Are extra domain extensions, alternate names, and private registration worth the investment?

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Summary

Those in the business of selling domain registrations often push extra services. The domain registration alone (without a special hosting package) could cost as much as $35 per year. If you’re forwarding the domain to your website, that can be an additional fee of about $15 per domain name. Private registration can cost about $10 per year. This is a brief review of why such offers are probably not worth it. This document provides points to consider.

Buying Your Way to the Top of Search Results

Basically what you’re doing when you purchase extra website domains with different names and extensions is that you’re hoping to thin the herd among the top search results and guarantee that you’re one of the top listings. For example, if your name is Bob Smith, you can buy BobSmith.com, BobSmith.net, BobSmith.org, etc. That way you won’t need to compete with other Bob Smiths in the search results. However, this doesn’t really work for the reasons mentioned below.

Domain Name Variations

Website owners are often convinced they should purchase up multiple variations of their domain name, including common misspellings. However, there’s no end to the possibilities for someone creating a website with a similar name to yours. They can simply add a number or extra word on the end. The best way to protect your business name and brand is (if possible) by registering a trademark, not just purchasing domain names. More about this is below.

Domain Name Extensions

As indicated above, filing a trademark for your business name is the best way to take ownership of every permutation of an associated website address including the various extensions (.net, .org, .us, etc.). However, there is a potential problem with extension confusion explained below.

Avoiding Extension Confusion

An exception to the above rules is the principle of extension confusion. Because the .com extension is the most common, people may mistakenly type that extension instead of a secondary or alternate extension for your website. People will remember the domain name but possibly not the extension. So, for this reason, it may be best to go ahead and purchase the most common extensions of .org, .net, and .com.

Rather than paying for domain registration and forwarding, you might want to consider paying $18 a year for domain registration and hosting with WordPress.com and setup alternate sites with a different focus or purpose (such as newsletter subscription). Additionally, if your website is simply your name, then you probably can’t trademark your name and buying the extensions might be helpful.

Trademark Your Business and Product Names

If you have a business, you’ll want to register your business name as a trademark. That’s the only real protection against people using your business name and any permutation of an associated website address. This gives you actual legal protection against anyone who might try to infringe on your business identity on the web, in print, or in other ways.

Someone who creates a website called BestBuy.org and sells electronics will end up in a dispute, not over the domain name extension, but over the business name which conflicts with an already trademarked name. You can buy a domain name, but that doesn’t give you the right to use it if someone else has ownership of that trademark.

If you’re setting up a website under your own legal name or a reasonable variation of it, and you’re not directly infringing on an existing business with the same name, once you establish use of that name you should be fine using it.[1] In fact a trademark request might not even be approved for such a purpose. So, creating a website and building up your online identity is the only way to gain a foothold legally.

Private Domain Registration

Domain registration service providers often use scare tactics to sell people on private domain registration fees. They suggest that you’ll be getting emails and phone calls from people if your name is in in the public directory that lists website owners. That’s a compelling reason to get a private listing.

However, if you have a website with your name and contact information on it anyway, then buying a private domain registration is useless. Any sales person wanting to send you solicitations knows how to reach you.

Paying for private domain registration may make people wonder who is really behind the operation of your website and whether or not it is legitimate.

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Footnotes

  1. If your name is Wendy and you want to setup a website called Wendy’s for the purpose of advertising your own restaurant, this would be considered a trademark infringement. Even if you don’t have a restaurant, the owner of the Wendy’s trademark may claim you are creating confusion in the marketplace. So, if your name is Wendy, you will probably need to use another name besides Wendy’s for your website.
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