April 16, 2007, 12:00 AM

Typosquatters look out—a new clean-up crew’s in town

Overstock.com uses new technology from CitizenHawk to find and fire affiliates squatting on “typo” domain names at the brand’s expense.


Adept online shoppers aren’t all great typists. One slip of a finger can send a shopper to sites registered to others who want to use that accidental traffic for their own purposes, such as advertising or collecting keyword payments on the errant clicks. To clean up its affiliate program and reduce the negative effects of such “typosquatting” on URLs close to its own, Overstock.com has been using the beta release of a new hosted service called Typosquasher recently launched by technology vendor CitizenHawk Inc.

With up to 20% of all hand-typed URLs being misspelled, a large market has emerged for "typo" domain names that exploit and monetize accidental traffic at the brand holder’s expense, according to CitizenHawk. It’s an issue at Overstock, where such “squatting” is affecting its business in the form of pay-per-click advertisers trying to monetize a typo of its brand URL, according to the retailer.

The vendor’s software-as-a-service technology automatically crawls the web to search for possible misspellings of a domain name and captures necessary evidence required to act on each trademark infringement. Overstock’s legal team and affiliate team have used Typosquasher to help maintain Overstock.com’s trademark rights and monitor the affiliate program for potential fraud.

Typosquasher`s console is showing Overstock’s managers all such activity in one interface, an improvement on its previous hit-or-miss method of identifying it. “Having the dashboard capabilities where everything is brought together in one place is a huge time saving for us,” says an Overstock spokesman.

Overstock, No. 18 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, already has eliminated affiliates that had been using this type of URL. That alone has saved it marketing dollars it had been paying to those affiliates for traffic that would have found Overstock’s correct URL anyway, according to the retailer.

Overstock’s Geoff Atkinson, director of e-mail and web site marketing, is speaking at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, June 4-7 in San Jose, in a session entitled E-mail Marketing: Being Persuasive, Not Offensive.

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