For those of you who don’t know, typosquatting is the act of using typos or misspellings in domain names to draw visitors to a bogus site in hopes of garnering a profit from click-through ads or other revenue generating practices, legitimate or illegitimate.
I’m not going to get into that argument, but I do want to bring out a sneaky method of ensuring traffic for your website. Interestingly, this practice can also prove useful in punching a dent in typosquatting.
If you own a domain name that could easily be misspelled or you have reason to believe will rise in popularity enough that typosquatters will seek to profit from it, then you could purchase the domain names of misspellings of that domain name and redirect those to your website. For instance, if you type in gooogle.com – 3 o’s instead of 2 – you’ll still be sent to www.Google.com. It’s a simple way to protect your trademark.
PayPal, eBay, Amazon.com, and other popular websites are commonly mimicked by typosquatters who use the trademarks to drive people to a bogus website where pay-per-click ads are placed or, in many cases, that appear exactly like the websites they are imitating. These website owners use such bogus webites as phishing scams to get personal or private information from unsuspecting web searchers in order to steal their identities, drain bank accounts or simply skim pennies from millions of unsuspecting innocent web searchers over a short period of time.
You can prevent yourself from being a victim of this type of crime by not clicking on any e-mails sent from these popular websites that ask you to verify your private information. Reputable websites don’t operate that way. They may send you a confirmation e-mail regarding a specific transaction, but they will never send you a “verification” e-mail out of the blue. In fact, eBay and PayPal both have e-mail addresses to which you can send such phishing e-mails to, should you receive one, so that they can be investigated and hopefully shut down. The addresses are firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, respectively.
Back to protecting your trademark. If you purchase every variation of your trademarked domain name and redirect those URLs to your real website you will not be a victim of such blatant theft and unethical behavior. You could use some of those misspelled URLs as landing pages for popularly searched for terms as there are plenty of words that are commonly misspelled. For example, if your name is Brian and you own a website called Briansbraingames.com, you could capitalize on the misspelled version of your own name – Brain – as many people misspell the name quite often. You’d then set up a landing page at www.brainsbraingames.com and drive traffic to that landing page just as you would the original domain name. But be careful – you must alter the content on the page so that you aren’t penalized for duplicate content. Otherwise, this technique could backfire.
Some people might call this blackhat SEO. I wouldn’t. In some cases, shaky website owners use such techniques to try and outsmart search engine algorithms rather than try to work with the search engines to provide searchers with useful information. I say as long as you are not trying to “get over” in any way and are just using the technique to further enhance the benefits of searchers seeking the valuable information you provide then you are OK. When it comes to blackhat/whitehat delineations in SEO, intent means a lot. After all, you aren’t typosquatting other people’s domain names, nor should you be.