5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a Domain Name

Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a Domain Name

Pitfalls to Avoid When Buying a Domain Name


Buying a new domain name might seem like the quickest and easiest part of launching your business online. But that’s where it can get dangerous — because your domain name is like your street address; actually, it’s more than that — it’s the deed to the property. If you lose control of it, you lose control of your entire online business, which can be a disaster. So don’t skip on the domain name step.

Okay, then how to register a domain name you ask? I’ll take you through all the steps involved in securing your domain name, from finding if it’s available, researching the best alternatives if it’s not, buying it from a reliable vendor and managing it down the road. I’ll help you avoid nightmare scenarios where you lose control of your domain name, or even worse, a competitor snags it, and your sales go to zero overnight. With a little preparation, it’s easy to avoid these pitfalls. I’m also prepared to answer any questions you have along the way.

Without further ado, here’s my list of pitfalls to avoid when purchasing a domain name:

1) Don’t Buy the Wrong Domain Name
This is probably the biggest mistake people make. Joe, owner of “Joe’s Blue Widgets,” says he doesn’t have time to spend on his website, he just wants to get it up and running so he can get back to selling blue widgets. He does a quick search for JoesBlueWidgets.com. Oh darn — it’s not available.

Wait, you say – how to find if a domain is available? You can check domain availability by opening up our recommended registrar, Namecheap (it will open in a new window so you can conduct searches while you continue reading).

But look, the registrar happily announces that Joes-Blue.widgets is, and at a 50% discount! Done deal says Joe — let’s get this site up and running so I can get back to selling widgets. That may be less painful if you are selling your blue widgets primarily through retail, vs online. But you’ll want to toss your widgets out the window if a competitor nabs up JoesBlueWidgets.com and redirects it to SueHasBetterWidgetsThanJoe.com, “stealing” all of Joe’s precious marketing dollars that were supposed to send demanding widget customers into Joe’s store. So how to buy a domain name? Don’t be Joe; learn about the power of .com and how to choose a domain name to avoid this pitfall.
What About Hyphens, and Keywords, and …

Got you covered! I get these questions all the time. Say JoesBlueWidgets.com was not available but Joes-Blue-Widget.com is — is it worth buying a domain name with hyphens? Find out in my article is it okay if my domain name has hyphens? Okay, you say, what about keywords? Is there an SEO advantage to having keywords from your industry in your domain name? I.e. why settle for JoesBlueWidgets.com when you could have WhichBlueWidgetIsBestInTheWorld.com? Once again, gotcha covered.

2) Don’t Search for Your Domain Name on Just Any Registrar
You’ve got a short-list of domain names; now the next step is to make sure they’re available for registration. Believe it or not, here you need to be careful as well, because some unscrupulous domain companies have been known to pre-register your searches and then attempt to sell them back to you at a higher cost. How do they do this? Registrars can “hold” domain names for a few days without paying the full registration fee. Needless to say, it’s important that you pick a domain registrar that is reliable and trustworthy from start (registration) to finish (renewals and ongoing management). So how to purchase a domain name without running into these traps? We recommend Namecheap; check out our comprehensive review on the best domain registrars for our opinion, or use this guide on finding a reliable domain registrar to go out and discover your own. We even have a list of the least expensive registrars, but remember — you get what you pay for.

What If I’m Transferring My Domain Over?
Let’s say by reading this you’ve decided your existing domain registrar is not all that, and you’d like to transfer your name over to one of our recommended providers. Transferring in is never an issue (because registrars want your business), however transferring out can be a huge hassle, especially with some of the less reputable providers out there. The good news is I’ve got an article that gives you a step-by-step guide to transferring your domain from one registrar to another.

3) Don’t Lose Your Domain Name – Save Your Registration Details
Once you’ve found a domain name candidate and are ready to purchase, head on back over to your registrar of choice (again, we recommend Namecheap) and follow through the registration process. As you do so, make sure to follow these tips:

  1. Admin email address and phone number – this should be an email and phone that you’ll always have access to — if you ever lose track of or need to recover your domain registration, this is how the registrar will try and contact you. In other words, don’t create a Gmail address just for the purpose of registering your domain name and then forget about it. If you’re worried about getting spammed, read the next tip.
  2. Protect your registration (whois) data – If you registered with Namecheap, you should receive a free year of WhoisGuard, which basically privatizes your registration, or whois data, so it can’t be harvested by unscrupulous scammers or telemarketers. Most registrars should include whois protection either for free or for a nominal fee with your domain registration. Note that some domain name extensions, like .us (local United States extension) can’t be protected. Another reason to go with a primary extension like .com.
  3. Don’t lose your registrar login – keep track of where you registered your domain name, and your login details. Given the sensitive nature of this login (someone with access to your domain account can effectively shut you down), it’s best to have a secure login (we recommend LastPass to manage your passwords), and setup multi-factor or two-factor (also known as 2FA) for your access. This essentially means someone can’t get into your account with just your email and password, they’ll need to confirm their identity via cell phone call, text or a similar “second factor” of authentication.

