Be the Ruler of Your Domain

An issue that’s arisen for clients over the years got me thinking about things to consider when registering domains. Almost any larger firm’s legal department will insist the company owns as many permutations of their domain name as possible. The reason for this is because there is no shortage of people willing to register these and use them for malicious purposes. This could include creating affiliate marketers, masking the site as official and selling knock-off products, making disparaging comments about your company, and so on. The most obvious effect for natural search is that if they succeed in generating rankings for queries around your brand, that’s one less place you are visible.

Ultimately, the case we try to make is that if our clients have a highly visible brand, then they need to be proactive in owning domains that could be used to harm its reputation. We aren’t even primarily concerned about what they do with the domain, but that they are keeping other people from getting a hold of it. I’m not just talking about making sure you own .org, .biz, .net or country specific top levels either. As cheap as domain registration is now, it isn’t all that big of an undertaking to go through a massive registration. Think in the hundreds (if not thousands) of permutations. It’s something I believe any modern large brand needs to take seriously. In that spirit, I made a list of ten other domain types that large brands should be proactively registering that aren’t always obvious…

1. Product model numbers and names – I’m being granular here. Get those long tail digits registered…at the very least the .com and .net iterations.
2. Anything with collector, enthusiast, or hobbyist tie-ins. These domains may be taken by genuine fans. But they may also be registered by people looking to capitalize on your customer base in less-than-reputable ways. Things like
3. Derogatory domains – Like it or not, we can’t always be everyone’s cup of tea. Protect yourself from vocal detractors by making sure they can’t register things like and be thorough (there’s more ways to say something ‘sucks’ than just that). Register anti-brand, bad-brand, against-brand and so on.
4. Misspellings – Affiliate marketers love to register these and create deceptive websites around misspellings.
5. Purchase intent domains – Speaking of affiliates, domains like purchase-‘brand’.com or buy-‘brand’.com may deceive your customers. Worse yet, they could potentially be stealing customers away. By the same token, domains that talk about selling your brand can be maliciously used too.
6. Knock-off domains – if your brand is heavily imitated, or has a lot of ‘clones’, register as many domains that allude to this as possible.
7. Referring keywords and general keyword research – The queries people are putting in to arrive at your site say a lot about what domain squatters may be looking at. Registering top level domains whenever possible for big traffic drivers can even help your optimization efforts.
8. Geo-specific domains – Almost any brand can have geographic implications.,, could all be used for malicious purposes if owned by the wrong person. Keyword research can go a long way in determining where search volume and potential visibility is.
9. Figureheads in your company – A visible chairperson could potentially be used for malicious purposes. Better yet, if your search volume and referring keywords include these individuals, then they definitely should be registered.
10. Employment domains – Things like “” or “” could all be used for malicious or deceptive purposes.

If you find yourself in a situation where somebody is in fact using an ‘official-like’ domain name for malicious or deceptive purposes, it’s generally pretty easy to resolve it with a cease and desist order, but most people would agree it’s a lot easier to take preventative action in the first place. We have clients who own thousands of domains for this exact purpose. The best part of tracking all these down (for me) is that sometimes these domains trigger ideas for micro-site ideas that create great link-bait and further engage your audience.

Can you think of other permutations of your brand that should be considered?

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


Bryson said...

Great post, and one that's underscored by Dell's recent typo squatter suit, in which Dell is suing typo squatters for millions in profits. A few dollars per domain invested now could save brands a few more in legal fees tomorrow.

Aaron Goldman said...

Nice post D-Mac! Just added it to my list of resources at

CJeffCampbell said...

So I assume you redirect all of these domains to your regular site (or create mini-sites as you mentioned) - but what about the type domains? Any examples where companies have turned this negative traffic into a positive experience?

Dave McAnally said...

Well you certainly could redirect them, although you don't have to. For those negative domains, I would say so long as they are off the market, this exercise would have served its purpose. I don't know of anybody taking a negative domain and putting a positive/marketing spin on it off-hand. I suppose some sort of reverse psychology would be in order to make it work haha

But that said, there's plenty of cool things to be done with a big pool of domains. We redirect to the page on the Query Matrix of the RM main site, which lends itself to all kinds of offline marketing.

We've got a one client that was reviewing all the domains (around 4,000) that the legal department had acquired. Some of the 'collector' and 'vintage' type domains engendered a whole initiative to foster sort of a collector fan club and base it around these domains. I'm not sure how many resources will be thrown at it, but from the talks we've had, it could be a really cool thing for them and their customers. But it's funny how some of those projects start out by something as mundane as reviewing domains :-)

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