5 Friday, October 3rd, 2008
My Personal Domainjacking Experience
As part of my Domainjacking Primer, I want to share my own experiences in “gettin’ punk’d” by a domainjacker. Hopefully I can help other online brand managers avoid or respond to this kind situation.
The Dastardly Domain Thief
i worked on a national campaign that invested heavily in product development, brand identity and advertising production for months before the official launch. We attracted millions of impressions via PR, TV, radio, direct and online media. Everyone considered the campaign a success.
Unfortunately, within days of launching the campaign, a domain squatter managed to register an odd non-premium generic domain. This person slapped a fake website together to deliberately confuse our target for their own profit. Operating from a foreign country, they sold a knock-off product using our brand equity.
To make matters worse, they launched their own Adwords campaign and directly competed in search media. Our trademarked brand and its keyword variants initially had low usage, so the squatter could snag niche keyword inventory at a very low CPM. However, their “competitive” keyword grab boosted the inventory value, complicated our SEO efforts and made SEM more expensive for our campaign.
By capturing a fraction of our search traffic, they clearly intended to profit from PPC AdSense revenue given the ads plastered throughout their site. In no time flat, we faced public confusion and brand dilution from someone piggybacking our large investment and months of hard work.
Domainjacking Mandates a Swift Response
Fortunately, we responded so quickly that the brand ultimately only suffered mere annoyance. Working through cease and desist letters, we procured the rapid cooperation of the squatter’s registrar and hosting company. We reclaimed rightful domain ownership and even enjoyed brief AdSense exposure at the squatter’s expense.
Following this episode, we developed a comprehensive domain management policy that purchases large blocks of domains. There is now tighter DNS coordination between agency account management and client IT management in the run-up to new campaign launches. And following a campaign launch, the agency and client actively patrol for new infringements against their brands.
Avoid Domainjacking with Proper Planning
In addition to this overt case of domainjacking, I have encountered all kinds of problems from poor domain stewardship. I’ve had to wrest DNS info from former web developers and hosting companies, help track down lost passwords from old employees and rescue domains from botched international transfers. Each of these cases could have been avoided.
These experiences motivated me to write this series on brand stewardship and domainjacking avoidance. Today, I utilize several tools on ad campaigns to help with domain registration, DNS account management, social media profile management as well as engagement analytics.
Speaking of brandjacking, here is the “ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US” vid, a 4-minute mash-up of old viral memes. Lots of mileage from this mix-tape.