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Google Makes $500M a Year On Typos 98

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the tahts-aolt-fo-mnoey dept.
holy_calamity writes "New Scientist reports on an analysis by Harvard researchers that suggests Google rakes in half a billion dollars annually from advertising that appears on typosquatting domains. They estimate that 60 per cent of typosquatting pages use Google ads, but the advertising giant declined to discuss whether it should be working with such pages."
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Google Makes $500M a Year On Typos

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  • Smart people. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:45AM (#31183480) Homepage Journal

    Someone on Google saw some new Internet service and said "I wish I had $0.01 for each typo the teens make."
    Someone else said "You know, that's a really, really good idea. Let's do it."

    • Re:Smart people. (Score:5, Informative)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:53AM (#31183602) Journal

      Someone on Google saw some new Internet service and said "I wish I had $0.01 for each typo the teens make." Someone else said "You know, that's a really, really good idea. Let's do it."

      That's not Google though, that's the people who registered the typo domains that are proactively making this happen. Google's ad service just might be what they use to recoup their registration/squatting fees. Google's not actively registering these sites and putting up ads to get money off of typos, rather someone else is doing that shady practice and sharing the profits with Google. Since Google makes their AdWords product easy to use and profit off of, they most likely use them and Google never realizes it until:

      A Google spokesperson pointed out that the company will remove ads from typo domains if the owner of a site with a trademarked name makes a complaint, but declined to discuss the research in more detail.

      Hate to sound like a fanboy on this one but Google's profits are from just offering an ad service. That's about as far as their evil goes here, they're even willing to kill those profits if the legit domain complains to them about the typo squatter.

      • by MrNaz (730548) *

        You're such a cynicism amateur. What if they covertly own the typosquatters? Huh? HUH?
        Betcha didn't think of *that*!

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        It's not as simple as that tho. AdSense policies have many, many rules about where their ads can be put and they do check those sites (and this includes rules against that aren't even illegal, but just for quality control). If they really cared about typo-squatting, they would add it in the rules too.

        Also, another thing to consider is that the typo-squatted domains are quite targeted traffic for advertisers too. Because it doesn't lower the quality of AdSense network, and because it brings them lots of mone

        • by nashv (1479253)
          Except there is nothing wrong with 'typosquatting'. It isn't really squatting if they are paying to register those domains. As far as I know, and IANAL, brand names have very precise definitions and that is why anyone trying to make a fake/copy often has to change it a little so it isn't illegal. Ever been to Vietnam and buy Tommi Hilfigger[sic] jeans?
          • Except there is nothing wrong with 'typosquatting'. It isn't really squatting if they are paying to register those domains. As far as I know, and IANAL, brand names have very precise definitions and that is why anyone trying to make a fake/copy often has to change it a little so it isn't illegal.

            Ever been to Vietnam and buy Tommi Hilfigger[sic] jeans?

            The limit to trademark is "likely to cause confusion" IIRC. IANAL. Also, it is domain squatting if you try to charge the trademark holder an exorbitant amount of money for the domain when the IANA (or whomever) rules say it should be theirs in the first place.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by gnu-user (162334)

          Google acts as a positive force on typo squatting. I had a few limited dealings with a domain squatter who transitioned into typo ad link selling. His desire for google money (it pays a lot more consistently and a better return then any of the other buyers) led him to put a lot of work into the "site" cleaning it up and making it almost normal. Google pushed this and he responded.

          Prior to google, his primary revenue stream was the more aggressive/shadier hawkers of payed links. Among other things he offered

        • by Kalriath (849904)

          Actually, Google has a whole white label typo-squatting product, tailor made for the purpose:

          AdSense for Domains [google.com]

      • What is shady about it? Should they just redirect to the proper spelling?
      • they're even willing to kill those profits if the legit domain complains to them about the typo squatter.

        Google allows all sorts of questionable activity, as long as trademark owners don't complain. I have first hand experience with this.

        I won't go into the details, but do a quick search on "affiliate arbitrage" and look at some of the shady stuff that is going on. I have a friend who made a lot of money by bidding on typos on AdWords. Google has a huge conflict of interest by running an advertising netw

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Smart Google : https://www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=105924

      • Surely it's not Google's fault that some people misspell. But our study shos that typosquatters register more domains targeting companies in sectors with high PPC prices. That tells us that PPC funding is *causing* and *exacerbating* typosquatting. Without PPC payments, there would be fewer typosquatting registrations -- much less reason for squatters to register these domains. Google's payments put the system in motion; squatters register domains exactly in anticipation of getting paid by Google. Google kn

      • Re:Smart people. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:36AM (#31185008) Journal

        Google hosts more "squat pages" and "doorway pages" and "spam pages" than any other company in the world - literally millions of them.

