We’ve all done it; mistyped a URL and then suddenly we’re transported to a strange pay per click site with nonsensical ads and links. That’s just one of the tricks cybersquatters employ to make money off your brand. It’s a serious and growing problem on the Web, but there are things you can do to cut them off at the pass.
What Is Cybersquatting?
Cybersquatting is the bad faith registration of a domain name that contains the name or brand belonging to another person. It’s the Internet version of old fashioned squatting, the practice of occupying someone else’s property without their permission. Cybersquatting comes in several forms.
- Typosquatting. Using common misspellings or typos to create and register domains like examplle.com or exampel.com
- No dot. Another common ploy is to register a domain without the dot between the www and the domain like wwwexample.com
- Variations. Adding an “s” or using a slight variation on a domain is also a popular tactic like examples.com
- Top-level change. If your Web site is a .com, a cybersquatter might register the domain using .net or .biz
- Renewal snatching. Sometimes domain owners forget to renew their domains and the cybersquatter is ready to jump in and take the domain.
How to Prevent Cybersquatting
The best cure is prevention. In order to stop the cybersquatters before they get started, you need to purchase potential variations of your domain name. Think about common misspellings or typos and purchase those top level domains. You don’t have to buy every domain extension for each. But, you should buy at least the .net and .org for your main domain.
Don’t forget to protect your brand in social media. Cybersquatters can use your brand name to create user names on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to siphon traffic. Services like KnowEm can help you track and secure your brand across the Web.
Is It Happening to You?
You need to stay vigilant when it comes to protecting your brand. You should regularly perform Google searches for your brand name to make sure it’s being used correctly. Imitate user behavior and enter various typo variations of your brand into your browser’s address bar. And finally, set up Google Alerts for your brand name and common misspellings to stay on top of any changes.
How to Deal with Cybersquatters
If you find you're a victim of cybersquatting, you should file a DMCA (Digital Millennuim Copyright Act) complaint and send a cease and desist letter. If this doesn’t work, it’s time to bring in an attorney. You can sue the cybersquatter or try for dispute resolution under ICANN’s Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy.
You’ve worked hard to make your brand mean something. You have to work just as hard to keep people from abusing it. Cybersquatting is a frustrating problem, but if you take precautions and stay alert, you can give cybersquatters the boot.