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Ask HN: Is it worth buying misspellings around your domain name?
26 points by nedwin on Nov 13, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 32 comments
Anyone know much about owning domain misspellings around your domain? Is it worth doing? How do you determine which are worthwhile?

Here's a datapoint for you:

There is a movie that starts with "the", let's call it "The Prince of Darkness". I noticed that www.theprinceofdarkness.com was the official movie site, but www.princeofdarkness.com was unregistered. So I registered www.princeofdarkness.com solely for the purpose of measuring how much traffic it would get. I slapped on some Google Analytics and here is the result:


So www.princeofdarkness.com has gotten 68 visits. Using http://www.trafficestimate.com, I determined that the original site, www.theprinceofdarkness.com, got 67,600 visits in the past month. Assuming that the estimate is correct, then that means my nearby website attracted 0.1% of the traffic.

I would gladly tell you the real name of the movie, but then you guys would visit my web site and throw the experiment off. :)

EDIT: www.domaintools.com reports the original site's traffic at around 17,000 visitors a month.

So your conclusion is, it's not worth it unless you're google/facebook?

Do you redirect to the "the" domain?

No, it just consists of a silly phrase that only makes sense if you've seen the movie. Am I a bad neighbor? I'm assuming that since the site gets such a low number of visits I'm not doing any harm.

I have bought a misspelling exactly once, because I couldn't stop myself from doing it when writing an apache config file, and I figured if I couldn't get the domain "right" then I shouldn't expect anyone else to.

Customers largely don't type in domains anymore. They use Google. You're going to win on google versus any typosquatter, and most probably versus a competitor who actually makes a bit of an effort. (To use an example taken totally at random, http://www.bingocardscreator.com , for example.)

However, I do have one bit of domain buying advice: own the big three (com/net/org) for anything you register. Aaron Wall has waxed eloquently on this topic before, so you can read it on his blog, but exact match domains have an insane boost associated with them currently on Google and if you exactly match the search query you can get to the top of the rankings by sneezing.

> Customers largely don't type in domains anymore.

In the browser, perhaps, but not in emails or other types of messaging. Business cards and other printed materials are another example where people will have to retype domains.

I agree that having the big three is important. If you ever sell a business or domain, it's worth considerably less if you don't control the other TLDs for the name.

My feeling is that most customers copy/paste links rather than typing them, but I can't substantiate them with data.

I suggest people use the Japanese idiom for giving out web addresses which have to be recopied: a text box with your search phrase and a button labeled search with a cursor over it. (I have a set of bilingual business cards which use my name in a search form as their only content. 50% edgy marketing, 50% "a design so simple even I couldn't screw it up.")

According to TechCrunch the most common mistake made when typing in domain names is to miss out the period between www and domain name. Hence you should own www.domainname.com and www.wwwdomainname.com


I don't think I've ever made that mistake so I hadn't even considered it but I suppose it makes sense.

If we could just drop the whole 'www' convention then this wouldn't be a problem anymore.

When you have the popularity for this question to matter, and the staff to answer it, you'll have enough money to buy whatever domain your research tells you that you need. This was the approach Dropbox took (getdropbox.com -> dropbox.com). Delicious did it as well (switching from del.icio.us to delicious.com). I know misspellings are a little different, but for now I say just build your business.

No, even facebok.com isn't worth much according to a recent HN post.

Also, you should have more important questions to deal with, like how to get people to your actual domain.

Thanks for the reply!

I'm actually asking this for a friend of mine.

The domain is already attracting a good amount of traffic for a fairly popular application. He's already registered a bunch of domains to keep the squatters at bay - the question is really whether he should renew any of them or none at all.

Can't he just check his weblogs then? Have a look at how many people actually come in on those already registered domains and keep them if it's anything significant.

This is the kicker - when he registered them all he didn't think to install any analytics software. He has done it now just in case but it's not much help.

Are they .com's? Its probably worth the $10 a year just for peace of mind. They're not a massive outlay if you only have a few of the most obvious ones.

I used to own facebook.[country-TLD]. I got crazy amounts of traffic.

It really depends on what you're using your primary domain for. If you want people to give you money, for example, I believe it's critical that you get the misspelled versions of the domain. If it costs you $10-15 a year for a domain and you get $10-15 per download, subscription, online listing, etc. from a customer that was redirected from one of the misspelled domains, then the domain is pays for itself and reduces the friction for future sales.

The problem is having too many domains. After a while, the price adds up and the overhead isn't worth it, either. I recently transferred a few hundred domains from GoDaddy to another registrar and it literally took half a day to do it. Lock-in sucks.

It depends on what your site is worth and how much traffic you are driving. If you are Google, it's a no brainer. If you're getting 1k uniques/mo, it's a needless expense. The tipping point lies somewhere in between. My guess is on the high end, but I have little evidence to back that up.

Don't worry about trying to snap up typos. I usually only buy ones that users could make through misunderstanding my name (i.e. parselets.com vs. parslets.com). The best solution is to make sure that your name doesn't lend itself to ambiguous spelling.

Cool, good advice. Thanks.

It's not worth the time to think about it. Go with your gut on this one and then move on to more important decisions.

I would imagine a customer or potential customer who misspells your domain will realise they've gone to the wrong site. Buying misspellings might be worth it in either of two situations

1) Those clients are unlikely to try again after the misspellings. 2) Squatters / other sites on those domains will negatively affect your brand.

I think the point is to redirect to the correct spelling.

Yes - if you buy the misspelled domain, you would most likely 301 Redirect to your main site.

My point was whether that was worth doing. In those two instances (where loss of customer or loss of brand strength was likely), I would suggest yes.

If you're Facebook, Facebok.com won't be worth much - people will note the spelling error or hit Google and be properly directed. If you're Xobni, then Zobni.com might be worth it (so you don't lose potential clients who've kinda heard about you), and if you're Disney and you know Walt Dinsey is a massive South American porn star, then grabbing Dinsey.com would be wise.

Oh I gotcha. What about fake sites, though? I'm sure PayPal.com has purchased pay-pal, payal, etc. to protect their customers from being defrauded. That's what I was thinking of when I heard buy misspellings.

Unless you are in the business of trying to hijack traffic then no.

People reach you through google or through links, the name doesn't really matter anymore. Flickr is a great success yet it could be considered a misspelling. Actually "mispellings" are company names these days.

I got one for mine, since I always misspelled it myself.

newsycombinator.com is available... ;)

HN readers are smart guys :)

Smart guys make typos too.

no. just let google fix the spelling mistakes for you.

Buying typo domains is good if:

1. You have a lot of money.

2. You might be a phishing target.

3. There's an affiliate program on the non-typo domain.

It's a good idea to try to buy the most popular typos, you can get an idea if you check the search query frequency for each typo (try the Adwords Keywords tool) or you can "kite" a bunch of typo domains and delete non-performing ones before you have to pay for them.

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