What Can You Do About Typosquatting?

Whether you call them cybersquatters or typosquatters, you’ve seen the pesky annoyances. You’ve likely tried typing in a familiar domain name and typed in a wrong letter or two only to be misdirected to a strange URL similar to the one you were hoping to land on. That URL likely had a Google search box and some ads on it. It wasn’t what you were looking for.

The question is, who owns that site and why is it there? Well, there is an answer.

Some domain name speculators will purchase misspelled domain names or domain names with typos in them in order to catch the click through revenue from the ads placed on those pages. Anyone can register a domain name for 6 six days and get a full refund if they change their mind. Six days is enough for typosquatters to test the page to see if they get enough revenue to pay for the registration. If they don’t, they drop that domain name and move on.

Seems like a harmless enough practice except that some people think that Google is profiting from it. Is that a legitimate concern? According to Blogs.pn it is.

If you have the google toolbar installed, type this into your address bar. Not into your google toolbar search box, into the same place you normally type a url. Don’t add the quaotation marks. Type “Autumn Reese” which is a common misspelling for the popular formar OC actress Autumn Reeser.

It will take you directly to a page with some info about the actress and not to a google page with search results.

Now type in “autumn reeser” into the same address bar. it will go to a google search results page.

Mozilla Firefox comes with a Google search box pre-installed. I checked this out myself and sure enough Autumn Reese typed into the browser address bar took me to this web page:

http://www.beyondhollywood.com/gallery/category/autumn-reeser/

But if I type in autumn reeser or autumnreese then I am taken to a Google SERP. Interestingly, when I tried the same experiment in IE7, where my default browser is set to Yahoo, I get a different result. Yahoo’s SERP comes up for the search term autumn reese.

The question is, why does this happen?

The evidence would seem to indicate that the problem is with Google, but is it intentional on the search engine’s part or a loophole in Google’s algorithms? Of course, since google won’t share its algorithms with any of us we can’t know for sure.

Another interesting tidbit is this: Yahoo and MSN have taken measures to stop typosquatters from profiting in this way. Only Google has done nothing. In fact, Google now owns one of the primary culprits – Oingo.com With all the attention that Google has been getting about pay-per-click fraud, can the search giant afford to let this go without action? Is this issue at all related to PPC fraud? Do these bogus website owners pay people to click the ads on those pages so they can drive their revenues up while scamming the search engine and advertisers? Furthermore, do these landing pages skew the general search statistics any?

But the real question is not what Google will do about this. None of us have control of that. We believe the matter does warrant some investigation by a reputable investigative journalist or government agency, which isn’t likely to happen, but what if that doesn’t happen? What can the rest of us do? For starters, if you find yourself landing on such a page after a misspelling or typo, don’t click on any ads.

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