Google Typosquatting 

Benjamin Edelman of Harvard Business School recently co-authored a paper entitled “Measuring Typosquatting Perpetrators and Funders”. In the paper, he concluded that Google makes US$497mil a year from typosquatting on the top 100,000 websites.

But first, what it typosquatting? It’s the act of registering possible typo errors or misspellings of a popular trademarked name, e.g. registering travelosity.com to grab visitors who actually intended to visit travelocity.com.

I remember doing this back in 2005 when I was still a newbie. Calling ourselves “domainers”, we registered hundreds of such domain names and then park them with a domain parking service like Sedo.com. All we had to do was enter Sedo’s name servers for the domain names, and all our accidental visitors would be led to a landing page which contained just ads. Sedo takes a cut and pays us the rest, whenever the visitor clicks on an ad.

In his paper, Edelman hypothesized that typosquatting is so pervasive because of traffic aggregators like Sedo above and lucrative ad programs like Google’s Adsense, which can pay up to tens of dollars for a single click for certain industries.

He estimated that 938,000 typosquatting websites target the top 3,264 .com websites. 80% of these domains are supported by pay-per-click programs, while 20% redirect to other websites - competitor sites or even scam sites to defraud the unsuspecting visitor. He also estimated the top 100,000 typosquatting websites collectively receive 68 million visitors a day, which if treated as a single website, would be the 10th most popular website in the world!

Check out Ben Edelman’s blog for his thoughts, including the 15-page PDF report.

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