By Chirag Patel, General Manager, Namesco

The internet can provide hugely valuable exposure for your company and offers the opportunity to consolidate and promote your brand. However, it is not without risk, as Richard Branson discovered recently when the non-Virgin-affiliated website richardbranson.xxx went live.

This highlights how important it is for SMBs to protect their brand in the digital realm, the most effective way to do this is to anticipate the online risks which could have a negative impact on your business.

The internet does not just provide the opportunity to increase awareness of your brand; it is also a channel that enables others to deface it. Having your online reputation damaged can undermine the trust of existing and potential customers, impede sales and instantly ruin the positive image that you have cultivated over time. Therefore it is important to develop a strategy to protect your business from all possible threats in order to keep your brand intact.

The first step is to audit your online brand and establish which domain extensions are already protected and which ones you may wish to extend that protection to. In most cases it is not enough to buy a single domain, so you should evaluate the different extensions that could be targeted and combine these with any words relevant to your company, for example product names.

As well as buying up available domains related to your brand names, consider securing those that a consumer could accidentally arrive at if they mistyped your web address. This places you one step ahead of third parties who could purchase these extensions and try to use them for personal gain, or worse still, adversely affect your brand image by displaying damaging content.

It is necessary to make all your domain names visible online to protect your brand from typo-squatting. One of the ways to do this is to establish a monitoring programme that detects abuses of your domains so you can deal with these before they damage your brand. However, this exercise demands time and resources, luxuries that most smaller business simply cannot afford on a regular basis.

In many cases the most viable option is to bring in an expert and choosing the right company to manage this is vital. OBP (Online Brand Protection) services can be fully personalised to keep you up to date and give you the peace of mind to continue building your online brand, without worrying what others might be doing with it.

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