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The folly of speculative domain squatting

Anytime there's a new name in the news, speculators rush in and try to grab relevant domain names - in hopes of the big bucks. From the NY Times blog:

Last December, Mr. Fruedenberg and two friends spent $975 to buy up up 100 political domain names including 16 variations of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the eventual Democratic ticket. When the Delaware senator was tapped by Senator Obama, Mr. Freudenberg and his friends – McCain supporters — celebrated. Then they waited and, when the Obama camp didn’t call, they put the names up on eBay with a starting bid of $100,000.

They got 10,000 views for the offering but not a single bid. More recently, they lowered the price to $1,000. Still, no takers.

But here's the thing -- the Obama campaign has already made a massive investment in BarackObama.com. Why would they shift gears? Why would they buy an obscure domain (say, ObamaBiden08.net) from a speculator - and abandon all their google rank, their branding, etc.? Not to mention the need to pay to reprint a bunch of materials.

Same for the guy who gambled on Sarah Palin:

Way, way back in February [Paul Pilger] had done some amateur political analysis and decided that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was a good fit for the then-Republican nominee-in-waiting. So he hopped online and registered McCainPalin2008.com. Also, he snapped up McCain-Palin2008.com and McCain-Palin08.com as well as the dot-org, dot-net and dot-info versions of all three constructions. After the Aug. 29 announcement, Mr. Pilger assumed he had something the McCain campaign would want. “I’m actually surprised that nobody from the campaign has contacted me or even a third-party person,” said Mr. Pilger, 41, a McCain supporter who works for a software manufacturer.

The only domain variation that's an obvious pick-up with high value is the plain-vanilla firstname-lastname combo of the candidate. From the NY Times blog, featuring yours truly:

Still, Mr. Chisholm was surprised that it appears GovernorPalin does not own her own name, SarahPalin.com. If she did, he reasoned, going to SarahPalin.com would bounce visitors to JohnMcCain.com, much as JoeBiden.com now redirects to BarackObama.com. Instead, SarahPalin.com visitors find a blank page with an error message. “It’s very surprising and it doesn’t say good things about the competence of her staff,” Mr. Chisholm said. “You should always have the domain that is your own name no matter how low a public official you are because that’s the best one, the most recognizable. And you should grab all variations. I’m working with Jeff Merkley, who is running for Senate in Oregon. People consistently misspell his last name. We tried to capture all of them and redirect them back to the main site.” The McCain campaign did not return calls seeking comment.

It is somewhat astonishing that Sarah Palin doesn't own SarahPalin.com. That's a no-brainer. (But then, maybe she's been getting internet tutoring from her state's senior senator.)

Posted on September 14, 2008 in news media, strategic issues, marketing, search engine strategy | See full archives