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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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