On the web: Ditched domain name trouble

You know that domain names have to be chosen carefully. Especially if this will be your official company’s or organization’s website. A recent book called Slurls: They Called Their Website What? by Andy Geldman explores awkward domain names like childrenslaughter.com (could be read as “children slaughter dot com” – would you call your charity’s domain name this?) or ustinc.com (“you stink dot com”). Domain names are like company names: they define your identity, and should be researched thoroughly.


And you might want to buy several domain name extensions (.ca, .com, .net, .org). Because: what if you own the .ca, and somebody else starts to compete with you on the .com domain? Or worse: it is a scandalous website, reflecting poorly on your brand because people assume it’s yours? Choosing the right domain name is all but trivial.

But you knew all of that already, of course. What you might not know is that a domain name also carries with it a long-term commitment. Discard your old domain names at your own risk.

Because your domain name can come back to haunt you from beyond the grave.

A few months ago I was alerted by someone that a link from one of our websites was pointing to an unsavory website. What happened? A website with deemed temporary use was discontinued, and the domain name registration lapsed. Then somebody else bought the lapsed domain name, and put a website with an adult theme on it.

What’s the problem, you might say?

Well, there were still plenty of links out there pointing to that domain name. And these links still carry the organization’s name. So it will look really bad on that organization or business if people click on a link supposedly pointing to “their” website, but now bringing visitors to an online gambling or other adult-oriented website.

The domain names that you should be careful about are primarily the ones that have active links pointing to them, or that carry your company name or product name. Here is what you can do to avoid these reputation management problems:

– Keep your domain names; they are only $10 to 25 per year. Is it worth the risk of them coming back to haunt you? You can move them to a free hosting location, or try to monetize them with advertising such as Google AdSense.

– Make sure all links to the domain name are removed from the linking websites. This will obscure almost all your previous involvement with the domain. Unless the domain name carries your company or product name in it, of course – then you better keep it.

With domain names becoming a scarce commodity, more and more people will be tempted to look for used domain names. Make sure it is not at your expense.

This is the 50th issue of On the Web. I started writing this column back in 2006 for the Centre Wellington Chamber of Commerce Newsletter The Business Eye. Thank you for reading my website-related musings, and let me know if there is anything in particular that you would like to see covered in one of the next fifty episodes. Nardo Kuitert is at nardo@ferguswebsites.­com or 519-787-7612.