In the online world, protecting your brand has never been more important than it is today and as such, this should be one of the top priorities for any website.

In the online world, protecting your brand has never been more important than it is today and as such, this should be one of the top priorities for any website. Samantha Noble, digital marketing director of Koozai, investigates.

A lot of brands may think they are safe if they have a trademark but it should not stop there. In this article I am going to discuss some of the dangers that face brands online and what they can do to protect themselves moving forward.
 

Social Media

Did you know that there are more than 300 social media platforms online? If you have answered no to this question, you are not alone. When we think of social media, most of us will say Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace and although these are the most prominent, the others are just as important.

Four years ago, who would have imagined that Twitter would be as big as it is today? Truth be told, it started off slow and over the past couple of years it has grown exponentially and is continuing to grow more and more. This could also be the case for any of the other platforms that are out there, and this is where you should be focusing your attention.

There is nothing in the rule book to stop anyone from registering your brand name on any of these platforms and it can be very tough to claim the profile back.

ACTION – Register your brand on all these social media platforms. Companies like KnowEm have a service which allows you to enter various bits of information about your brand/company and they will go and register all the profiles that are still currently available for your brand name on your behalf. Registering 300 social media profiles would be pretty time consuming so if you have $599 spare, this is a service that I would recommend using.
 

Cyber Squatters /Domain Squatters

How many variations of your brand domain have you got registered? How many top level domains have you claimed for your brand? If the answer to both these questions is one then you need to take action.

If you don’t know what a cyber-squatter or domain-squatter is, listen up:

  • Cyber – Someone who registers different permutations of your domain name and poses as you offering a service or product that is similar to you (www.brandonline.com, www.brandshop.com)
  • Domain – Someone who registers your domain with various extensions (www.brand.com, www.brand.co.uk, www.brand.net, www.brand.org)

I attended a conference at the beginning of 2011 where I listened to two big brands stress the importance of this and the problems that they face on a daily basis.

Caroline Rolfe, the Marketing Manager from Links of London, gave a very insightful talk about cyber-squatters that have registered different permutations of their brand name and are selling counterfeit products on the sites. Not only does this cause problems with their potential customers receiving counterfeit goods, but it can also damage the perception of your brand moving forward.

ACTION – Protect the life of your domain by registering different extensions, for example .com, .co.uk, .net. I wouldn’t recommend you go after all the extensions, but think about the market that you are in and the countries that you are or may be hoping to expand into in the future and get them registered. Once registered, add a redirect to these domains pointing them to your main domain.

Combatting the cyber-squatters can be a little difficult as there are so many different permutations of your brand that they could register. What you need to do is think about some of the more obvious ones and get them claimed and redirected to your main site. Using brand monitoring software is one way you can identify misuses of your brand, and then you can follow the next step to take action.
 

DMCA Takedowns / Cease and Desist

If you do come across websites posing as you and selling a bad service or product you can try using the DMCA Takedown / Cease and Desist method. Links of London and ghd are both brands that use this method on a daily basis and at the conference I attended last year, the Marketing Managers from both brands explained how they take down hundreds of sites every year. This is a problem that does not go away.

A clever method used by ghd to confirm who is an authorised reseller of their product is by having a tool embedded within their site that allows visitors to enter the domain name of a site to find out whether they are safe to buy from.

This would not work for all brands as different industries will be faced with different problems, so you will need to think about what is relevant to you.
 

Negative Reviews

Another problem that we see more and more through working at a digital marketing agency is companies that have received negative reviews online and left them to fester. This is the worst thing that a brand can do as it leaves the negative review open for others to add to the discussion and make matters even worse.

My advice for any brand in this situation is to deal with the negative feedback but make it clear in your reply that you are concerned and want to help understand what the issue has been to drive the negative review. Don’t get into an argument or dispute online, I would try and get the persons contact details and get in touch with them offline to solve the problem.

At Koozai, we write and publish two blog posts every day and we are the first to admit that our views may not always match everyone else’s. We have previously had a couple of comments from people that did not necessarily agree with what we were saying. Some companies would not have allowed the comment to go live but the approach we always take is to put the comments live and respond to it so that we can explain our point of view.

ACTION – If you do get any negative reviews or feedback online, do not ignore it or hope that it goes away because it won’t. Deal with the situation and communicate with the person who has had the negative experience.


Stolen Content

Last on my list is the danger of other websites stealing content from your site. Although this may seem like a good thing, in that others find your content interesting and want to share it on their site, it can be extremely damaging from a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) point of view. Last year, Google introduced a new algorithm called Panda which penalises websites that have duplicated content, and it doesn’t matter who is the originator of the content.

With this in mind it is wise to check how original the content on your site is frequently. If you find that content is being copied onto other sites you should either look at approaching the site owner and point out that the content is yours, or re-write the content on your own site, making it unique again.
ACTION – There are lots of tools available online that allow you to check for duplicate content across the web. One of the best tools that I have seen and used to date is Copyscape. Although there is a small fee each time to check for duplication, it is highly recommended that you use this tool.
 

Summary

While this article does not contain all of the possible methods a company should be using to protect their brand, it does look at what I consider to be the most important.

With the web changing as much as it is, keeping on top of the potential dangers websites may face is a challenge, although brand protection is definitely something that all brands should be paying attention to.