by Mark BarrettTraffic Diversion Through Domain Names

There’s no doubt that that the internet provides a multitude of different avenues for businesses to market their brand to customers across the globe. Unfortunately, it also makes it easier for cybersquatters and even competitors to divert traffic away from industry leading brands, sending customers to rival brand websites, capitalizing on well-known names for monetary gain.

Domain names are one tool that can be used to steal traffic away from high profile brands.

Competition

Rival companies can register domain names that undercut big name brands, such as cheaperthanbrandx.com or betterthanbrandz.co.uk, and configure these to redirect to their own websites. When used alongside relevant marketing, this can be an effective way of diverting customers from mainstream commercial websites, resulting in lost traffic and lower online revenue for popular brands.

Cybersquatting and parking pages

Aside from competitor redirections, domains also represent a brand risk when purchased and used for cybersquatting, the practice where a domain name referencing your brand is registered by a third party with the intention of generating monetary gain.

Cybersquatting has been an issue facing brand owners since the early popularity of the internet, but has increased in recent years following the introduction of new generic top level domains (gTLDs). In 2016, there was an all-time high of 3,036 Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution (UDRP) cases filed by trademark owners1 (a 10% increase compared to 2015) fueled by the availability new and potentially desirable domains available to register, such as .loan, .shop, and .online. Domains registered by cybersquatters frequently resolve to parking pages of sponsored links and feature competitor websites.

Brand confusion

Brand confusion is another issue facing brand owners in an increasingly competitive online environment. The ability for any company, big or small, to create a website visible globally has made brand confusion and dilution a more pressing issue for organizations than ever before.

Small competitor businesses can deliberately choose names that are similar (or in some cases identical) to a well-known brand with the intention of capitalizing on a good global reputation. In some cases, this goes beyond just the physical name of the brand and incorporates the use of a similar logo and color theme to create the same look-and-feel as the brand being copied. With the use of search engines, a business that opts for a name similar to that of an industry leading brand can receive a noticeable boost in search rankings and web traffic, increasing the likelihood they will receive more hits from online buyers.

Brand abuse in meta tags

Another more discreet but equally damaging method of traffic diversion is meta tag abuse. This involves a competitor site diverting traffic away from a well-known brand by adding certain textual references into its source code. While this isn’t noticeable to the average visitor, phrases like “brand X sucks,” “we’ll beat brand Y,” or even simply the brand’s name , can be a tactical way of boosting online presence in search results and drawing customers away from a global brand’s main website.

With an increasingly competitive online environment and the ability for rivals to take advantage of your established online reputation, it’s as important as ever for brand owners to have an effective solution in place to monitor and enforce against businesses looking to take advantage of a well-known name for their own unscrupulous gains.


References:

1http://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2017/article_0003.html

Traffic Diversion Through Domain Names and Its Impact on Brands