Businesses face many different kinds of threats from many different places. As a business owner, you have to worry about things like someone hacking into your private computers, someone breaking into your building, or someone working to steal your customers. Protecting your business is a key responsibility for any business owner and one that they shouldn't take lightly.
One area that your business needs to be protected, that is sometimes overlooked, is with your domain name. When you create a website for your business, you will typically register a domain name for it, something like "businessname.com". If your business grows popular enough, you may have people trying to infringe on that domain name, or create ones similar to it so they can pretend to be you. This is why it's important to develop a domain strategy that will protect your business as early as possible.
Trademark Your Business
The first step in any domain strategy should be to trademark your business. This process can often be done without a lawyer and takes roughly 90 minutes. All you need to do is head to the website for the U.S. Patent Office, search their database to ensure no one else has a trademark on your name, and then complete the online application.
Once you complete the application, you will need to pay a fee to have it processed. From there you will receive a notification as to whether your trademark was processed or not within 6 months.
When establishing a trademark for an online business, you should refrain from including the domain name's extension, such as ".com" or ".org". This will protect your entire business name so that you don't need to register a trademark for each possible domain extension.
For more information on how to trademark your business, you can check out this guide.
Register the Most Popular Domain Name Extensions
Next, you should look to register your domain with all of the most popular domain name extensions. For example, let's say your current website is "JohnsBrewery.com". As part of your domain name strategy, you should also register "JohnsBrewery.net" and "JohnsBrewery.co". It's a good idea to do this even if your name is trademarked, because it may prevent you from having to take legal action down the line.
In addition, sometimes people simply forget what domain name they are supposed to be visiting. If someone types in "JohnsBrewery.net" by accident, you don't want to lose out on that customer. Registering your domain name with some of the more popular extensions can help you to gain more customers in the long run.
Register Related Names
The next part of your domain name strategy should be to register names that are similar to your own. This will not only help if your customers make a simple typo when trying to visit your site, but it will prevent others from easily pretending to be you.
For example, if you're "JohnsBrewery.com", it's not a bad idea to also register "JonsBrewery.com", "JohnBrewery.com" and "JohnsBrewers.com". You can see how someone could type in one of those web addresses and think they are visiting your site.
By now you can likely see a small problem with developing a domain strategy - it's expensive. Paying for each possible domain name that is similar to your own will add up over time. Some of the domain names you want may already be registered as well, meaning you'd have to buy a taken domain name.
This is why you'll want to search for the cheapest domain names when registering. Find a domain name provider that charges as little as possible, or will sell domain names in bulk. Since you aren't putting anything on these websites, you don't have to worry too much about the hosting capabilities or customer service quality from the domain name provider - all you need is an affordable price.
Set Up Domain Forwarding
Once you have all your domain names, you'll need to set up domain forwarding. What this will do is automatically forward someone onto your main domain name if they accidentally visit one of the incorrect ones.
How you set up domain forwarding will depend on where you purchased the domain from. Most domain name providers have a simple tool for this, so if you can't find it, be sure to contact their customer service team.
This guide offers more information on domain forwarding if you want to see how it works.
Monitor Your Brand Online
Finally, the last thing you need to do is consistently monitor your brand online. If someone tries to start posing as you using a domain name you forgot to register, you'll want to know this right away.
One simple way to do this is by setting up a Google Alert. With this system, you can type in some keywords, and if Google notices them popping up anywhere else, they will send you an alert to your email. You can then create a keyword list containing variations of your business name, or even your slogan.
The other thing to do is occasionally perform a manual search online. Some ways you can do this are:
- Copy some of your content in a search engine and see if it appears on any other website.
- Search social media for accounts similar to your brand name
- Do a reverse image search for your logo or any unique pictures you have on your website
Get Started with Your Domain Strategy
Implementing a comprehensive domain strategy takes time and contributes significantly to your website costs. This is why it's important to start planning ahead now so that you can begin protecting your business sooner rather than later. Hopefully, this guide was able to provide you with a blueprint for how you can protect your business online and you won't have to worry about anyone infringing upon your business in the future.