Typo Domaining Background

What’s a typo domain thief?

It’s someone who illegally registers domains that are closely related to yours, using a technique called typo domain cyber squatting, and catch a small but profitable percentage of the “type in” traffic related to your domain.

Some of these robbers have been reported to make over $1m per year from their illegal domains.

Is it really illegal? Yes – in fact there’s a law against it, called the Anti CyberSquatting Consumer Protection Act (wikipedia link)

Isn’t this just some annoyance? Well, if you call paying out stolen commissions EVERY month to some ZERO value-add lowlife affiliate an annoyance, then just you keep writing those checks because they’re not going to go away. In fact, as PPC revenues get worse for parked domains, typo domainers are looking for higher EPC or Earnings Per Click.

You see, they really don’t care about the visitors, your customers, or you. All they care about is making more than the $9 per year they need to pay for that domain.

And if they have figured out how to combine affiliate marketing with typo domaining, they will quickly realize that for just a few minutes work, they can easily rip you off to the tune of $100’s and maybe $1000’s … per month.

All for a tiny $9 domain.

Let’s look at the numbers. It’s estimated by industry analysts that 15% of ALL web traffic is type-in traffic.

It’s also estimated that at least .7% of any web site’s traffic can get diverted to a typo domain. By just looking at some of the internet’s top web sites, the numbers get pretty big:

“We estimate that typo domains matching the top 100,000 websites collectively receive at least 68.2 million daily visitors. If these typo domains were treated as a single website, that site would be ranked by Alexa as the 10th most popular website in the world. It would be more popular, in unique daily visitors, than twitter.com, myspace.com, or amazon.com!”
Tyler Moore and Benjamin Edelman

Depending on the nature of a domain’s spelling, however, the % of vulnerable traffic can be much higher than this.

For example, just look at pinterest.com‘s search traffic statistics according to Alexa.com:

Top Queries from Search Traffic (Oct 2012)

The top queries driving traffic to pinterest.com from search engines. Updated monthly.

Query Percent of Search Traffic
1 pinterest 32.03%
2 pintrest 1.72%
3 pinterest login 1.14%
4 pinterest.com 0.81%
5 pinterst 0.52%
6 pinterest logo 0.39%
7 pininterest 0.32%
8 pinterest home 0.23%
9 what is pinterest 0.23%
10 etsy 0.22%

If 32.03% of the searches for Pinterest are for the brand name itself, then consider the typo’s of the brand name bolded above: 1.72% + .52% + .32% = 2.56% which is almost 8% of the brand’s traffic itself. Considering that there are 100’s of typo domains for pinterest.com, it’s easy to estimate that the percentage of typo domain traffic for pinterest.com could be 5%!

What’s In it For You?

There are several categories of typo domain traffic theft:

  1. The Affiliate Brand Robber: You have an affiliate program and some of your affiliates are “typo domaining” your brand. What this means for an ecommerce site with an affiliate program is that you could be losing commissions to typo domainers – who are in your affiliate program. It’s happening all the time, as typo domainers realize it’s much more profitable to get paid commissions on highly converting traffic to your brand than the few pennies per click they were making with those parked domains. These are the WORST and SCARIEST affiliates of them all. And it could be happening right under your nose. Are you really happy to pay them? Well consider if that typo domain didn’t exist – then the customer would simply repeat enter your brand and get the address correct (99.9% of the time) and you wouldn’t be paying ANY commissions to the thief!
  2. The Flipper: Someone buys a typo of your brand and tries to flip the domain – simply put it up for sale. Ok no big deal. But it will eventually turn into one of the following…
  3. The Parker: A typo domain is redirected to a parking service such as sedo or domainsponsors. Clicks turn into a few cents each as advertisers pay for the clicks. For a $9 domain it doesn’t need many clicks per month to remain profitable and there’s no other cost except time to renew the domain. While this is illegal, it doesn’t really affect your sales or cause stolen commissions.
  4. The Competition Traffic Stealer: A typo domain is owned by either your competition or an affiliate of your competition. e.g. a dating affiliate for datingcompanyxyz sends traffic to them from your brand via a typo domain. At first this sound like a great way to earn money for them, but it’s not because anyone typing your brand incorrectly is already looking for your brand and so conversion is likely to be very low on the competition’s site. In fact, the reputation of the competition is likely to be hurt by this practice, as it makes them look sleazy. Not a big deal for you, but a bad deal for the competition (see 4). So if an affiliate you catch ever threatens to do this to you, just laugh it off.
  5. The Competition Traffic Generator: Same as #3 but it’s one of your affiliates with a typo domain of your competition, sending clicks your way. You need to make sure your affiliates aren’t doing this to your competition, as it can hurt your business AND cost you some commissions whenever they DO make a sale on your site.
  6. The Time Bomber: Same as #1 – they buy your brand typo domain but never do anything with it. This is a time bomb waiting to happen, as they might switch their traffic to any of the other categories AT ANY TIME. Most typo domains are in this category but more and more are switching to #1 where they make the most $ per click.

Let’s look at the most serious and costly scenario, Option 1 above. How does it actually work?

It’s actually pretty easy. I won’t get into details here because I don’t want to promote this scam any further, but the main steps are:

  1. Research your domain, what typos are available, which ones will get the most traffic if registered (yes there’s a way to do this)
  2. Sign up for your affiliate program. Don’t think you can catch them at this point because they might have other traffic sources mixed in, or a blog they just made that looks like a review site with some articles about your product.
  3. Buy the typo domains identified in #1.
  4. Redirect them to your site. I won’t go into details but there’s at least 4 ways to get the traffic to you, so you are “falsely happy” … and they get paid because it’s getting credited as affiliate traffic from them when they simply scooped a customer you would have had anyway.
  5. Cash in your checks and paypal payments month after month. Repeat and buy more domains to make more money from you.
  6. And it never ends unless you catch them.

Once you catch them, what can you do?

Well, you can go the legal route:

  • Issue Cease and Desist letters, get lawyers involved, sue them according to the ACPA, yadda yadda yadda. This is costly in terms of time and money, and in the end you get some worthless domains as they are worth nothing to you. These sorts of cases are only done by huge brands with big legal teams, and it’s usually only because the domain owner is damaging your brand, not just merely robbing your commissions. OR YOU CAN
  • Try get the domains via the UDRP process where a panel reviews the case and after several months you get the domains back. Big deal, until then you still were paying out commissions every month. OR YOU CAN
  • Use some third party company that will get you the domains back, and in exchange they want a % of commissions. Well isn’t that great, as now all you’ve done is changed who you write the checks to. OR YOU CAN

Get Typo Assassin to help you identify the bad affiliates, stop paying them (i.e you keep your own hard earned money), and that’s it. Who really cares about the domains? As long as you keep an eye on them with Typo Assassin, it doesn’t matter.

Because you are protected from the worst offenders. All other cases are really no big deal.

So what does Typo Assassin give you?

Start with a free account today