Today, the internet is the world’s most important sales, marketing, and communication channel. And the gatekeepers of the internet – search engines like Google – set the rules by which most users find content. That means that anyone that masters the art and science of search engine optimization (SEO) can wield tremendous power online.
Such individuals can drive traffic toward sites championing positive social causes. They can help businesses gain the exposure they need to thrive. They can also work to highlight community leaders and the great work they do. But their skills aren’t always used toward positive ends.
That’s the point that Glasgow, Scotland-based SEO expert Craig Campbell is now working to make clear to the public. This past December, he noticed that the official website domain registration of Brexit champion Nigel Farage was on the verge of lapsing. When it did, Campbell decided to make a point by purchasing it through a domain registrar. The page – found at NigelFarageMEP.co.uk – now redirects to the website of the European Commission.
The Risks to Online Reputation
Campbell’s purpose, of course, was to highlight the fact that people and businesses must take care to protect their online assets. Even a simple mistake like failing to renew a domain name can become an embarrassing episode. Or worse, it could inflict serious reputational harm.
In this case, there was no real harm done beyond some gentle ribbing because Farage has long been an antagonist of the European Commission. But in the hands of a less scrupulous buyer, control of the domain name could have turned into a real public relations weapon. And once such damage happens, it’s not easy to undo.
High-Traffic Domains Sought After
But reputational damage isn’t all that can happen. Campbell went on to point out that high-traffic domain names are quite valuable for other reasons. Of the Farage domain, he says, “I got the domain name, and within a couple of weeks, I’ve already got the website getting 13,000 monthly hits, [and] ranks with 223 keywords. So that is how quick and easy you can get websites making money if you take advantage of expired domain names.”
It’s a tactic that businesses can use to increase traffic to their websites, provided they do some homework first. Targeting high-traffic expired domains related to their industry accomplishes two things. First, it can help them cast a wider net for searchers who may be interested in their products. And second, they can use the expired domains in a backlink campaign to build up their own site’s authority ranking.
An Important Lesson
Campbell had hoped that Mr. Farage or a member of his team would contact him to regain control of the domain, which he said he’d happily relinquish. But instead, it seems they opted to purchase a new domain name and start over. But there’s another valuable lesson lurking in that situation, too, says Campbell.
In the few weeks’ time that he’d been working with the expired domain, Campbell managed to make it even more valuable than it had been before expiring. Even now, a Google search ranks the original domain higher than the new, official one. And that should serve as another warning for businesses and individual website owners. It’s that losing control of a domain name isn’t always something that you can recover from. It can create long-term problems that are no trivial matter to overcome. And, depending on who’s controlling the old domain, it may turn into a costly proposition, too.
Sharing the Wisdom
It’s also worth pointing out that Mr. Campbell initially bought the expired domain name to use as an object lesson in his highly-rated SEO courses. And as the recently-named most influential SEO of 2020, he’s amassed quite a loyal following of late. His YouTube channel boasts over 50,000 subscribers, and he’s already the highest-paid Scottish businessman on the site.
But the overarching point, he says, is to spread the word that SEO tools and techniques are more powerful than one might think. In the right hands, knowledge of SEO can propel a business or individual to the top. But it can also do the opposite in the wrong hands. So, the bottom line is that anyone running a website should seek out SEO knowledge to aid their cause and to protect themselves as well. Those that don’t are creating a vulnerability that others might be all too happy to exploit.