Tag Archives: cyber squatting

Social Media

Cyber Squatting gets a lot more complicated

We’ve talked before about cyber-squatting. This is when someone registers a domain name that is the same or similar to a company or brand, in order to profit from that supposed association.

And last month – just as Britain’s got Talent was reaching its teary zenith – we revealed that not only had many of the contestants names been registered as domain names; but that some had had Facebook and Twitter accounts opened in their name too.

The registering of brand or celebrity names with social networks is a new development in cyber squatting. Now that Facebook has started to give out customised web addresses, and of course MySpace and Twitter allowing users to select their own /name extension, the cyber-squatting game has got a whole lot more complicated.

Consumers are increasingly using social networks to communicate with businesses. Sow now, not only do companies and individuals have to defend their brand by buying up all variations of their brand name as domains; they also have the dizzying task of registering their brand name with social networks too. And as new social networks are springing up all the time, this is going to be quite a task.

The New York Times put it like this: “somewhere out there on the Web, another new service or social network is on the rise, threatening to start yet another online land grab”.

To fill this need of brand owners, a few new services have been launched, which claim to protect brand names on social networking websites. Here’s a couple:

Namechk.com: Lets you check that your brand name is available across hundreds of social networks. Just type in the username you want, and it will let you know on which sites that username has been taken.

And then there is:

KnowEm.com: does the same sort of thing, but will also register your name at the sites, and then send you the username and password. For a fee of course.

I guess the first question is: are you using Social Networks to market your website? We hope that with our latest social media release you’re starting to get to grips with that! And have you found your name to already have been registered? Have you yourself tried registering a company name with a social network? Leave us a comment below.

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Britain’s got Talent, but not Domain Names

Over the bank holiday 13m of us were stuck to our TV screens for the Bank holiday’s biggest treat – the two semi finals of Britain’s Got Talent. And then last weekend ITV took an even bigger chunk of the viewing audience, and our collective consciousness, for the grand final. But whilst that was going on, some enterprising cyber squatting individuals were snapping up the domain names of all but a handful of the performers involved.

As we’ve spoken about before, cyber squatting is when someone registers a domain name which is the same or similar to that of another individual, brand or company, in the hope of profiting from traffic that a website on that domain might generate.

We’ve recently seen this happen in the case of Swine Flu and domain names.

Both the .com and .co.uk variations of the contestant’s names have been registered as domain names. Those contestants with foresight – all 5 of them – registered web addresses in their name before entering the talent contest.

The owners of these new domains will generate traffic to any website they put on those domain names in the following two ways.

The first is called direct traffic or type in traffic. This is where people type in the name of the person or company they are looking for directly into the address bar, and just add .co.uk or .com onto the end.

The second is when people search for that celebrity on Google. Its much easier to boost up your position in the Search Engine Results page (SERPs) if the keyword that people are using to search with is within your domain name.

And people will end up clicking on those websites that are exact match of the contestant’s domain name when they see it appear in the SERPs.

What is the point in getting traffic onto these sites? The short answer: money. If the cyber squatters fill these pages with relevant adverts, then those adverts are going to get a lot of eye balls, and lots of people clicking on them as a consequence.

In a further development, many acts have also had Twitter accounts opened in their names. This is a hint at the power of Twitter. Maybe Twitter account names will in the future be as valuable as domain names, since users will search for those people in Twitter and then ‘follow’ them, even though they may have nothing to do with the actual celebrity.

What’s the moral of this one? Well if you haven’t done so already, maybe its time to register your own name as a domain name. And whilst you’re at it then why not do the same with Twitter. You never know – Simon Cowell might be waiting just around the corner…

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Where Swine Flu meets Domain Names

Swine flu and domain names are two things which don’t often come up in the same sentence. But as reported over on the domain name wire, some quick thinking individuals have seen profit whilst the rest of us were seeing panic.

The story here is another one of cybersquatting. The domain names:

swineflutamiflu.com
tamifluswineflu.com
swine-flu-tamiflu.com
tamiflu-swine-flu.com

…have been snapped up by a couple of individuals. A website has been placed on each domain. One has lots of ads for flu related products, and the other has a form inviting people to leave their details if they’re interested in getting more information about Tamiflu. Both of these are an opportunity for the domain registrants to be able to make a fast buck,

These domain names are riding on the back of interest and concern about swine flu, which has resulted in people searching for swine flu and tamilflu online. And as any person who has been reading our Search Engine Optimisation guide (SEO) will know, it’s easier to rank highly for a keyword if that word is in your domain name.

Roche, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, are using the domain arbitration system to recover the domain names. Until that time, there’s no doubt that the current owners of these domains are clearing some major cash.

