect yourself and your brand. Here are some suggestions.
Buy Alternative Extensions
If you own a .com domain name, that doesn’t mean you have a lock on the brand name. People can register the same second-level domain (the part to the left of the dot) in over 1,000 extensions.
There are legitimate reasons that someone might register the same second level domain in other extensions, especially if your name is common or generic.
But if the .NET and .ORG are available, consider registering these versions of your domain to lock them up. The popular TLDs .NET and .ORG are common go-tos for people who are too late to register the .com option for their domain. By registering these domains yourself, you can prevent confusion by similarly-named sites on these extensions. And if your brand is unique, registering these domains can keep them out of the hands of people who might want to cause harm to your brand.
Beyond .NET and .ORG, there are hundreds of domain names ending in “new top level domains”. These are domain choices launched last decade that cover everything from .auction to .catering. Or even .XYZ, which can be used for just about anything.
It’s not worth the cost of registering your domain in all of these extensions. Instead, consider which extensions are relevant. If you run a catering company, then it might make sense to pick up your name with the TLD .catering. If you run a software business, then register your domain with .software.
But be smart: the catering business doesn’t need a .software domain and the software business doesn’t need a .catering domain.
If your business is really large, some domain name registries offer services that will block bad actors from registering your trademarks in their extensions. But this isn’t necessary for most businesses.
Finally, if your business targets consumers in a particular country, consider buying the country’s country-code domain (e.g. .CO.UK or .FR).
Owners of growing and popular websites should also evaluate buying typos of their domain names. When users type in a domain name—especially on a mobile phone—they are prone to mistype the domain.
Common errors include:
- Transposing letters
- Skipping letters
- Misspelling difficult words
- Forgetting a dot after www or before .COM (or whatever the domain extension is)
- Spelling out a number when it should be a digit (e.g. four and 4) or vice versa
There are endless permutations, and your budget probably can’t cover all of them. Bad actors tend to take advantage of very popular websites because the typos get enough traffic to justify the cost. They can also use them for phishing attacks. Most small businesses don’t need to worry about this if their domain is easy to remember and spell, but keep this in mind as your web presence grows.
Register Brand + Product Names
Another way to protect your brand is to register domains that include both your brand and the product types you sell.
For example, a clothing company that owns brand.com might register brandjeans.com, brandshoes.com, brandshirts.com, etc.
You can probably think of similar types of products for your industry.
Brand Protection is an Ongoing Effort
Protecting your brand is an ongoing process. When you first register a domain, consider if you should register domains in alternative extensions. If the name is hard to spell, think about other variations to register.
Then, as your site becomes more popular, evaluate typos and other brand-protection strategies. Fortune 500 companies have entire teams dedicated to brand protection!
In some ways, having a brand protection challenge is a good sign: it shows that your business has become successful!