Getting down and dirty with domain names

Domain names cost $10 a year, but can be worth thousands of dollars.

As a client of mine has painfully discovered.

She purchased a domain name for her small business and built a website. (Let’s call her Jane Doe, and let’s call the site “www.janedoesbreads.com.”) Then she started advertising her business on the web and also in print newspapers, newsletters, and magazines.

Then the trouble started. It’s common for people to mis-type a URL, so many of her customers and prospective customers were typing in:

“www.janedoesbread.com”

or

“www.janedoebreads.com”

Both of which are just slightly wrong.

What surprised them, and Jane, was that these wrong URLs took them not to some error page, or to some Jane Doe’s website in Nebraska, but to the site of her arch-rival (let’s call them Evil Empire Sourdough).

Turns out Evil Empire had bought up, for $10 each, a half-dozen domain names that sounded similar to Jane’s. (And, being not just evil but very savvy, the sourdough purveyors had also purchased a batch of sound-alike names for their own site to protect themselves from retaliatory traffic pilferage.)

How do we know this? We looked up all the site ownership info at Network Solutions.

So, how much traffic is being diverted from Jane’s site, and how many people, once diverted, are instead ordering their loaves from Evil Empire? It’s hard to tell. But if you see Jane wielding a bread knife any time soon, I’d advise you to run the other way.

There’s not much my client can do about this situation, but I’m telling you her story for obvious reasons: If you’re investing in a domain name for your business, buy up a dozen or more of the sound-alikes and look-alikes to protect yourself.

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