For a few years now, Google have mapped the spread of flu across the USA by analysing where and when people are searching for flu symptoms online. The outbreak of swineflu has caused a real spike in flu related searches.

Here’s a graph from Google insights for ‘swine flu’


And ‘tamiflu’

What do you think of these domain buyers? Quick thinkers or a cybersquatting menace? Leave us a comment below.

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Dot Whatever – the big plan for domain names

There’s a big plan waiting in the wings that is set to totally transform the market for domain names.

At the moment, there are a fixed number of domain extensions. (By domain extensions, we mean the bit after the ‘dot’ in the domain name). The most popular domain extension is .com, but other big global domain extensions include .net, .org, .info and .biz. Every country of course has its own domain extension. In the UK its .uk, for France its .fr and in Germany its .de

New plans drawn up by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that overseas the domain name system, will allow the creation of domain names with any number of possible suffixes.

Here in the UK, popular suggestions for new domain extensions include .london or .shopping.

However, any company wanting to set up a domain extension is certainly not going to find it cheap. Icann plan to charge anywhere up to $500,000 per new domain extension, and there will also be a $60,000 annual fee. Any company investing in the set up of a new domain extension would of course need to recoup the cost by selling as many domain names with that extension as possible.

Icann thinks that the new domain extensions are a huge marketing opportunity for  brands. “Whatever is open to the imagination can be applied for. It could translate into one of the largest marketing and branding opportunities in history.” suggested VP of corporate affairs for Icann, Paul Lewis.

One thing that’s clear, however, is that this a potential Cybersquatting nightmare for many companies. We wrote a recent post about cybersquatting, which includes the registering of domain names that derive their value from someone else’s brand. If companies have to register their domain name in lots of new domain extensions, its going to be both costly and complex.

Lets say you’re organising the domain names for a a company called ‘Dave’s Tiling Ltd’. To stop anyone else cybersquatting on your name, you might already have felt the need to register the following domains:

davetiling.com
davetiling.co.uk
davestiling.com
davestiling.co.uk
dave-tiling.com
dave-tiling.co.uk
davetilinguk.com

and so on.

If you include the popular domain extensions (.com, .co.uk, .org, .biz, .info) it might already be costing you a couple of hundred pounds each year to keep all your domain names. If there are going to be a whole slew of new domain extension, how much more is that going to be? And when the new registries are getting charged $500,000 just to set up the new domain extensions, they’re not going to be selling them cheaply are they?

And this comes at a time of the increased incidence of cybersquatting. As reported on BrandRepublic, a record number of cybersquatting complaints were filed last year (2,300 in all), according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Big companies such as the BBC, eBay, Coca-Cola and BMW all complained about their brands being registered as domain names by cybersquatters.

In most cases of course , the complaints procedure favour the complainant, but even so there is a considerable time and financial cost for companies to recover these domains.

Wipo for its part has said that the new domain extensions should be “a genuine concern for trademark holders”.

“The creation of an unknowable and potentially vast number of new [domains] raises significant issues for rights holders, as well as internet users generally”, said Francis Curry, Wipo director-general.

Have you had an issue finding or keeping a domain name that’s relevant to your brand? Would you invest in one of the new domain extensions? Would you prefer the domain name system to stick to the domain extensions currently available? Leave us a comment below.

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Don’t forget about your Domain Name

When you register a domain name, it’s an exciting time. You’re more than likely to be buying the domain for a new website you’re building. You’ve got a new project, a new direction, and you’re full of ideas. But its really important to remember that when you register a domain, you do so for only a certain period of time. The standard registration period for a .co.uk is 2 years, and for .com, .net and .org its often just 1 year.

Once you’ve registered your domain, you can do whatever you want with it: use it for your website address; point it at your website; use it for your email address. Whatever you want.

So what happens at the end of that registration period? Well if you do nothing, then the domain name falls out of your ownership and is returned to the ‘pool’ of unregistered domain names at the registry. So it’s really important to remember: if you continue to want that domain name, then you have to make sure you renew it before the registration period is over.

If the registration period finishes and you don’t remember to renew it, but decide you still want your domain, it’s not the end of the world. You can always re-register the domain, and – providing no-one else has registered it in the meantime – you get the domain back.  However there is a risk that someone might have jumped in there and registered it, especially if the domain name has a value. A domain name builds up value over time if you do certain things with it. For example, if your website starts to appear high in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), your domain name will have value simply due to the number of people who visit it. Or if your domain name is a close match to your brand or business name, it has a value because potential customers may type it directly into their address bar when trying to find your website. Visitors arriving through this method are called direct ‘type in’ traffic.

If a competitor gets hold of your domain name, they would benefit from getting all the visitors that would have arrived at your website though both the search engines and the direct ‘type in’ traffic. All of a sudden, the people who would have bought from you have the opportunity to buy from them instead.

