Despite the popularity of search engines for finding websites, about 20% of online visitors arrive at sites through manually typed URLs. With up to 20% of all hand-typed URLs being misspelled, a large market has emerged for typo domain names that exploit and monetize accidental traffic at the trademark holder’s expense. This practice, known as typosquatting, is estimated to cost brands and trademark holders millions of dollars each year in lost revenues and affiliate fraud. Because brand holders have had few tools to help combat typosquatters, the problem has now escalated to staggering proportions.
What Are the Types of Typosquatting?
At its basic typosquatting is just an annoyance but at its most malicious it can be used to trick clients into paying fake invoices or more commonly be used to divert prospects and customers to competitor websites and apps. There are many forms of typosquatting, but the most popular types are:
- Bait-and-switch: The site tries to sell you something you might have bought at the correct URL. Often, these are digital purchases that are difficult to dispute on a credit card statement. The buyer won’t wind up with the item they want, but they will still pay for it.
- Domain Parking: The URL shows a price for a person to buy it. Alternately, it links to another site that handles URL sales.
- Imitators: The URL passes itself off as real, acting like it’s the correct location. For example, someone owning Loogle.com would have a search engine bar and color scheme that resembles Google’s appearance.
- Joke Sites: These sites make fun of the existing site that the user intended to visit.
- Related Search Results Listings: The URL identifies the type of website the user meant to visit. Then, it tries to link to a different site that will pay the URL owner for the traffic. The second site is often malicious.
- Surveys and Giveaways: These sites pretend like they’re interested in feedback from the customer. They ask for additional information in hopes of getting enough data to carry out identity theft.
- Fraud domains: Used to trick suppliers and customers into thinking they are dealing with the legitimate brand and commit fraud.
Simple Steps to Reclaim Your Traffic
- Powerful discovery & fraud tools: There are great tools on the internet that can search, monitor, enforce, and recover domain names that are squatting on the brand’s trademark. These tools can identify available domain owner information and take screenshots of infringing sites. These technologies can recover as much as 5% of a brand’s monthly web traffic.
- Automation of the take-down process: This should never be manual. Good technology identifies the fraudulent methods used by typosquatters and sends approved takedown letters to the domain owners actively infringing on the trademark as a first step and then automatically sends Registrar or ISP takedowns where necessary.
- Acceleration of necessary legal action: a good service should also assist gathering evidence, consolidating cases of trademark infringement, and creating the needed documentation to recover the traffic lost to typo domain names.
In most cases, typosquatting doesn’t come on the radar until a customer, partner or a 3rd party is impacted by the ugly side of this practice. We recommend being proactive and implementing basic monitoring to find any typosquatting related domains before they become a problem.
Brandsec is a corporate domain name management and brand protection company that look after many of Australia, New Zealand and Asia’s top publicly listed brands. We provide monitoring and enforcement services, DNS, SSL Management, domain name brokerage and dispute management and brand security consultation services.