While a decent percentage of the global business community has become aware of the importance of search engine marketing, very few businesses seem know about the best practices surrounding the purchasing and ownership of web site domain names (e.g. when to purchase, what to purchase, etc.). Unlike SEO problems, where a banned site can get re-included if the webmaster fesses up to bad behavior, mistakes involving domain names are frequently permanent (though sometimes large amounts of cash can be used to overcome problems).
Here is an example of a particularly egregious corporate domain name foul-up:
Torrent Pharma, an Indian pharmaceutical company, recently sent out a press release announcing that they are bringing to market Rimoslim, a generic version of the very popular weight loss drug Acomplia. I first learned of Rimoslim while reading the release and as a domainer (domain speculator)-in-training, I immediately searched to see whether the .com domain name was available. Shockingly, it was. I did not buy it because I believed that I would be setting myself up for a future conflict with Torrent, thinking that they would likely respond with considerable fury if they ever became aware of the gravity of their error.
Sure enough, Rimoslim.com was quickly purchased by a “resident of France” known as “Dave the Red Frog” (at least some domainers have a good sense of humor). Instead of spending $10 to purchase their branded domain, Torrent either must spend a considerable amount of energy and resources chasing down “Dave the Red Frog” who has parked the page for ad revenue or accept that they have lost their branded .com domain name.
Also, as I write this, a very large U.S. Commercial Real Estate Company has announced the name of a major Southeastern development but hasn´t forked over the $10 necessary to secure its .com domain name. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg…
Keep these examples in mind as I present some best practices for Corporate Domain Name Management:
Buy first, publicize later. (The Torrent Rule) Before publicizing a new product, business, service or project, purchase the relevant .com domain name. Also, strongly consider purchasing the .net, .org & any relevant country-specific domain names as well. If “The Torrent Rule” isn´t followed, a smart domainer can register the intended domain name within minutes of a public announcement. Ideally, purchase the domain names while the idea is in its “conceptualization/development” phase and if multiple “brand” names are being considered, buy the .com domain names for all of them (because they could vanish at any time). You can discard the ones that don´t get used simply by allowing their registrations to lapse.
Register misspelt variants. Once you have purchased your relevant domain names, determine the most common misspellings and purchase the .com domain names of each. Redirect these URL´s to your primary site. From my own experience, I know that “Acomplia” is frequently spelled “Accomplia” and the drug manufacturer smartly has purchased both .com domain names (though curiously hasn ´t used them to help educate consumers about the drug). Domainers will capture the most prominent misspellings of any brand if not secured.
Register generic variants. Task several members of the team with the following creative exercise: if a prospect were searching for your product or business but didn´t know what it was called, what generic words or phrases might they use to describe it? Once a final list is created, buy each available .com domain name on the list and redirect each of these URLs to your primary website. This exercise will allow the capture of “type-in traffic” (the traffic generated from people typing the word/phrase directly into the browser address bar without spaces followed by .com). Depending on the terms involved, this could be a substantial number of visitors. In my most recent Search Engine Guide article, I told the story of how I permanently poached some generic type-in traffic that the manufacturers of Lybrel failed to protect. A domainer will see your publicity as an opportunity to purchase domain(s) that will not only permanently capture your type-in traffic but potentially acquire an asset that can be sold for a premium price in the future.
Protect your domains. Make sure that your domain registrar login information is secure, that your domains are set to “auto renew”, that your WHOIS information is accurate and that a non-expired credit card is setup in the account. Losing domain names to an administrative foul-up would be a bitter pill to swallow.
There are quasi-legal administrative actions available that can help a business potentially recapture a trademarked (or close variant of a trademarked) domain name. However, following proper domain name management best practices will enable businesses to avoid wasting resources needlessly.
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon´s Search Engine Marketing Association.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.