Typos are such common place now it would be a travesty to not cover them in this book. Also, there are so many different types of typo traffic that I felt they deserved their own chapter.
I do not advocate for or promote typos. I also don’t rail against them, nor would I tell a person not to buy or register one. I am merely bringing this information to light. You can do with it what you please. Typos can make a person a lot of money, but some typo and trademark domains are also a touchy subject in the domain world. They are considered the “dark side” of domaining. Some people love typos and some people hate them. Almost all Domainers have an opinion on typos.
Typo-traffic is just what it sounds like. When a user hits the wrong keystrokes or wrong combinations on the keyboard, the search results form a misspelled word or a “typo.” Some of these misspellings are so common that high volume sites (like Google.com, Yahoo.com, MSN.com, etc.) have typos that generate literally THOUSANDS of visitors per day. However, not all typos are created equal. Keep in mind when you get into typo traffic you are running a fine line between general terms, potential trademarks, and blatant TM infringement. Also keep in mind that I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice.
In the typo category there are different types of typo traffic.
- www and wwwl typos
- Mistypes / Letter reversals (Tahoo.com, or Amazno.com)
- Phonetic typos: ―Domain Markit instead of Domain Market
- Extension typos (.de as the German .com of a site, etc.)
www and wwwl typos:
The infamous www or wwwl typos are one of the crudest typos out there. People will often mistype the domain name without the dot (.) between the www and the domain name thus resulting in something like https://wwwyahoo.com. The same thing happens when people typo the L on the keyboard in place of the dot (.), thus creating https://wwwlyahoo.com. Please realize that this is about as close to TM infringement as you can get. Don’t ever expect to try to defend a case like this in a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) UDRP proceeding as you will lose the domain every time. (WIPO is, effectively, the online court for domains for the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy).
Mistypes / Letter reversals: I lvoe the dmoain ma4ket!
Letter reversals are very easy to type. People who are experienced keyboard typists can usually type very fast and will not catch their mistake until they have already hit the enter key. An example of this is www.googel.com. It would be very easy to type this in only to realize you made a mistake until after you have hit the enter key.
While I was writing this section of this book I was chatting with one of my friends over IM. Here is an excerpt from the conversation.
MyFriend: I will get it on the way there.
Sean Stafford: we can get it on the way back
Sean Stafford: it’s not a probelm
As you can see, it is rather easy to make typos. Anybody who has an office job with a computer will do this every day. It does not matter how well you type, you are going to make a mistake at some point; we’re human. And if you are typing something into the URL bar and mistype, there is a huge possibility that you will still land on a web site. It may not be the web site you were looking for, but you will probably get a web site none-the-less. Side note: Have you ever had a rude awakening: WHOOPS – WOAHH moment where you get some content you really didn’t expect? We all have! More than likely it will be a parking page (a page full of advertisements). If you click on one of these ads then you will probably be taken to something close to your original query. Keep in mind, you also just made someone a little bit of money.
Another example: Let’s say you are looking for Google.com and you type in googek.com. Google.com is a trademarked name. This means if you have a domain name that is confusingly similar to Google.com, Google/Alphabet Inc. could possibly sue you for damages. At the very least they could likely get the domain from you via UDRP or another judicial avenue.
Google Inc. considers confusingly similar domain names a direct threat to their trademark and also considers the person who has this name a thief because they are stealing traffic from their site. After all, the visitors are what made, and still makes, Google.com a cash cow. Has Google, and its investors, not spent millions, or tens of millions, in building their technology and brand presence?
If you chip away at their visitor count, then you chip away at their financial bottom line and return on investment. Google is known to C&D (Cease & Desist letters) people frequently. They will protect their brand at magnificent costs, costs you may find difficult if not impossible to match.
Googek.com appears to be a trademark typo. If you owned this domain and Google send you a C&D, and you don’t cease and desist, you will probably find yourself in hot water.
We need to make a distinction here. Generic typos do exist. Expetc.com is a typo for Expect.com. The word expect is such a common term that it would be hard for someone to prove that one single company owns the mark to the term. So, trying to UDRP (yes –we’re using UDRP as a verb) expetc.com away from its owner could be somewhat difficult unless Expect.com is an actual brand that has established itself online as such. It also needs to be said that sometimes a mark is so strong that even if a word is generic in nature, it is may still be under the protection of a trademark. The word “realtor” is a perfect example of a trademarked term. Look it up in the dictionary and it will even refer to the fact that it is a trademark, yet, to most people this would be a generic everyday term describing one who sells houses. Keep in mind again, that I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice. You’ll need to seek that out on your own.
A phonetic typo is when a word is spoken differently than it is spelled. An example of which would be Bobevens.com. If someone types this in then they are probably looking for Bobevans.com (with an A in “evans”). The word “evans” can sound like it is spelled with either an “e” or an “a.” In the case of someone not knowing how to spell a word they may try sounding it out and then plugging it into their web browser. When they spell it wrong, then they have just made a typo.
