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January 24, 2005

Domain Name Pseudo-Branding

In Spam Wars I claim that most high-volume spammers don't attempt to flaunt a brand-name domain. Many legitimate companies spend fortunes on building domain name brands so that the next time you sit at your computer and think about buying a product or service in their category, you intuitively enter a name-brand URL. That's why domains such as amazon.com, expedia.com, monster.com, and lots more are indelibly fixed in our heads. They don't call it "branding" for nothing (cue the sizzle sound).

Spammers, on the other hand, have no qualms registering and using gibberish domain names, especially if they use them for short periods or in rotation with others, just to complete a particular spam campaign. Whatever branding they might wish to promote at the Web site doesn't show itself in the spam, which would be too easily blocked by spam filters.

But occasionally, I see a spammer who is enamored—at least for a little while—with a particular keyword that is buried within a series of registered domain names. I'm not talking about typical words that get repeated over and over in domain names (such as: herbal, great, free, email, offer, and meds). Rather the words are more identifiable. They also tend to gravitate toward offers for porn and online dating/chat sites (is there a distinction?).

Two partial brand names I've seen recently in my Suspects bin have the words "hotty" and "hookup" in them, in combination with one or more other words. The "hotty" spams are all the same format; all the "hookup" spams are the same. I don't visit the spamvertised Web sites, so I don't know if the brand names carry over to their product or service offering. I'm sure that all "hotty" domains redirect visitors to the same destination, and all "hookup" links lead to the same spot.

Spam fighters commonly exert extra energy to explain the motivation behind a particular spammer's modus operandi. If the tactic is harmless (as this one seems to be), it's a waste of time figuring out why the spammers do what they do. It could be convenience, laziness, or simply a spammer being in a "hookup" mood this week. The downside for spammers, however, is that the more they repeat a pattern, the easier it is for spam filtering to catch it next time. Hookup with that one, hotty.

Posted on January 24, 2005 at 12:12 PM