‘The domains were available’

A local general contractor has taken an unusual step to make sure his firm’s website comes up at the top of search results on the web. But while the move might be a savvy web strategy, it’s riled other contractors who think it violates the spirit of fair competition.

This story first appeared on RichmondBizSense.com, Richmond’s leading source for business news.

(From Aaron Kremer)

A local general contractor has taken an unusual step to make sure his firm’s website comes up at the top of search results on the web. But while the move might be a savvy web strategy, it’s riled other contractors who think it violates the spirit of fair competition.

Classic Kitchens of Virginia, a Goochland general contracting firm that remodels kitchens and other rooms, has registered domain names of competitors with more obscure extensions instead of the normal “.com”.

For example, clicking on www.gracestreet.biz links to Classic Kitchens, not the website for Grace Street Home Renovations. Similarly, www.frankolafratta.info goes to Classic Kitchens instead of remodeler Mark Franko’s website. Classic Kitchens also registered domain names similar to Lane Built and HomeMasons.

Matt Gunn, a vice president and co-owner at Classic Kitchens, said he registered the domains to boost his search optimization results.

“I found out they were available by searching the domain names, and I was hoping that having the same keywords will help attract views to our site,” Gunn said, adding that he’s registered more than 100 domains. (Not all of those are competitor’s names with the different suffixes.)

That’s important because most prospective remodeling clients begin their buying process by researching options online, Gunn said, adding that the virtual real estate was available.

He said he does not think potential customers will type in the web address of his competitors and accidentally arrive at his site.

Two competitors have emailed Gunn to express their displeasure, but he said he is not disabling the links.

Ed Lane, the founder and owner of Lane Homes & Remodeling, said he wants to talk with Classic Kitchen about it, but is waiting to assemble some other contractors because he thinks it will have a better impact if they all go at once.

(The sites www.lanebuilt.net, www.lanebuilt.co and www.lanebuilt.biz all bounce to Classic Kitchen’s website.)

“I’ve always appreciated and enjoyed a friendly and honest competitor,” Lane said. “We all talk and share stories, but for somebody to be that desperate – maybe it’s the economy – but just to get some additional business and do it in an underhanded way, it hurts that someone would do that.”

Mark Franko, a co-owner of Franko Lafratta Construction, isn’t pleased, either.

“It would seem that a bit of their MO (modis operandi) is brand confusion,” Franko said.

When asked whether the move was just a savvy maneuver by a competitor, Franko said no. “This is clearly not what I would expect from a professional organization.”

The strategy is probably legal, as long as customers are not trying to get to one company’s website and accidentally ending up at another, said Chris Gatewood, a lawyer who works on copyright and trademark issues. But courts are still working through such issues, Gatewood said, including what the website industry calls cyber squatting.

“It’s certainly a relatively bold SEO strategy, and something I think is not commonly done,” Gatewood said. “How it plays out depends on whether people are confused or not … if someone is looking for one company and unwittingly ending up at another, and had a search diverted by that, then there may be some consumer confusion.”

Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to Editor@richmondbizsense.com.

For more on the latest business news in and around Richmond, visit RichmondBizSense.com and sign up for their email newsletter.

(Image courtesy of Classic Kitchens of Virginia)

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  1. douche move

  2. What a completely sh*tty thing to do. Totally a douche. Thanks for posting this. I am looking for new kitchen cabinets and they just lost my business.

  3. It’s not a common SEO practice because it shouldn’t do any good. Google et al. are smarter than that. Does this guy really think he can outsmart engineers at Google who have mastered this search stuff?

    Legitimacy bolsters results on search engines. No one but this idiot Matt Gunn will ever link the name of another business to one of his worthless domains. Just because you buy the domain doesn’t mean it becomes a forerunner in the search results. Anyone who has gone through Internets 101 should know this.

    He basically just blew a lot of money on worthless domains. And once this story gets out he will probably have funded lost business on his own. In fact, if you Google “matt gunn richmond” this story is fourth in the results.

    Great job, Matt!

  4. +1 to Brando’s post

  5. Sternn on said:

    Like a poster says above, it will have absolutely no effect on his Google rank. The adult industry used to use this as a common practice, but it has since been sorted by all major search engines.

    The best he can hope for is someone to type in the wrong address by accident.

    Then again, that is called cybersquatting (a sub-set called typosquatting to be precise). It is illegal. You can file a complain with either the registrar or Internic and get the domain(s) from the person who registered them in bad faith, and you can sue them for any lost revenue.

    Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybersquatting

    In 1999 Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA) was passed and it specifically addresses this issue. I’m surprised the author of this article did not Google the issue and see that yer man is clearly engaged in what is illegal activity.

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