In the case above regarding Bob Evans there is a very real chance that there is a person alive whose name is Bob Evens. So, this name teeters on the verge of trademark infringement. In this case the best way to show bad faith would be to put links to food or family restaurants. If you put up links about heraldry, family trees, or something else, you might stand a chance of keeping this name in case of a UDRP because you could show that this was not infringing on the Bob Evans’ trademark and you are using it in good faith. But the moment you put up links about food or anything else even remotely considered TM infringement, Bob Evans Inc. has enough ammunition to get that domain name taken from you. Why? Because Bob Evans spent the money, invested the time and the sweat, risked the odds, and built the successful brand. The judicial bodies want to encourage others to know that their potential investments of time and money in other endeavors will similarly be protected.
By the way, just for kicks, type in bobevens.com and take a look at who owns it.
That’s right! BobEvans.com. Want to guess why? They are protecting their trademark while making sure they get all the traffic that is looking for them. This is called a “defensive registration.”
This brings me to another interesting topic: Extension typos (.com, .net, .org, etc.)
A lot of people do not know about extension typos. In the United States we are very U.S.-centric and fail to grasp the differences in language because the Internet is predominately in English. However, there are millions upon millions, possibly billions of people in the world who do not speak English. When a high-traffic site such as Google.com or Yahoo.com comes into play, a lot of the non-English speakers expect that site to display their language via their country code extension, so they can view that site in their own native tongue. A country code extension, or ccTLD is the top-level domain used for the country in question, such as .ca for Canada, or .es for Spain/España.
Look at Google.com and then look at Google.de (the German extension is .de). Germans are particularly proud of their domain extension. German-speaking people type in the .de extensions because they think that they can find a German Google.com page there. In most cases they are right, but in some cases, they are wrong and that is what results in an extension typo. International users will type in the country code extensions such as .de, .dk, .es, etc. and the page that they were looking for might not be necessarily there. Extension typos usually happen with huge, global web sites. Foxnews.com takes you to a news site, foxnews.de takes you to…. well…not Fox News.
Keep in mind that Extension Typos are not really typos because the person has not mistyped by accident, they mistyped on purpose, usually out of curiosity or the expectation of finding the same site in their own language. For the lack of a better phrase I refer to them extension typos.
Typos in General
Ok, so if getting a domain name that is confusingly similar to another domain name shows bad faith, then why would a person do it? Good question! Because there is a TON of money to be made in typos! Let’s say that you register a typo of Google.com, and that domain name is a common typo, then there could be literally thousands of people mistyping that domain every day and landing on that parking page. Google.com is in the top five sites visited on a daily basis and that means that even if .0001% of Google.com’s daily visitors mistyped in a certain domain then the amount of traffic driven to that domain would be massive. The more people who come to this mistyped domain the more people who will click on ads, and thus more money will be made for the person who owns the typo domain.
Take the example of VerizonWireless.com. On a standard PC QWERTY keyboard, the o is adjacent to the i. Thus, www.verizonwOreless.com would be a big source of misdirected traffic. Of course, this will have to be determined by a court of competent jurisdiction, but let’s just call it an educated guess that Verizon may feel a right of ownership regarding that potential typo.
The second reason people do this is because they don’t have to advertise the domain name in order to get traffic to it, and the chance that traffic will increase is a fair one. Just think if Verizon did a huge T.V. or newspaper marketing blitz for an online sweepstakes giveaway and it drove a lot of visitors to their web site. This blitz would spike the amount of traffic to both the real domain and all of its typos. If you own a common typo of verizon.com, maybe vrizon.com or verizone.com or something similar to these, then the chances that your traffic count would go up is a sure bet.
Although the extra traffic may only last for a little while and then taper off, the immediate influx of traffic could make a person a lot of money. I have seen typo domains that make 20 cents a day on average shoot up to do $100 in a day because of marketing blitzes, heavy advertisements, news stories, etc.
Just think that after the 911 attacks on the World Trade Center, binladen.com was getting huge traffic to the site. Hypothetically, someone could have gone out and registered binladin.com, with a letter i instead of e), or something similar as a phonetic typo. Binladen.com received a huge influx in visitors so I am sure binladin.com did as well.
The above is another reason why people don’t necessarily enjoy typos. Some people will register them right after a tragedy and then it makes Domainers in general look shameful. I’m personally opposed to this, but I bring it up for the purposes of education and it is something that you need to be aware of because it does happen.
Here is another example:
Right after the Virginia Tech massacre, there were a number of typos registered. Why? Because there was an influx in visitors to the Virginia Tech web site. And with that huge influx of visitors, there was a sure chance that there was some money to be made with typos of the school site.
Now, whoever owns these types of typos obviously doesn’t care too much about what they are doing, but they do make themselves look bad along with most well-intentioned Domainers in general.
Everything I just listed above, registering or buying typo-domains, is commonly referred to as “typo-squatting.” Typo-squatting is an extremely risky business. The author and all others named in this book strongly advise against any activity that might knowingly infringe on trademarks or intellectual property. If you choose to tread on the trademark-infringement side of domains be prepared to have an iron stomach and a well-armed lawyer handy when you make the wrong organizations angry.