Back in the day, everyone understood the importance of registering their business name. It was how people found you in the telephone book. It signified you were a legitimate entity. It’s often the most publicly visible part of your brand – you wouldn’t want anyone compromising that!
So why doesn’t every company register its business name online?
Today what happens online is arguably more important than what is happening on the street. Because while actions there may be seen by hundreds, maybe thousands, what happens online has the potential to reach millions.
It’s vital that you protect your online identity, and securing your domain name is an essential part of that protection strategy.
Every day thousands of names are registered around the world. If you don’t register your business name, then there is every chance that someone else will.Domain names are allocated on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. It’s a completely automated process which doesn’t require registrants to conduct any type of trademark or name search before signing up.
In other words, I can take your name, or any part of it, without first checking or clearing it with you or any statutory body.
“Cybersquatting” is the practice of buying up existing and plausible business names in the hope that one day the true owner will come wanting it. If this happens to you, there are really only three options:
- You can buy the name back at what is sure to be an outrageous price compared to what you would have paid for it originally;
- You can come up with a different name that isn’t what you want, and doesn’t fit as neatly the original URL;
- You go the mattresses! Well, you would actually go to your lawyer, who would send off a cease and desist letter. This will cost you. Then you might go to the .au Domain Administration (auDA) which is the government-endorsed manager of Australian domain names. There is a lot of research and costs involved throughout this process, and these costs are rarely recovered.
There is also the unsavoury but lucrative practice of ‘typosquatting’, where a person will register a name that contains common misspellings (e.g. Qantas and Quantas). ‘Namejacking’ is another sneaky practice where an individual’s name is registered as a second level (.com.au or .net.au) domain. You might say it happens to the best of them – Madonna had to get back Madonna.com in the early 2000’s!
Of course, domain names aren’t just purchased by professionals out to make a living from your lack of online business foresight. It could be a competitor, a former employee, a jilted lover…domain names are cheap, and anyone with an ACN or ABN can by them.
You can easily save yourself from all the pain, expense and embarrassment associated with these crimes:
- Purchase your business name as a domain NOW! Not just as a .com.au but as .net.au at the very least. Consider .com, .biz, .info and all the other variants too. The more cyberspace you can fence off the less chance of them varmints getting on to your range!
- Be imaginative – think about how people searching for you online might spell your name. In Australia we all spell Qantas without a ‘u’, but not so overseas. Think of variants, misnomers and hyphenated variations.
- It’s vital that you have the domain name registered in your name. If you’re not confident about the protocols involved in registration then get some expert help but make sure that you’re named as the Registrant.
Disreputable web designers make a habit (and a living) out of registering domains and sites in their name, locking unsuspecting people into lifetime deals without their knowledge. Should the business owner want to go somewhere else for hosting or web work they are usually made to pay a high price to gain access to what should have been theirs from the start.
With your online reputation at stake and with the price now so low, there really is no excuse for not getting your name out of harm’s way.
Check if your preferred domain name is still available here!