4) Don’t Let Your Domain Name Expire
Aside from someone gaining control of your domain name without your permission, this is the worst case scenario. Once your domain name expires, you are S.O.L. The good news is it’s super easy to avoid this disastrous situation — just set your domain name on auto-renew. Almost every registrar will allow you to do this. And as long as you followed step 3) above, you’ll be notified if either the auto-renew failed, if your names are coming up for renewal or anything else important regarding your domain registration.

What if my name expired? Okay so for whatever reason (maybe you didn’t have access to this amazing article at the time), your name expired and you are freaking out. All may not be lost! Read my article My Domain Name Expired, Can I Get it Back? to find out if there’s still hope.

5) Defend Your Domain Name and Brand
Once you’ve taken the various defensive measures above, you’ll want to secure your brand name. I typically recommend, if you’ve registered .com, also registering .net and .org, and redirecting them to your .com site. If for whatever reason (and there are good ones, as you saw in my hyphenated domains article) your domain includes a hyphen, you’ll want to also register the unhyphenated version if possible, since people tend to forget to include the hyphen.

You’ll also want to defend against typosquatting. What’s a “typosquatter” you ask? Someone that registers very similar names to yours in an attempt to steal your traffic. For example, if you have JoesBlueWidgets.com, the typosquatter might try and register JoesBlueWidget.com, that way if anyone forgets the “s”, they get the visitor instead of you. Now that your site is up and rocking, the last thing you want is an unscrupulous competitor or scammer finding ways to “steal” your hard-earned traffic

Defend Against Typosquatting

Typosquatting, also referred to as URL hijacking (in relation to domains), relies on typographical errors (typos) made by users when trying to access a domain directly via URL. If the user mispells the website, they will end up on the site of a “typosquatter”, a type of cybersquatter, whose purchase of the domain name is the sole intent of attracting traffic due to misspellings. How do you prevent typosquatters from taking advantage of you?

Beating the Typosquatters
When purchasing a domain name for a client, I will automatically run a check on common misspellings and recommend that the client buy those names as well, for the sole purpose of avoiding a typosquatter from hijacking URL’s and misdirecting Internet traffic. This will also help capture the maximum amount possible of traffic that was searching for your keywords and therefore intended to find your site in the first place.

Virus Infested Typosquatting
In a scary example of malicious intent, criminals take advantage of typosquatting by buying the domain name googkle.com, which is infested with spyware, Trojans, downloaders, and backdoors, so an unsuspecting user will inadvertently fall prey to computer hijack attempts.
Examples of Common Misspellings

Some random examples of common misspellings:
  •     Publicliy Traded
  •     Web Develpoment
  •     Exemples of Weaknesses
How to Find Common Misspellings
One way of finding common misspellings is to type, in a spreadsheet, the same word, or in this case phrase, 100 times as fast as you can – and then sort by popularity. After the correct spelling, the second most popular spelling will be your most common misspelling.

How to Defend Against Typosquatting
The only real defense against typosquatting is buying variants of domain names that may be hijacked by finding their common misspellings. For near-full protection of your identity, I also recommend securing the following variants of your domain name:
  1. 0 (zero) variants: One particular thing to look out for is the replacement of the letter “O” with the number “0” (0). In lower case the 0 (zero) is very apparent, as in amaz0n.com, but in upper case it’s not: www.AMAZ0N.com, and since URL’s are not case-sensitive this could pose a problem if someone decides to plant malicious links disguising as your website.
  2. www variants: It’s a good idea to register the wwwdomain.com versions (ie. missing the period from www.domain.com) to prevent the rerouting of traffic away from your site.
  3. Singular and plural versions: Consider purchasing the singular and plural version of your domain name.
  4.  Hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions: Consider purchasing both hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions of your domain name. The non-hyphenated version may also have certain SEO advantages. For example www.bikesexpo.com may be put in an adult category if the search engine parses the words like this: www.bike-sex-po.com instead of www.bikes-expo.com. A properly hyphenated name can prevent this. In the event that you only own the hyphenated version buying the non-hyphenated version can prevent the rerouting of type-in traffic (searches typed directly into the address bar that resolve to domain names).
  5. Domain extensions: It’s not a bad idea to secure at a minimum .com, .net, and .org versions of your domain.

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