Negative domains are nothing new to the seasoned reputation manager. A quick and easy way to explain them to a C-level or business owner is something I haven’t been able to find, so I thought what better place to write one up than After all, Andy Beal wrote the book on the subject of proactively defending your brand’s reputation online.

Negative Domain Name Guide

Kristine Schachinger mentions the need to buy all the domains, but what about key stakeholders or representatives in the company? What about specific products?  In the realm of public opinion, some C-levels are subject to having their personal character attacked because they are the face of a company. Interestingly, I really couldn’t find a good quick guide on buying negative domains to protect your business that I could share with a business owner.

With hacktivist groups like Anonymous and WikiLeaks operating under a directive of their own terms of justice, many larger corporations have begun to buy domains to protect not just their brands, but key members of influence who might face public scrutiny. B of A was smart to snatch up domains preemptively, anticipating an onslaught from one of the groups in 2010. They purchased several negative domains including several exact match negative domains for their CEO, Brian Moynihan.

Why leave the low-hanging domains to the safeguards of the unforgiving public?

While it is true that the internet generation is clever enough to come up with better, why leave the low-hanging domains to the safeguards of the unforgiving public? When you’re the largest bank in North America, the backlash target on your back is much larger than it is for a soul food joint in North Beach. But isn’t it wise to take action before you get hammered by a consumer who feels he’s been slighted and takes his own form of justice out on you? ORM is about being proactive, and you can never possibly please everyone, even if the customer is always right.

In Outspoken Media’s Online Reputation Management Guide, there is an assessment section that details all the pertinent items for which your company may need to buy negative domains. I paired it with the given easy-to-spot negative qualifiers.

  • Company Name
  • Key Figure Name
  • Brand(s)
  • Product(s)
  • High profile employees
  • Handles/usernames
  •, .biz, .info, .net, org
  • isB*
  • f*

This covers most of the main negative qualifiers that could be easily wrested from the clutches of those who desire to do you harm online. But to make things easier, there is a way you can search and purchase these domains all at once with KnowEm. KnowEm provides a domain checking service for free, and I use it quite often to conduct thorough research into negative domains. If you don’t have a preferred registrar, you can click on the “Available” next to the domain and purchase it right there on the spot. If the domain is not available, click on “Not Available” and you’re directed to SEDO, where the domain owner can be contacted for purchase.

Purchasing negative domains for ORM

In the interest of having a ready-made template for reputation managers, I have put together what I have deemed to be the most important negative domains to consider purchasing. I put them into tiers so the value of each can be easily assessed.

Negative Sentiment Domains Public Opinion Domains Brand Integrity Domains




formal $

yourcompany.tld (all)^ $

Key: ^ should redirect to page on main site, $ should be purchased as brand integrity/future endeavors

It was her negative domain of the company that garnered support of many others burned by them.

Until you’re knee-deep in the hoopla of a full-bore online brand attack, the results of having procured negative domains in your registry is a thankless task. But what I’ve learned over the years is when you’re in the position to do something proactively helping defend the brand of the company, you should do it. I get a couple laughs and an expected collective face-palming in the board room when I ask about negative domain assets.  Instead I tell the tale of one instance where I was called in for damage control. I saw a room full of C-levels released as stock value was destroyed at the hands of a curious consumer. This person launched a personal crusade against this company after her mother’s investment portfolio was mishandled by one employee. The investigation shed light on the larger problems within the company and poor oversight of the advisors. In the end, this investment firm had bigger issues than what the consumer first suspected, but it was her negative domain of the company that garnered support of many others burned by them. So much that it garnered the attention of the local news investigative team.

One common objection that many business owners tell me is that they stand behind their product/service and therefore don’t need to defend their reputation. Or, “I’m not doing anything shady, so I don’t need to buy negative domains”. That may be true, and I believe you. But reality sets in when I ask them to think of their favorite brand, and then think about how they may not please everyone. Think about how if they hire someone to manage their social media that the responsibility of the brand’s message is in the hands of a human, and we all make mistakes. Sh*t happens! Even to the best brands. If your business is on the level then happy consumers will respond and advocate for you. If you’re doing something you shouldn’t be, worry less about negative domains and worry more about the ethics of your practices.

Don Rhoades is a SEO Manager and reputation management consultant in Raleigh, NC. He has used to monitor conversations about his clients since 2009.

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