Are TypoSquatters and TypeSquatters Parasites or Thieves?

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So a common thing you’ll find people complaining about that have never had a properly managed program, or that shut theirs down is that they got soo tired of people bidding on their trademarks and typosquatting or typsquatting.  The thing is, most of them didn’t even know about the toolbars and adware, but that is an entirely different story.  Anyways, we all know about trademark bidders and all have our own opinions, again I’ll save that for another post, but one thing that most people don’t really think about until after the fact is the typosquatter and how they can affect your Affiliate Program and your search marketing.

First lets talk about what a typosquatter is.  My definition of a typosquatter is someone that uses mispellings of your url or domain or and then redirects the end user to your site while also setting a cookie.  This can be through PPC, through Domain Name Purchasing and though the use of adware and partnerships with other companies and Internet Service Providers.

Now, what is a parasite?  In regards to Affiliate Marketing, I define parasites as anyone or anything that sets a cookie to take credit for a sale that they did nothing to earn.

So now that we have defined the focus of these two terms, lets discuss if Typosquatters are actually parasites and who they hurt, who they benefit and if they can be good for you or if you would want them as a part of your Affiliate Program or Marketing Model.

The first type of Typosquatter is the one that bids on all of the mispellings of your site names and trademarks, then uses a url that they may own, or types it in differently into google and combines letters like rn to look like an M, day part you out or geotarget you out so you don’t see their ads, and at the same time, they use the same ad you have, drop them on their misspelling site off of your trademark and copy your html or homepage or landing page to make it look like your site.  And whenever a click occurs anywhere on the landing page they created on the mispelling, or sometimes there is an automatic redirect; this Affiliate sets their cookie and takes credit for a sale when the end user already knew about you, your company or site and probably found out about you because you spent a ton of money building your site, your trademarks and brands.  For me, this Affiliate ads no value and actually takes away because not only did you have to spend money and time to build your brands and customer base,  but you also have to pay additional fees for the customers you already brought in and all these people did was capitalize off of your hard work.

To me, that is parasitic towards Merchants since the Merchant is the one who spent the money to bring in the customer and build their brand and all the Affiliate did was capitalize on your hard work and all of the money you spent.  So for me, this is Merchant Parasitic.

The next type of typo squatter is the one who buys all of your domain and trademark mispellings and then sets them with 301 redirects to your sites.  During the redirect, they also place their Affiliate Cookie onto the customer’s computer giving them credit for the sale.  To me, this type of Affiliate is the same as above and I would not work with them, if for some reason I had to, well they will get about a .5% commission if the Client is not a name brand and much less if it is. I rememer being at the Affiliate Marketers Give Back table at Affiliate Summit and this company came up to me to talk to me about a Major Name Brand program I was consulting for and actually said, after I asked how they promote Merchants, that they will buy all the mispellings of our domain and then redirect them.  I ended up saying are you kidding?  He said no, it works great…I thanked him and said that unfortunately we would not be able to partner with each other but I was really thinking “ya, it works great for you, you don’t have to do any work, you just collect a check, move along jack*ss” lol.

The last type is one that actually got me tricked before I really thought about it.  in 2006 I went to CJU (Commission Junction Univeristy) and was talking to this fantastic person who I am still friends with today.  (Even though we are friends that does not mean I will ever work with her or her company).

Anyways, my Commission Junction rep introduced us and said how great they are, I got the same story from Google Affiliate Network and Linkshare, these people are not allowed in Share a Sale though (Yet another reason I love Share a Sale), and she told me about how her company works and what they do.

This company partnered with a large Dial Up Internet Service Provider that you all know.

Because of this partnership, if you use this Internet Service Provider to connect to the internet, unfortunately you also have their software on your connection and computer.  The benefit from this software is that if the person who is searching the web types your company name into their browser window but mispells it, they will automatically be taken to your site so there could be a percieved benefit there.  The thing you don’t know is that they also set an Affiliate Cookie so they are actually just delivering your customers to you and charging you for them.  But it isn’t just that.

If you think about it, they would do this anyways because even if you didn’t work with them, their deal with the ISPs is to add value to their customers by helping them get to the websites they are looking for so they would still provide this to you for free anyways.  This in my mind is not only theft from the Merchant, but also really stupid for the Merchant that decides to work with them since the Merchant would get that visitor with or without the partnership.

There are other things to think about as well though.

What if the site the customer was looking for was the actual mispelling?  All of the sudden they cannot access it without having to do a search or find other ways around the software.  This creates a horrible end user experience since the end user can no longer get to the sites they want and chances are the customer service reps at the ISP won’t even know what to tell them is wrong.

A last thing to think about is your other Affiliates.

Most programs have cookies on their programs.  If you allow these people into your programs, then what if the person doesn’t shop immediately, only learned about you because of the blogger or forum or the Affiliate that recommended you and now because you partnered with this Typosquatter who will pretty much never send you a real customer that they brought to you without knowing about you before hand, you are allowing that Affiliate’s cookie to be overwritten.

For me, that is Parasitic for both the Merchant and the Affiliate and I would personally never work with them or recommend working with them.

It is important to know what is happening in your program and to actually hire someone who knows about these companies, otherwise you’ll be spending money paying people for sales that never actually earned them.

If you think they may be in your programs, or want me to look for you, please feel free to write me at adamr (at) adamriemer (dot) me.



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4 thoughts on “Are TypoSquatters and TypeSquatters Parasites or Thieves?”

  1. Adam,

    Great, well-thought out post.

    The greatest risk to a company that accepts a typosquatter into their affiliate program (or knowingly allow them to continue) is that they may legitimize the typosquatter making it difficult to retrieve the domain name later.

    The UDRP process requires that the TM holder demonstrate that the domain owner has no legitimate interests in the domain. In the this WIPO decision: the court states:

    “The fact that an announcer expressly accepts – as in this case – that an affiliate becomes part of an affiliation program hyperlinking to the announcer’s website may, according to this Panel, be considered as an authorization/permission to use the Domain Name.”

    So, if you allow typosquatters into your program (and your terms do not expressly forbid it), you may not be able to ever retrieve the domain, which most TM law indicates is rightfully yours.


    1. Dave,

      Great to see you here! I agree, it is the same as toolbars and adware Affiliates. The more Managers and Companies accept them into their programs and welcome them on board (usually from a lack of education about how they really work), the worse off the problem gets.


  2. I can just imagine how many merchants have programs full of parasitic affiliates and never know it. Having Adam on board to protect our gift affiliate program is a HUGE relief for me.

    Those who know me know I am very particular about who I recommend but when I believe in someone’s talents I make a point of making sure those who can most benefit know it. Adam is the most ethical, talented Merchant Affiliate Manager I have ever come across and the only one I recommend to my friends and clients.

    Big thanks to Murray Newlands for introducing us! Oh, and if you wonder, no, Adam does not know I’m writing this comment. He’ll know when it shows up. I want it to be a surprise.

    1. Wow, coming from you that means a lot. I know how particular you are. The truth is that most companies don’t even know that adware exists and shame on the Networks for not telling them, making up other names like “Loyaltyware” “Reminderware” “Couponware”, etc… and in some cases saying they don’t allow it in their Network at all.

      I was actually emailing with a company last evening who had no clue until we got to talking. Then when he found out that the Network he was on is also a toolbar Affiliate (owned by the same company that owns the Network) and in his program, I could almost see his jaw drop through our emails. It isn’t pretty when the owner of a company or the head of Marketing finds out what the Affiliate Managers, Networks and Marketing Managers let slide so that their numbers “appear” to be better.

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