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February 28, 2007

Defending your brand(s) online

By now, just about every business has one or more internet domain names. For a lucky few businesses who were awake at the start of the online age, the domain will accurately reflect the name of the underlying company, and be based in one of the "premier divisions" such as .com, .net, .tv or co.uk (for UK companies), for the rest, their domain name will be a compromise based on the nearest available, or lost somewhere in the minor leagues of second-best domain registries - such as .biz, .info, etc.

And the fewer letters in the domain body, the better - with exclusive 2 and 3 letter domains at the top of the league tables.  In the effort to squeeze the most from a limited number of combinations, domain names have resorted to including numbers, which raises the crucial issue of fencing the brand so that others cannot come up with a similar sounding name that diverts your web traffic (and, worryingly, your email).

Very few people still realise that one website (or email address) can have an infinite number of domain addresses (or "aliases"). This is because a domain name is translated into an IP address using the Domain Name Server
(DNS) - and any number of names can be translated to the same IP address.

By now, everyone on the net must have typed a url into a web browser and been taken somewhere that bears no relation to the address typed. Try www.realale.co.uk for example.

Some smarter companies have exploited this for a while by registering their domain names with every conceivable misspelling or alternative "interpretation", so in an ideal world, phones4u would have anticipated the likely misdirections, and registered:-

phones4u.com, fones4u.com, fonesforu.com, fonesforyou.com, phonesforyou.com, phones4you.com, fones4you.com

phones4u.co.uk, fones4u.co.uk, fonesforu.co.uk, fonesforyou.co.uk, phonesforyou.co.uk, phones4you.co.uk, fones4you.co.uk

(and probably some others I haven’t bothered to think of)

Of course, the "real" phones4u has only managed to bag a couple of these names, and various other individuals and companies are sitting on even obvious variants such as "fones4u.com"- which is now pointing to one of those annoying Netster advertising link pages, where all of phones4u’s competitors are listed!

…and even registering the whole lot listed above would still have cost them a fraction of the cost registering a single trademark in the UK.

However, in the domain name game, beware of being too "clever". Amazon, Google and Ebay are examples of names that say nothing whatever about the product - and so arguably they are not distracted in any way by the product, and in the case of Google and Ebay the nouns have become commonly used verbs. So maybe pick a name - and also the name+ing?

But there is no reason why Ebay might not have also registered a wide range of "obvious" domains to use as (unpublished) pointers with built in "aides memoirs" such as "onlineauctions.com", or "thatonlineauctionsite.com" to catch the traffic from those struggling to recall "Ebay.com"

Domain names also provide the cheapest possible form of global brand protection - trademarks cost from £2500 upwards and are not even exclusive.
A domain name is guaranteed to be exclusive, worldwide.

So it's not surprising that management of domain identities has become a significant element in brand identity, and the task of controlling how they operate is fundamental to your company’s email and web identity, and that role is now becoming too important to entrust to a (potentially) transient member of staff.

If you lose you logins and passwords to one the many automated faceless online name services - or a grumpy former staff member changes them as a parting favour - you (and your clients) could be severly embarrassed if your erstwhile url delivers people to the Hustler web site!

If you want to test ideas for domain names, then sites like www.usp.net provide simple lookups that confirm availability or otherwise.
What do you think of this $type?





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