Did you know that if you don’t make an effort to protect your brand name (which may or may not be your business name), you could lose your rights to trademark it or to enforce it once it’s been trademarked?
That means you might not be able to prevent others in the future from profiting from your brand or confusing consumers about your brand.
The first step to protect your brand is to federally trademark it, so you can legally enforce your rights to it. Another critical step is developing and implementing a domain name strategy.
What is a Domain Name Strategy?
The purpose of a domain name strategy is to proactively protect your brand online by reducing the chance for others to use your brand name in their online activities, specifically, in their website URLs.
For example, Nike owns Nike.com. Imagine if another company began selling sportswear at Nikes.com or Nike.biz. There could certainly be confusion among visitors to those sites.
Visitors might wonder if those sites are owned by Nike or not. Only a savvy shopper who takes the time to do some research would know for certain.
Of course, Nike would want those confusing sites taken down, and since Nike is a trademarked name, the Nike Company can enforce its trademark rights and require that the confusing sites be removed from the Web.
Small businesses can do the same thing. First, trademark your brand name. Second, implement your domain name strategy. Third, monitor your brand online (and offline), and fourth, enforce your rights to it under U.S. trademark laws.
A domain name strategy can be very complex. Large companies with household brands like Nike might own hundreds of domain names, but for a small business that doesn’t have the budget to register every imaginable variation of its brand name, it’s important to ensure the basic steps are taken at the very least.
How to Develop a Domain Name Strategy
Following are five essential first steps you should take to protect your brand with a small business domain name strategy:
1. Common Extensions
If you do nothing else, be sure to register domains that include your brand name with the most common extensions including, .com, .net, .org, .us., .info, and .biz.
2. Common Misspellings and Obvious Variations
Register domain names that include your brand name with obvious mistakes or variations using the most common extensions referenced in no. 1 above.
For example, if your jewelry brand is Snowcone, register snowcone.com and snocone.com as well as snocone.net, snocone.biz, and so on.
3. Phonetic Equivalents
It’s also important to register domain names that are phonetically equivalent to your brand name.
For example, a company with the brand name WearsLikeNew would register WearsLikeNew.com and WaresLikeNew.com using the common extensions.
This is particularly important for brands that include numbers. A brand like 4TheWin.com should also be registered as ForTheWin.com and FourTheWin.com using the common extensions.
4. Plural and Singular Variations
If your brand name is singular, register the plural version as a domain name, too. If your brand name is plural, secure the singular domain name as well.
For example, InnovationToProfits.com is also registered as InnovationsToProfit.com. These variations should be secured for each common extension.
5. Hyphenated Variations
The final step in the most basic domain name strategy is registering hyphenated versions of your brand name.
For example, CircleLegal.com should also be registered as Circle-Legal.com. As with the four steps above, do this for each common extension.
Protect Your Brand and Business
With the introduction of hundreds of new top level domain extensions this year, including the controversial .sucks domain, and anticipating the introduction of hundreds more in the near future, it’s critical that you develop and implement a domain name strategy to protect your brand and business.
You might not think anyone will ever launch a website using a domain name that is similar to your brand name.
You might not think that site will sell products or services similar to yours, and you might not think that consumers will become confused about which site is actually yours.
However, it happens to small businesses just like yours every day. I have the client list to prove it.
Don’t put your business and brand at risk. Instead, take the necessary steps to proactively protect your brand today. Trust me, you’ll save a lot of money and time by doing it the right way today rather than trying to clean up a mess later.
Domain Image via Shutterstock