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Imagine that you are a prospective buyer searching for a new house for months – and today, you found your dream house – a bungalow (or apartment) that overlooks a beautiful beach or city scape. You have all intentions to buy it, and tell the property agent that you want to buy the house. And at that very moment, you are told by the buyer that the property was JUST SOLD to someone else. “

“Wait. What? I thought this house was for sale!”

Well it was, until someone stalked your activities and bought the house right before you, hoping you’d be willing to pay double the price for the same house. Horrific? Yes. But this problem does not just affect houses. This same problem affects ALL website owner wannabe’s.

Cyber Squatting is a LEGIT problem you may have never heard of – until you are a victim of it.

In this age where we have greedy individuals (and even corporations) scalping all things silly – from concert tickets to Graphic cards, this toxic culture has also found itself a place in domain registration.

Domain registration is a process of creating a website “for example, aarontechtips.com. If you have ever dreamed about creating your own website or blog, you would surely have wondered: How should I begin creating this website of mine?

Well, the first step has always been to think of a suitable website name. In my case, “techwithaaron.com” was my “dream domain” which I intended to create when I had the resources to do so. As an aspiring tech blogger, I created “TechWithAaron.Wordpress.com” so I could build some credibility, influence and practice my copy-writing skills for free.

And successful I was: I now have top spot for one of my troubleshooting articles: If you have issues controlling the volume of your bluetooth earphones or speakers on windows, this guide of mine fixes it very painlessly and easily, and is very well loved by all readers.

Back to the story: Fast forward to today, when I felt it was time for me to have a legit website. I wanted to create techwithaaron.com via wordpress. To my absolute shock, I realized my beautiful dream domain name was already bought by someone! WordPress wouldn’t let me buy it.

My desired domain name was TAKEN! Wait, WHAT?

The first thing I did was to find out who and what this website domain was now being used for. I was in for a nasty surprise when I realized that someone had bought this domain, not for tech news or reviews, but just for squatting (or waiting purposes), and hoping a foolish person would buy it.

Clicking on the handy “Domain Broker” link in the green header bar revealed that this was basically an Online Extortion ploy: GoDaddy.com now holds my domain name and wants at least $100 for transferring the domain ownership. How clever.

My experience running my own business before (called Flormiere) taught me one thing I never mentioned before: Checking the availability of a website on WHOIS (a trusted domain name search tool). Sure enough, the website was bought by GoDaddy (or someone using this provider). What was interesting was that this website was bought on June 2019.

Back then, I remember doing one thing I would totally tell people to NEVER do today if they ever intend to create a website:

Somewhere in late May (or June) 2019, I was looking to actually own the domain name “TechWithAaron.com”, and was sourcing for the cheapest solution to host my technology blog, and gleefully entered my desired domain name on various potential hosting solutions to see their best rates and packages.

PLEASE, DON’T EVER DO THAT!

NEVER try to check the availability of a website using a domain website search tool (a very COMMON mistake you might have if you never experienced what I encountered before). For example, searching like this and clicking on one of these solutions to check your website domain availability. DO THIS ONLY IF YOU WANT TO BE A VICTIM OF CYBER-SQUATTING (Like me)

After encountering this episode, My current stance is, NEVER, EVER use such domain checking services. Even though I cannot prove who was the person or organization behind this extortion, I’m particularly suspicious of GoDaddy since they are the domain broker holding my “dream” domain.

If you search up for your favourite domains using this method, you are inadvertently sharing your website URL ideas with the creator of these online tools.

AND, If the domain search provider turns out to be untrustworthy, what can actually happen is this “search provider” will take your website ideas, buy it for cheap (about $15 USD) and try to resell your OWN domain to you at a higher price at a later date.

That, at the least was what likely happened in my case.

As #TechWithAaron was a NON-PROFIT endeavor for me to share my tips and reviews of products that I love (or dislike), paying $100 (and potentially more) for a desired domain name/URL is outrageous and something I wouldn’t want to do.

