Peter Koning is an affiliate industry veteran focusing on lead generation and anti-fraud systems for affiliate programs. Based in BC, Canada, Peter has recently launched Typo Assassin, an effective tool to reduce the losses that affiliate programs suffer due to typo domain affiliates. For more details, visit http://www.typoassassin.com.
By: Peter Koning, Typo Assassin
Typo domains impact all stages of the performance marketing value chain—here’s how it happens and how you can prevent this from happening to you.
Whether you are an end-customer, affiliate, network, affiliate manager, or advertiser, the cost of typo domaining can hurt your wallet. In this article, we’ll explore some examples from one niche, how it affects all of us, and then list some ways you can avoid losing money to typo domain thieves.
Let’s start by taking a quick look at one niche that’s under attack—the hosting industry.
According to webhosting.info, if you add up the number of web hosting companies among the world’s countries having 100 or more, there are currently 40,795 web hosting companies in 47 countries. This makes it a very competitive business, especially in the USA where there are over 17,740 hosting companies.
Many of these hosting companies get new customers by having an affiliate program, and the commissions can be as high as $150 per new signup. This makes them popular with affiliates, both good and bad.
Let’s look at five examples of hosting companies currently targeted by typo domain affiliates. Note that these are simply random companies we found and not listed in any particular order. The link traces are valid as of the time this article is being posted, but may change as typo domain affiliates discover this article. Not all typo domains of hosting companies are affiliate typo domainers, but of course domains can be redirected to different url’s very easily and quickly by the domain owners.
If you are the owner of a hosting company mentioned in this article, we’d appreciate your input and would love to hear how much money you saved by cutting off the commissions from typo domain affiliates currently stealing from you.
Example 1—Hosting Review Sites.
Review sites appear to give unbiased reviews of hosting companies, but are often published by affiliates of those hosting companies. They earn a commission for most of the hosting companies listed on their sites, and many review sites steal traffic from those very own.
Look at http://www.top10webhosting.com—they “review” the sites and are clearly an affiliate for the hosting companies they list.
But the problem is that Top10WebHosting.com is using typo domains of those very hosting companies that it’s an affiliate for, to steal traffic and make fraudulent commissions. Check out www.blufhost.com, for example.
Example 2—Hostgator.com—one of the top web hosting companies with a well know brand and an affiliate program offering up to $125 per signup, based on volume.
They have at least 124 typo domains registered against them and many are affiliates either direct linking or linking to “coupon” pages which then link to hostgator.com through their affiliate links, this earning them commissions via skimmed traffic. Here’s an example of one affiliate that’s surely making commissions from hoostgator.com and the domain has been registered for over three years.
Example 3—SiteGround.com—they have 35 typo domains currently and pay up to $150 commissions to affiliates, based on volume.
One common typo is for the visitor to miss a key when directly navigating to the site, so iteground.com is a good typo domain for this affiliate.
They redirect through an iframe at turbohosting.com, a “webhosting review” site, which then redirects to siteground.com through an obvious affiliate link. The review site is never even shown.
Example 4—JustHost.com—this hosting company is suffering from over 50 typo domains and many are affiliates which either direct link or link to “review sites” or landing pages containing affiliates.
No matter how you look at it, they are all intercepting visitors and profiting from it, without adding any value for the hosting company. An example is wwwjusthost.com and that’s not a typo—it’s a commonly miss-spelled domain scenario where the visitor skips the period after the www so the browser takes them to a domain actually spelled as wwwdomain.com.
In this case someone enters wwwjusthost.com and ends up on an affiliate landing page for justhosting.com, where referrals pay out $60 each.
Example 5—LunarPages.com—a top paying hosting company that pays up to $300 per referral, is infested with over 30 typo domains and many are affiliates.
Here’s one example—lunaarpages.com which, as you can see from the trace, is clearly an affiliate direct linking to the merchant through their affiliate link. Once again, the affiliate is making big commissions for a domain that costs about $9/year.
With so many hosting companies trying to compete, many have affiliate programs to get incremental traffic. The problem, as illustrated above, is that typo domain affiliates don’t deliver incremental traffic—these are customers that the hosting companies would have gotten anyway, and they are paying the affiliates commissions for this fraud.
If you are one of the following players in the affiliate value chain, here is how you could be affected:
Hosting Company/Mechant—you suffer direct losses due to paying review sites and typo domain affiliates commissions for customers that you would have gotten anyway. This is a direct financial loss to the bottom line. It also makes your affiliate program more expensive and therefore less competitive with other hosting companies. In addition, you suffer by losing honest affiliates that move to better monitored offers.
Affiliate—you are getting less than the optimal commission because your valid customer traffic and commissions are subsidizing the fraudulent ones. You are better off looking for hosting affiliate offers that pay better and are clearly not allowing typo domain fraud.
End customer—you’re buying hosting services at a price that is higher than necessary, since the hosting company you are signed up with has higher expenses due to fraud.
Affiliate network and affiliate managers that allow this scam to happen—since you’re making commissions from those fraudulent sales, you may think all is good. However eventually you will be fired, caught in a lawsuit, or outed due to an unhappy but honest affiliate. You also risk losing other customers who notice that you’re not looking out for their best interests.
The most motivated player in the chain is the merchant, as they stand to lose profits by not monitoring and enforcing this situation. The best recommendation is to start looking at your affiliate program more closely—do you actively monitor all the typo domains out there and identify which affiliates are stealing traffic and sales?
As an affiliate, network, affiliate manager, and also end customer, it’s not as easy to monitor someone else’s affiliate traffic and a brand’s typo domains. However, it may be worth at least checking if the merchant is concerned about this issue. Ask their affiliate manager what they do to prevent typo domain affiliate theft. If you get a blank stare or weird answer, then move on to a merchant that has things under control.