So you can see that it’s important to make sure your domains are renewed so that no-one else gets a chance to register them. It can be so lucrative to register a domain that someone forgets to renew, that there’s even an industry sprung up around it. Its called ‘dropcatching’.

You might expect people with personal websites, or small businesses to not always renew their domain names. First of all, there’s the expense. There area large number of frequently used domain extensions (apart from .com, .net, .org there’s others like .info. me, and a whole bunch of popular country extensions too). And there’s also the variety of ways in which most company names can be written, as we discussed recently with the expensive domain ToysRus forked out for. It can therefore be an expensive business buying all your relevant domain names. And once you own quite a few, it can be hard to stay organised. The chances are your domains were registered at different times, maybe with different registrars, and for different periods of times. So its not surprising that occasionally domain names lapse without getting renewed.

But what about if you’re a big company? You’re organised, you have spreadsheets, you have budgets, and you have systems, so that your domains stay up to date, don’t you?

Well not in the recent case of Texas based ‘Silicon labs’, As first reported over on domain name wire, despite being a billion dollar company, they recently forgot to renew their domain ‘siliconlabs.com’. As soon as it became available, it was ‘dropcatched’ by an individual in Utah who registered it and then pointed the domain at a website full of adverts. This is another version of cyber squatting that we blogged about recently.

The company is now going through a domain arbitration process to recover the domain, but each day that goes by they lose money. And someone in Utah is making money out of that!

This shows the importance to having a ‘domain name management’ policy in place. For individuals and small business, make sure you have written down all the domains that you own; their renewal date; where you registered them. Make sure also that all of the emails from each registrar are set to go to you, rather than a variety of people in your business. Don’t rely on the domain registration company to remind you to renew.

One of the easiest way to manage your domains is to have them all in once place. You could choose WebEden for that, and transfer your domains to us. Don’t forget you get free email services with every domain.

So have you had any experiences of losing a domain name, or have you done some dropcatchng yourself? Leave us a comment below.

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Cyber squatting on your domain name

For a while now we’ve been giving away a free domain name with website builder packages. We’ve also made it possible for you to buy a domain name too.

It’s not always easy to find the right domain name for your website. If you’re a company, or a brand, or even a club for that matter, you want a domain name that’s close to your company name. For example, if you’re running a taxi company called Joe’s Taxis, then your ideal domain name would probably be:
joestaxis.co.uk
joestaxis.com

But what if when you’re looking for your domain, you find that someone has already registered it? If you suspect that they have registered it for financial gain at your expense, then you’re having an encounter with a ‘Cyber Squatter’.

Cyber squatting is the registering of domain names that would otherwise be used by companies or brands, that are a close match to that company’s name or brand. Cyber Squatters do this for financial gain. They can make money by placing adverts on the domain name’s website, or by directing visitors to that domain name towards a competitor website of the brand owner – for money of course!

There have been some high profile cases of cyber squatting over the years. Most recently, when Bank of America bought Merrill Lynch, cyber squatters quickly moved in and registered the domain bankofamericamerrilllynch.com before either bank could do so.

The domain name registries – the organisations that administer domain names – have policies in place to make sure that brand owners can legally recover their brand’s domain names. If brand owners can prove that the domain name has been registered by someone else in order for that person to gain financially from the brand value of that domain name, then they are legally able to recover it. However, the domain reconciliation processes take time and costs money. And due to the sheer number of ways you can write a domain name, and the number of domain extensions available (.com, .net, .org,. info, .biz, .me.uk; there are around 40 major ones), this can be a costly process for any brand owner.

The bad news is that Cyber squatting is on the up. As reported on the BBC, cyber-squatting went up last year by 18%. There were apparently 1,722,133 reported incidents. And the bad news for brand owners is that the study – by brand specialists MarkMonitor – also found that 80% of websites identified 12 months previously as “abusive” were still in existence today

Whilst this probably reflects poorly on the domain ownership resolution process of the registries, it also indicates that brands should get a lot tougher against people who are abusing their brand by buying and developing domain names that trade on their brand name.

And with so many ongoing cases – which are on the increase – it also shows that cyber squatting is obviously a lucrative business for those involved.

So what should you do if you are the victim of Cyber Squatting? Your first and best bet is to contact the current owner of the domain name and to politely ask them if they would sell you the domain name. If they don’t want to, or agree but want to charge more than a nominal fee (say £50), then you need to contact the relevant domain name registry and follow their domain ownership dispute process. The registry for .uk domain names is called Nominet, and here’s a link to their domain name ownership dispute forms.

Have any of you website builders been victims of cyber squatting? Or have you cheekily bought a domain name that you knew was benefiting from someone else’s brand equity? Leave us a comment below.

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