Fortunately, for me, a resolution was easy: I just thought of a new brand name (AaronTechTips) and would be re-branding my website and social media channels (Such as Facebook and Instagram) accordingly. This plan actually serves me well – while I would lose some SEO credibility, I think it’s a worthy trade off in the long run as I couldn’t own the techwithaaron instagram handle as well. So I can basically start over quite easily. (It helps that wordpress.com seems to have a very good 301 redirect service to redirect visitors to my old domain to the correct articles on my new domain)

So, what would I advise new business owners or influencers and bloggers to do before creating a website?

  • Brainstorm the website domain that you’d like OFFLINE first. On a piece of paper, or on a word processor.
  • Directly search for the availability of the website using your web browser. Just type in the URL that you’d like, and hit enter. If the website is available, chrome will directly tell you the site cannot be reached, with the error DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN (See photo below). That’s good news – it means your website is available.
  • If you intend to create a website TODAY, then carefully choose a web hosting provider WITHOUT telling them the domain URL you have in mind (otherwise the unscrupulous ones (ahem, GoDaddy for instance) will again have the change to scalp your URL before you!).
    • If you are unable to see their rates without telling them a “Desired URL”, here’s a PRO-tip: give them a fictitious gibberish website name (such as “mytestsiteabsowjr.com”) and take note of their rates directly
    • For me, I decided to go for WordPress.com Hosting and let them handle my Domain And Blog because they have handled my free blogs well thus far, especially SEO wise. I mean, I could rank #1 on organic Google Searches for long tail keywords and general #TechWithAaron Searches with little effort – what more could one ask for? Yes, there are cheaper solutions out there, But i’m looking for ease of use. Experience has taught me that cheap isn’t always the best way to go.
  • If you do not intend to create a website today or want to hold your domain separate from your hosting provider (to maintain high flexibility towards actually ensuring your own site) , there is one thing you still can do to safeguard your preferred domain today without risking it being taken away by someone else. Simply buy the ownership of the domain from a trusted domain registrar for a year. After that, you can either continue to renew it until you find the time and resources to actually build the website (or hold it so nobody takes your PRECIOUS website name away from you).
    • The professor that guided me in my entrepreneurship module recommended enom.com as a good domain holder as long as you keep renewing the domain ownership every year – it’s very affordable (at $20 or so per domain registration) and worth it to prevent going through the rebranding headaches exercise I am dealing with now for my tech blog. Thanks Prof Roderick for the advice back then!
  • If you intend to experiment with creating a free blog (like techwithaaron.wordpress.com), and have the intention to purchase an actual domain later in the long term (a few years later), I also recommend buying your domain from somewhere and keeping it with you. This is really the safest way to ensure your website domain is truly yours. The alternative is to not say a word about the website you intend to create in future – but remember that once your brand gets big enough, scalpers can also take note of your social media account handles or brand name, and decide to “scalp” and hold your website domain ransom to flip for a healthy profit in future.
  • Bonus Tip (Because this is #TechWithAaron or #AaronTechTips): You would definitely want social media accounts to push your blogging efforts to channels like Instagram, Facebook or even TikTok. So if you’re serious about your business, go create social media accounts to reserve the name while they are available. Trust me when I say that there are scalpers out there willing to do the same scalping concept on social media handles as well.
If the domain you’d like comes up on Google Chrome in this manner, you can be sure that the website domain you have in mind is currently available – without risk that someone is tracking your activity to flip the domain at a profit to you in future!

All in all, a terrible, but a great learning experience. This is a dark side of the internet that few would know about until they actually fall for it!

For now, I would be engaging in re-branding efforts on social media so people can find me on my new website and brand name, #AaronTechTips, and safeguarding my online/social media presence for this new brand name. A hassle for sure, but worth it since I now essentially have issues owning the previous #TechWithAaron Handle on BOTH Instagram, and now the Website space. After all, Being flexible is very important for any small business or start-up!

Liked this article, Disagree or have a nasty experience to share too? Comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Follow me on my #AaronTechTips Facebook and Instagram Pages, and stay tuned for more great content revolving around technology and audio products! Formally known as #TechWithAaron, this site is always full of good stuff – you can trust me on this one! 😉