        So-called "domainers" use them because google makes it so easy - register the domain, park it at google, and make money.

        Don't believe it? Do a search for "google park domain adsense"

        Here's the first result from scroogle [google.com]:

        Google AdSense for Domains Earn revenue on your parked pages with Google AdSense for domains.
        What is AdSense for domains?

        AdSense for domains allows publishers with undeveloped domains to help users by providing relevant information including ads, links and search results.

        With AdSense for domains, users can find relevant information rather than see empty pages or "page not found" errors. To ensure positive user experience and the quality of our network, these sites are monitored for policy compliance and prohibited from using text and images designed to confuse users.

        AdSense for domains provides advertisers with additional opportunities to find their customers, and ads on these pages convert well. In addition, we regularly receive requests from advertisers who have found domains to be an effective way to reach their users.

        If you have undeveloped domains, then AdSense for domains can help your users. To get started, check out our setup instructions, and visit our Help Center for more information.

        Q: What domains are eligible for AdSense for domains?
        A: AdSense for domains can be used on any domain that adheres to Google's policies.

        Q: Is Google involved in the selection or registration of the domains in the AdSense for domains program?
        A: Google is not involved with the selection or registration of these domain names, and is not in a position to arbitrate trademark disputes between the registrants, our partners, and trademark owners. Accordingly, we encourage trademark owners to resolve their disputes directly with the registrants or registrars. As a courtesy to trademark owners, Google provides a simple publicly available complaint procedure and, once notified of a legitimate complaint against a specific domain, Google will no longer serve ads to that domain. For instructions on how to file a complaint, please refer to the Trademark Complaint Process page. Additionally, a copy of our publicly available trademark policy is available online.

        This isn't the only way that google encourages the growth of cruft on the web. Almost 90% of the bogus registrations on the forums I run are made from gmail spam accounts. Not surprising, given that you can buy compromised gmail accounts for less than a penny a piece - or if you want to buy in bulk, you can get even better discounts - like 25,000 gmail accounts for $100.00.

        They don't clamp down on it because it helps them train their spam filters, but the rest of us suffer the consequences.

        Yes, I know, the problem will go away in 10 years, when all computers are powerful enough to run AI software capable of recognizing and squelching EVERY ad, including product placements in real-time video feeds ... and with it google's revenue model ...

      • by houghi (78078)

        So if a xcompany with a trademark complaints, they remove it, but if I complain they won't? And then the company who has the trademark will most likely not have the trademark on the typo, so they have not a real foot to stand on.

        Now if they would say "if we see a sqatter, we remove the ads" then everybody can complain, Google investigates and removes if they are ineed sqatters.

      • I agree, and make the additional point that typosquatters exploiting adsense is actually a huge improvement on how things used to be!

        For those with short memories, in the late 1990s when the Internet really got going with the general public but before adsense, the only way typosquatters could make money was by offering ads to porn sites or serving up malware (or both). Getting a single letter wrong in a URL usually meant getting a face full of porn (and not good porn either) or long hours reinstalling your

  • If only... (Score:5, Funny)

    by srussia (884021) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:48AM (#31183528)
    Slashdot got a nickel for every typo...
    • Actually - I once went to slashdit.org by accident and there were ads there. Don't know who is making money from that.

      It also displayed that tired old assumption that only "guys" come to slashdot. It's bad enough going to an ad site without being called a "computer-type guy".

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by webreaper (1313213)
        You mean there are women here? :-o
      • by rugatero (1292060)

        Actually - I once went to slashdit.org by accident and there were ads there. Don't know who is making money from that.

        Well, I just had to check and what do you know? "Ads by Google".
        At least they were good enough to provide a link to the intended site. That's something, I guess.

        • Gotta admit, thats one of the better squatters! Make their ad money and push the user in the right direction. Struggle to see any harm with that!
      • by maevius (518697)
        I don't get it. Why do this to slashdot where most of the users use adblock and even if they don't,they won't click on the ads (I hope...) just because it's a typo-squatted domain. Then again I appreciate their honesty...
    • And a dime for every dupe...

