The Wall Street Journal has an article entitled “Tool Traps Poachers of Web Names” in which they give a nice plug to BrandCrawler, a service from BulkRegister.  Last Thursday’s Journal mentioned GenuOne’s product (discussed here previously).  I’m of several minds (and have various conflicts) when discussing tools which allow for policing or searching names on the Internet..  In the Journal article, the first paragraph tells the success story of the National Guild of Hypnotists, which used BrandCrawler to discover  I thought to myself: “they needed someone else to find that one?”

The first generation of policing oriented spidering tools had their eye up to the wrong end of the telescope.  When searching a mark, you want every conceivable hit, but when you are policing a mark, you want only a manageable quantity of relevant hits.  You don’t want the chaff to obscure the wheat, and you don’t want to needlessly start the laches clock running by learning of a problem you don’t have the resources to deal with today.  Therefore raw spidering, which produces phone-book-sized reports of hits, wasn’t very useful (without someone taking the time to methodically review them).  The next generation, such as GenuOne, which uses its own heuristics to suggest relevancy, is a step in the right direction.

I haven’t tried out BrandCrawler so I can’t comment.  A competiting domain name watch product is CheckMark (disclosure – I know the owner) which I did try out and liked. CheckMark is good at handling typo-marks and also ccTLDs.  For DIY domain name policing you may consider periodically checking out DomainSurfer, which searches for the presence of a string anywhere in the domain name.

As to policing the presence of a term on the web content, I’m not sure the magic compromise between comprehensiveness and relevancy has yet been achieved.  It is tempting to put a term in DogPile and conclude that if a problematic website isn’t showing up in the top ten hits there that it isn’t worth worrying about (that, unfortuntely, is a fallacy).   Tools such as GenuOne go beyond merely finding a hit and comment on the content itself – for example it attempts to identify websites which might be selling unauthorized or grey market versions of a product.  However I believe that such products are not priced for small businesses as of yet.

There are many useful free or reasonably priced policing tools out there (like my poky domain dossier, best used during non-business hours), but the small to mid-sized business might not know they exist.  One thing I do with clients is ‘interview’ them as to how their brand is being used on the Internet, and then we come up with a mix of DIY and other services which either my crack staff or outside vendors provide.

Different types of policing tools, including pepper spray, here.