The world of online business can be a veritable minefield, especially when it comes to protecting the brand you have put so much time, effort and money into building.

Spamming, cybersquatting, SEO manipulation and intellectual property theft are just some of the threats that your business needs to safeguard against. Otherwise, you risk losing your reputation, revenue and potential new customers to those trying to “piggyback” on your success.

Here are some simple techniques to help protect your brand online.

1) Purchase alternate domains

There are a number of aspects to consider when choosing a website domain. Ideally, it needs to be unique, easy to remember and include your brand’s name. Rand Fishkin, from inbound marketing giants Moz, has written a useful list of tips for choosing the right domain, in which he highlights the importance of purchasing a .com domain and all its available suffixes, including, .net and .org. This will help to capture all relevant direct traffic for your brand, but more importantly, prevent cybersquatting.

Cybersquatting involves registering popular or well-known domain names and selling them for inflated prices or diverting traffic to an illegitimate site. Make sure your brand is protected by purchasing all suffixes of your chosen domain (including new variations for specific locations or industries), not forgetting the crucial part of pointing them all to .com using 301 redirects.

2) Monitor brand mentions

One of the most effective ways to protect your brand online is by simply paying attention to what people are saying about you and addressing any threats. There are numerous free tools available to help do this, such as Social Mention, Google Alerts, and Silverbean favourite Sysomos, which trawl the web for mentions of your brand on social networking sites, blogs and in the search results.

This is becoming increasingly important with more and more ways for people to express their opinion and share experiences online. A bad review has the potential to take on a life of its own and be shared, referenced or quoted online for a long time, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Another simple, but effective technique is to search for your brand in Google, Yahoo! or Bing like a potential customer and see what appears on the first page. If there are any web pages or pieces of content listed that are irrelevant or potentially damaging, focus on getting them bumped down to page 2 of Google, where nobody will see them!

3) Check for PPC brand bidding

Another way in which competitors can try to leverage your hard-earned brand equity for their own benefit is with Pay-Per-Click advertising, or PPC as it is commonly known. PPC is a great way to enhance brand exposure for relevant keywords, reassure searchers of your identity and encourage click-throughs to your website.

It is now extremely common for businesses to bid on their competitors’ brand terms to try and hijack relevant traffic. And if you are not top of the paid ads for your own brand term, a more eye-catching and appealing placement may just convince a potential customer to go elsewhere.

In the UK, trademarked terms are protected online under law. Even the all-seeing, all-knowing Google could not use its ‘Gmail’ brand here initially because someone else owned the name. It’s vitally important to trademark your brand and prevent competitors from using it for paid advertising. Google, Yahoo! and MSN all have procedures for dealing with infringements, if a polite/strongly-worded email to your competitor does not do the trick.

4) Search for duplicate content.

Duplicate content is a big no-no in Google’s eyes. It is something that the search engine tends to penalise, especially when the content can be found in exactly the same form on numerous URLs across the internet.
Therefore, it’s important to keep an eye on where your brand’s content is being published and, more importantly, duplicated. Tools like Copyscape and Grammarly can help to do this, while an occasional manual search of some unique phrases on your site is also effective.

If you do find that a large percentage of your content has been duplicated or scraped and it looks potentially spammy, email the offending website and ask them to remove it or credit you in the form of a hyperlink or Canonical Tag back to the original web page on your site.

If you take these measures and keep on top off any potential issues, you will be able to deal with small threats before they become a big problem for your online business.