Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Domains: the Latest Book Promotion Problem.

As you may know, I'm always preaching the value of book Web sites. My mantra is: grab the URL as soon as you come up with your book title. In fact, grab the .net while you're at it (you won't need it, but it would be a lousy feeling to watch someone else grabbed "your" .net while you weren't looking).

That said, I own a lot of domain names. I probably own too many domain names, most of which I'll never use and many of which I don't even recall buying. I have a few URLS that I use, and they mean something to my business, and I need them. And I need for there to be no confusion about them.

But here's a new problem. Did you know that it's possible for someone to buy a URL, own it for a few days, and then just drop that URL and evaporate into thin air? I've just read an article about the possibilities for abuse at MSNBC ("Entrepreneurs profit from free Web names: Five-day grace period allows for ‘tasting’ before buying URLs").

The legitimate reason for the service was this. Let's say you meant to buy "bookpr.com," but a typo caused you to buy "bookspr.com" instead. With the five-day grace period, you can undo your purchase of "bookspr.com" and buy "bookpr.com" instead, as you had intended.

As with most things related to the Net, every offering seems to bring ill-intentioned people out of the woodwork. The five-day grace period for URLs seems to have inspired a whole crop of cybersquatters who buy as many misspellings as they can think of, put up a site that damages the original site, and then vanishes into thin air before anyone can be sued for damages. The example the article sites is "NeimuMarcus.com," which someone bought and used to advertise Neiman Marcus's competitors (Target, Nordstrom, and so forth). Neiman Marcus could have chosen to place an ad on that site back to its own Web site, but the company didn't think it should have to ... and I agree.

If you have a book that's selling very well, and your book promotion campaign is in full swing -- and you're lucky enough to have secured the book's title as your URL -- why should you let a URL speculator grab a misspelling of that domain and, perhaps, profit by it?

So here's my new recommendation. When you're buying your domain, be sure to grab any misspellings you can think of at the same time. It's not a huge monetary investment, and what you're buying is peace of mind. At least you'll know that your book's Web site won't fall prey to this new breed of cybersquatters -- or, at least, they'll have to work a whole lot harder at tricking your readers to go to their sites instead.