Chip Shots by Chip Griffin

Domain Name Warfare

As presidential campaigns heat up in this age of the Internet, one expects to see the candidates get knocked for failing to buy up enough domain names to guard against the opportunists and creeps who use misspellings or derogatory combinations of the candidate’s name to create spoof or attack sites.  BL Ochman slams the Giuliani campaign for failing to register, which apparently instead was registered a year ago by a teenager.

In her typical style, she concludes:

The Giuliani campaign bozos are not alone. Plenty of corporations still don’t buy misspellings of their own names, their exec’s names, their company names. Do you own your name?

The question for me is, to what extent should candidates, companies, and brands go to buy up domain names that could be used against them? 

I have long argued to clients and others who have sought my advice that trying to buy up a laundry list of domain names is a waste of time and money.  Those who will attack or spoof you will find a way to do it.  People can mistype names in so many different ways that trying to anticipate every combination makes no sense. 

Frankly, you also have to give web visitors more credit.  If you are typing in a domain name directly, you know what you want.  If you have a typo and end up somewhere else, you’ll chuckle and then move on.

As BL notes, it isn’t limited merely to campaigns. Companies must make the same decisions.  And my advice to them would be the same.  Don’t get yourself wrapped in knots trying to capture every possible combination.  Certainly if you are aware of especially common typos and the domain is available, it wouldn’t hurt to buy it.  But I would wager that relatively few people type in domain names by hand to find a web site for the first time. With my own companies and clients I have seen that a stunning number of people will actually type the domain name itself into a search engine rather than the address bar.  (For the record, if you do that in Google with it comes up not with the site itself but blog posts about the spoof.)

I wonder if BL will register since she doesn’t own that misspelling of her blog’s name despite a number of citations on the web that reference that incorrectly instead of  I wouldn’t advise it, but would she?

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