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Episode II: Attack of the Domains

by Shannon Miller, Senior Support Specialist

Back in 2010 in my hometown of Chicago, a politician was running for office. Because of some previous activities, let's say that he didn't have the cleanest of records. He also didn't have ownership of the web address bearing his name.

And that's how JoeBerrios.com was turned into a one-stop shop dedicated to all of the corruption allegations against Joe Berrios (it was damning to say the least). And to show that his team didn't learn from this, he still doesn't own it. If you go to the page now, it redirects to a Republican blog that aggregates all current allegations against him (same goes for JosephBerrios.com). Surprisingly, he still won the election - that's the Chicago Machine for you.

(You can read more about this domain snafu here.)

Naturally, when someone wants to learn more about a candidate or organization online, they are going to do one thing: type that name into Google (or Bing or Yahoo). Outside of a news site, what's going to look more official and legitimate than a website bearing your name? While most organizations and candidates probably have their names in .com or .org form, what about .net or .info - or even .xxx? If you're an advocacy organization, how about some terms related to your cause? If you're an international organization, how about some of the international domains like .eu? If you're a candidate, how about voteshannon.com in addition to shannon.com? Or shannonforcongress.com or shannonforsenate.com?

I specialize on Domains and Webmail here at Salsa Labs, and I can tell you that we own almost any iteration of our company name, former iterations (Wired for Change and Democracy In Action), and many other things with Salsa in the name (SalsaIsSkynet.com, anyone?) This protects the company's branding more than anything, but can also keep competitors from denigrating us with a website bearing our name.

**As an aside - I understand the conundrum of cybersquatting or when someone else owns the domain you want (I will never be able to own my name's domain thanks to a certain gymnast). In that case I would suggest getting creative with your domain name and signing up for alerts as to if your preferred domains ever expire and are available for purchase again.**

The most common example people think of in this regard is Rick Santorum. Yes, he owns ricksantorum.com, but he doesn't own santorum.com - and I'd recommend you don't click on that link at work. Searching through other Santorum-related domains, it looks like someone picked up votericksantorum.com already, as well as spreadingsantorum.com. I personally wouldn't mind owning santorumsurge.com, but I digress.

What can you do after you own all of your related domains? What most clients do - and what I suggest - is to set up redirects for each to go to your main site. That way, if someone types in your organization's name but with the wrong top-level domain (like .net), then it'll simply send them to your correct site. Or you could take the opportunity to create a site for a side project or positive site mentioning how awesome you and your cause are. The benefit of owning domains is that you can do whatever you want with them, whenever you want and more importantly, there's very little anyone else can do about it. This process is pretty simple regardless of your domain provider or DNS settings - there's no need to go through Salsa to do this. Just search for "domain redirect" on your DNS/domain provider's help documentation.

Topics: Strategy