As a business, would you ever want to own a web address that made you look bad? Probably not. How about one of your competitors or a disgruntled customer owning a web address that made you look bad? Definitely not.
Just because you buy a web address doesn’t mean you have to use it – but it does stop other people from using it. Many businesses are buying up ‘defensive domains’ (negative variations of their business domain names) in order to safeguard themselves against defamatory websites slandering their businesses.
For example, if your business was called ‘Great Stationary Ltd’, you might want to consider buying up negative variations including www.greatstationaryltdsellrubbishpens.com. You don’t have to ever use this web address for your website, but it will prevent your rivals and any displeased customers you might have from attacking your business online.
The Wall Street Journal writes of how Blackstone Group bought up several negative domain names including www.blackstonesucks.com in order to prevent annoyed customers from setting up a platform from which to vent their criticisms. Of course this is only so effective; you can’t prevent free speech, especially not on the Internet.
The limitations of the practise
The key limitation is quite obvious; you cannot possibly buy up every negative variation of your domain name. Even if you went through the dictionary to find every insult in there and bought thousands of negative domain names, you’re still not accounting for domain names containing dashes, hyphens and underscores. Combine this with the fact that new words and insults are coined everyday in Twitterdom, and you’ve got yourself a never-ending uphill struggle.
So is there any point in registering defensive domain names?
If a customer or rival wants to slate you, they will find a way to do it – be it via social media, a website or through non-digital media. Buying up a few hundred negative sounding domain names will help your peace of mind, but it won’t prevent someone slating you or your business. Unfortunately, there will always be critics in this world. The best thing you can do is to let them have their platform and their say, and trust yourself and your business to ride our the criticism, and your existing customer base to trust their own experiences with you.