The Internet is a vast and chaotic place—and getting more so as time marches on. This time around, the Domain Name System (DNS), which includes the recognizable .com, .net and .gov, will be adding more than 1,400 gTLDs (generic top-level domain names) to the mix. Those will be released gradually over the coming year.
Businesses that operate online need to be vigilant with the first wave of new gTLDs becoming available to the public for purchase. There will be a sharp increase in the amount of threats brands will face.
You can look at this as the Internet being reset.
Think about it. You might be worried and think that you'll have to not only register new domains, but you'll have to be alert around the clock to protect yourself from cyber pirates and the like. The places where your brand can be infringed upon are exponentially greater than it ever was.
The online threats your brand will face include the following.
1. Domain squatting
This type of squatting falls under the more general term cybersquatting. It is "registering, trafficking in, or using a domain name with bad faith intent to profit from the goodwill of a trademark belonging to someone else." There also will definitely be a sharp rise in the registration of domains that infringe on existing trademarks, which the squatters can sell back to the rightful owners for high profit.
2. Typo squatting
In another instance of cybersquatting, online thieves register the misspelled versions of trademarked domains of popular brands with the intent of diverting traffic to competitor or counterfeit sites. For example, registering a domain like adidass.com would lead many consumers seeking authentic Adidas sneakers to a site selling counterfeit goods.
3. Online phishing
With new domains becoming a reality, owners of online brands and other digital assets most likely will experience phishing attacks. Your customers will be diverted to phony websites that appear authentic and may be infected by such cyber-thievery tools as malware that can hijack your visitors' personal info, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
4. Damage to your brand
With such gTLDs as .sucks soon becoming available, your brand is open to damage. All it takes is someone to register nameofyourbrand.sucks to cause harm to your brand. If a disgruntled customer holds a solid grudge against your brand, he can drive traffic to that domain and cause damage that is not so easy to reverse.
With experts predicting 2014 to be a banner year for online shopping, and consumers flocking to retail sites for shopping and deals, online counterfeit sites selling fake goods via the use of such domains as yourbrandname.shop or yourbrandname.discount will increase.
The challenge for brands will be to prevent counterfeiters and brand hijackers from stealing revenue and shoppers. Most consumers who purchase counterfeit goods will soon realize that the products are not authentic, and many will gain a bad impression of your brand, not realizing that they purchased from a counterfeit site.
The threats to your brand aforementioned are a good reason for you to implement some sort of brand-protection technology. Sure, you can hire an army of employees who scour the Internet nonstop to find domains that are infringing your brand, but with so many new gTLDs coming, doing so will be virtually impossible. The reason being is that via the use of free disconnected online tools, such as alerts and advanced search capabilities, there stands a big chance that they will miss something that may be cutting into your bottom line.
Online branding experts stand firm that the implementation of brand protection technology that works around the clock to identify and prioritize threats to your brand is needed now more than ever. That is a more proactive approach than manually finding domains that harm your brand. Via the use of brand protection that uses sophisticated algorithms to identify and prioritize infringing domains, your brand will be better protected. Not only will such a system protect you, but it will also identify domains that will strengthen your brand and introduce it to new markets.
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As you can see, the necessity for having a reactive domain strategy as well as a proactive strategy is not just nice to have, it is paramount for protecting as well as strengthening your online brand.