GoDaddy: Planting Billboards in Your Yard

I buy domains every so often. Some URLs I develop; some I redirect; some I park. GoDaddy is my registrar of choice, just because they’re so cheap. But they’ve just done something really stupid, and I’m going to have to rethink my patronage.

Having registered a vanity domain last week, I visited the site for the first time today and noticed GoDaddy is serving sponsored links onto the page. Big ones that take up almost the whole page. And they’re pocketing the money they make off my real estate.

Properly outraged, I called customer service to give the address where they could send my half of the revenue, and the rep said no no no, you should’ve read your user agreement. Wow. Really?

This is an interesting, if totally offensive, test for a domain registrar to undertake. Will people notice? Will they care? In an age where eyeballs equal money, my bet is they will.

It’s also somewhat akin to the rapidly growing practice of domain squatters serving nothing but sponsored text links onto generic Web pages like makeovers.com and 2006superbowlcoverage.com — and then relying on direct navigation by people who are either unversed in search or simply curious about a domain. Companies doing this include Marchex, Name Administration Corp., Sedo and many others. Increasingly, they won’t even negotiate to sell a domain, since they’re making so much off the AdSense links.

These companies claim they’re working to make these phantom Web pages more relevant, but to date it’s all just so much junk media — non-media media.

Many contextual network advertisers have no idea their links are turning up in these spots. I wonder how they’d feel?

update: As it turns out, Google is an enabler, with a dedicated program for parked domains.

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