  • by celardore (844933) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:50AM (#31183542)
    I'm sure that Google requires as a condition of their AdSense program, your site contains at least some content. They manually review sites before you get accepted into the AdSense program.

    Unless of course you use their Domain Parking [google.com] option.
  • Frist (Score:4, Funny)

    by Bastard of Subhumani (827601) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:52AM (#31183576) Journal
    They won't maek a penny out of me!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When you advertise with Google, they take an upfront fee. They want at least $50. Now they have the cash. They don't pay the website that's hosting the ads unless someone clicks on the ad AND check isn't written until the hoster's account hits $100. In the meantime, Google has the cash paid by the advertiser.

    If any thing, the typo domain squatters are costing Google money or probably more accurate, making them not as profitable since they are planning to pay out the advertising share -eventually - but the m

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kotoku (1531373)
      No, that would mean they were making Google money. They get the advertiser's money. They hold it (accruing interest) and do not release it all until the recipients of the funds have reached preset limits for payment. Google is paying out very tiny amounts of money in these cases in varying time frames all the while collecting interest on the funds. A second added benefit is exposure and free advertising of their adwords service.
    • by lwsimon (724555)

      That's not true, these days at least. I set up my Adwords account without any upfront, and wasn't charged until after my ads began running. In addition, I got a $100 coupon for free ads, so I was able to run extensive tests before I had to start paying for them.

      Adsense, however, seems very hard to make any scratch on. I've set it up on one of my sites, www.thankgodihadagun.com, and have gotten 100s of views, but no click-throughs. I've "made" $.01, and won't see a payout until I hit $100. It may be pos

      • Adsense, however, seems very hard to make any scratch on. I've set it up on one of my sites, www.thankgodihadagun.com, and have gotten 100s of views, but no click-throughs.

        It depends on what types of ads get shown on your site. I ran a site that had some strange ads that did get a few clicks, which turned out to be over $1. I didn't earn enough to quit my day job, but for a while I was hitting the $100 threshold each month and getting paid.

        Anyone can create a site and maybe get lucky with some high value

        • by lwsimon (724555)

          Perhaps that's it - my site is about something that I feel strongly about, not targeted to a high-paying ad segment.

          Good idea :)

          • I happened to get lucky, running a site about something I felt strongly about which turned out to have high paying ads that were getting a lot of clicks (relative to the site traffic).

            BTW, nice site. I'm a big fan of "The Armed Citizen" column in American Rifleman and I'm sure there are many more articles out there. About a few months ago I had an incident where I was able to protect myself from some lunatic, but that doesn't belong here - maybe I'll contact you through your site.

            • by lwsimon (724555)

              The profit portion of this site is an aside, really. I feel *very* strongly about the topic :)

              Please do contact me on the site - or email me directly at the email on my profile here. There are other news aggregators out there, but I started www.thankgodihadagun.com to highlight personal accounts. I believe that we have a lot to learn from people who have "been there, done that", and if nothing else, these stories serve as a reminder to remain vigilant.

              Finally - I made $6.72 on that site today. Freaking

  • Not just typos (Score:5, Informative)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:58AM (#31183672)

    Once or twice in my life I have landed at a domain squatter's site due to a typo. Hundreds or thousands of times I have landed there due to links to sites that used to be something but are now run by the squatters.

    • by jack2000 (1178961)
      These "domain harvesters" should be illegal and removed. Most of the time they follow a very basic structure, wonder who's behind them. Can we get some sort of vigilantism done on this thing...
      • by rugatero (1292060)

        These "domain harvesters" should be illegal and removed.

        Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA), 15 U.S.C. 1125(d) [wikipedia.org]

      • How do you tell the difference between somebody who wants to buy a domain that used to be owned by somebody else in order to use the domain productively versus a harvester?

        How do you tell that somebody who has nothing but ads on a web page on port 80 on www.example.com is not using the domain for other good reasons?

        • by jack2000 (1178961)
          Because the harvesters use the same template sometimes the same images even, the name is snatched from an expired domain and it's full of adlinks that have something thematically to do with what it was before, often there's shit on it like " THE BEST PLACE TO SEARCH FOR XYZ " And it's pretty obvious when one company has 2k+ sites with the same damn template, you figure it out!
    • What makes me despair is that ads on these sites actually work. My first thought at landing on such a site is along the lines of wishing the operators would fuck off and die.

