Picking out a business name and registering a domain name that suits your new moniker can be tricky. But when your domain name is your name and you’re a public figure it should be reasonably easy. Or so you’d think. Former Prime Minister and current backbench agitator Tony Abbott has found out, the hard way, how someone can easily register a domain name that looks legitimate and use it for nefarious, or in this case comedic, purposes.
A Victorian man registered http://tonyabbottmp.com, which is similar enough to the official http://tonyabbott.com.au to be easily found. And, as a piece of satire, it’s pretty good. It covers Abbott’s predilection for eating raw onions, the monarchy and mining industry profits.
But there is a serious lesson for everyone in this. It’s no longer enough to register your own business name – even if it’s your actual name. Register obvious variants as well. If your name is Jane Smith and you’re a plumber it’s worth registering “janesmith.com” as well as the “.au” and variants like “janesmithplumbing”, “janesmithplumber” and so on. Any reasonable variant is worth registering in order to protect your name and business.
Back in the early days of the commercialisation of the Internet, some bright wag had the idea of registering microsnot.com and creating a satirical clone of the offical Microsoft web site at the time. It was around for a while before Microsoft had it removed. And around that time, a shareware site called Windows Files was very popular but it was renamed due to the confusion it might cause consumers.
Protecting your reputation is a big deal and requires careful planning. While many businesses are very careful about choosing a business name that resonates with customers and doesn’t alienate anyone, they often forget to check that the right domain name is also available. And even if it is, they neglect to register obvious variants of the domain, such as those with hyphens between words.
When you’ve registered your business name and domains, also make sure you snap up the relevant social media handles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other networks that could be relevant to your business. Even if you aren’t using them it’s worth having them as things can change and you don’t want to end up in a dispute.