      There must be a lot of retards out there I guess.

      • There must be a lot of retards out there I guess.

        Well, when I was new to the internet, I often landed on those sights from SEO, domain squatting or typos and yes, perhaps a bit retardedly, I really thought that the links there would get me to where I intended to be. They often do, I just didn't understand I was billing my intended sites for getting google-jacked or easily mistyped.

        You have to have a bit of web savy (which is common for /.ers, but not for the average population) before you realize money is flowing every time you click those links, and goin

  • Fantasy math (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:59AM (#31183686)
    No logical leaps here:

    If the company earns as much per visitor from ads on typo sites as it reportedly does from ads alongside search results, it could potentially earn $497 million a year in revenue from typo domains, they conclude.
    • by Mashdar (876825)
      What if it was an ad for the site you actually wanted? :)
    • I'm not sure if you saw the portion of our article [benedelman.org] that develops the estimate and presents the methodology for the estimate. If not, that might be of interest.

      As you say, it's hard to make a precise estimate. There are important pieces of data uniquely within Google's custody, and Google isn't talking. But in these circumstances, I do feel it's appropriate to make a good-faith estimate. If you think our numbers are in error, feel free to identify which specific numbers you think are off, in which direct

  • Google AdSense for Domains has more impressions than most people would believe.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Typosquatting is evil but, $500 million per year is delicious. How can we increase revenues? Ooh, let's run our own global DNS system do our own typo squatting and cut out the middle man!

    Genious! Eric, peel me a grape.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by izomiac (815208)
      Except that Google's DNS makes a point of returning proper NXDOMAIN records [google.com].

      How does Google Public DNS handle non-existent domains?
      If you issue a query for a domain name that does not exist, Google Public DNS always returns an NXDOMAIN record, as per the DNS protocol standards. The browser should show this response as a DNS error. If, instead, you receive any response other than an error message (for example, you are redirected to another page), this could be the result of the following:

      • A client-side application such as a browser plug-in is displaying an alternate page for a non-existent domain.
      • Some ISPs may intercept and replace all NXDOMAIN responses with responses that lead to their own servers. If you are concerned that your ISP is intercepting Google Public DNS requests or responses, you should contact your ISP.

      Will Google Public DNS be used to serve ads in the future?
      No. We are committed to preserving the integrity of the DNS protocol. Google Public DNS will never return the address of an ad server for a non-existent domain.

  • by CSHARP123 (904951) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:04AM (#31183742)
    As long as it is not leading the user to some fishy site, I think it is perfectly legit to work with these kind of sites especially when it involves $500 mil
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not to be all corporatist, but I'm pretty sure that Google is directing people there either. They're system is designed to AVOID going to typo sites. I don't see it as all that unethical as a whole.

  • by DarrenBaker (322210) <darren@@@flim...net> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:04AM (#31183748) Homepage

    I hope they're not suggesting it's unethical of Google to work with these typo-squatters, because it simply isn't. Now, if the typo-squatters were trying to trick people into thinking they'd reached where they were attempting to get, that would be unethical.

    It's becoming a moot point, anyway... Most people I know type the web address into the Google search box, then click on the link that appears.

    • Agreed. Let's compare to the 'real' (physical) world. If you were walking in a mall and accidentally went into the wrong store space, but instead of being a store its a room full of billboards and ad posters with some benches to sit on, would you write a letter to the mall management saying you should not allow the person who leases that space to put advertisements in that empty room over there because you meant to go into that store beside it? NO!! Every space in life is considered an Ad space, why would t
    • by Macka (9388)

      It's becoming a moot point, anyway... Most people I know type the web address into the Google search box, then click on the link that appears

      Yep, my wife does that even though I've tried explaining a number of times that typing the name of the site in the URL box on (most) modern browsers will likely show her the site she wants. She has her way of doing it and it works for her and she won't change. In light of this I think Google's idea to combine URL and search into just the one box was a very smart move.

  • Google makes money on ads. Typosquatting pages use ads (mostly Google ads). I can sense the evil.
  • Considering Google's ad network is the least obtrusive, not likely to try to infect your computer, doesn't prevent you from hitting the "back" button, etc etc.

    Having THEM make money on that type of fraud probably does less damage than Doubleclick, or whomever else would be doing it.

    As long as the domains are fully paid for and not typosquatting domain-tasting operations I have no problem with it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I hate to break it to you but Doubleclick was bought by Google a few years ago.

      • Just because two operations are owned by the same parent company does not imply that they behave in the same way.

  • "Well if google does it, it's OK."

    Namespace is a natural resource. A renewable one?

  • Headline should read: Single Keystroke Can Cut Google's Profits By $500m a Year
  • Legit squatting sites are no different than a billboard you see after you make a wrong turn while driving.

    Like others have said, as long as they aren't a phishing site or trying to trick you into believing you are where you are not, then it sounds like there is no foul.
  • ssh hacks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dargaud (518470) <slashdot2NO@SPAMgdargaud.net> on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:26AM (#31184888) Homepage
    One thing I've never seen discussed is how typosquaters can get your ssh passwords. I almost fell for one. Like many slashdotters I have some personal servers on adsl lines (moving IPs) and thus use the services of a dynamic DNS. I wanted to connect to user@myhomepc.dnsalias.com, one of the most common dynalic DNS, but mistyped the domain name (don't remember how exactly). I was nonetheless prompted for a password, which I stopped halfway, remembering that I had setup a public key and thus did not have to type one. It's easy to recompile ssh to log all passwords attempted. Hook it on a catchall for all subdomains and you can start gathering accesses...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You should get a warning you're connecting to a host for the first time.
      That should be a warning enough for you.

    • by gad_zuki! (70830)

      Wait, what?! So you and another nerd (perhaps me) have an ssh service running. My dyndns username is a one letter from yours. You fat finger it, ignore the ssh key warning, and type in your username? You really think thats some hack? Err, time to take off the tin foil hat.

      I doubt there's an army of dyndns typo domains just to get your password. Heck, how could you implement it? Lets say your domain is darguard.dyndns.org and the typo domain is dargard. How do they know it was dargaurd that visited and not

      • I doubt there's an army of dyndns typo domains just to get your password. Heck, how could you implement it? Lets say your domain is darguard.dyndns.org and the typo domain is dargard.

        IF it were to be done, I would expect the typosquatter would register typo domains for the dynamic dns provider domain (e.g., register "dydns.org", etc.) and then just engage the password capturing code on any subdomain that a request came to, assuming that the subdomain was correct.

  • At least they're not letting all those typos go to waste!

  • If Googles refuses its advertising services to those domain typo ad park owners, it will only affect Googls's bottom line. The site owners will get some other ad service to serve up ads, and they will keep making money. The only way something like that will work is is every major online advertising service agrees not to serve ads to blacklisted ad sites (blad sites). If the typo squatters had to put in more effort to secure ads from multiple sources, it would make the sites less profitable.
  • by schlick (73861) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @12:02PM (#31185472)

    The guy who did the "study" is a douche.

    Moore and Edelman started by using common spelling mistakes to create a list of possible typo domains for the 3264 most popular .com websites, as determined by Alexa.com rankings. They estimate that each of the 3264 top sites is targeted by around 280 typo domains.

    They then used software to crawl 285,000 of these 900,000-odd sites to determine what revenue the typo domains might be generating.

    Why didn't he publish the registrars that provide typo domains? There isn't any question that they profit directly from those typosquaters.

  • Anybody do the math here? $500m is their GROSS income from these domains when their NET annual profit is more than 1000 time bigger. They're not making any important profit here. That they allow this is probably just a volume-mitigated oversight. If I sell a Widget that breaks for a $1 profit and a company that makes a better, more durable version sells 1 billion of them for $2 more and pays $1.50 more, for them, and makes $100 Billion dollars, I'm pretty sure I'm still the evil one.
  • Our own data, at SiteTruth [sitetruth.net], indicates that about 34% of Google Content Network advertisers, by domain name, are "bottom feeder" sites which we can't associate with a real-world business. This is disappointing, but not surprising. When you see a Google ad, it's not usually from a Fortune 1000 company, after all.

    Our data comes from our AdRater plug-in [sitetruth.com], which rates the advertiser behind each Google ad as it appears on the user's web page. If someone goes to an ad-heavy typosquatting site, we'll see the d

  • ... a classic and timeless business strategy.

    In this case the mistakes are typos, and the profit goes to Google (and others), but the idea isn't all that novel.

  • ... states make millions of dollars each year on people who can't do math, i.e., lotteries. Not sure what the point of this article is; are we supposed to hate Google for making money off dumb people?

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