GoDaddy Parking Spam Ads On Your Registered Domains

[ 20 ] May 10, 2010 |
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**There is an update regarding my sites, the ads and NetFirms at the end of  this post**

Domain registrars GoDaddy and NetFirms are putting up spammy Pay Per Click ads on domains already purchased/registered by their customers, but not being used for a site by said customer, without their express consent or knowledge. Nice, eh? So, say you purchased some domain names because it’s a good idea to buy up any and all domains with variations of your site name, your actual name or common misspellings of either, to protect your “brand” and your given name? A lot of people do this. The main reason is to keep traffic coming to your blog or website and not to some disgusting porn site. Many people who buy up their domain names, just point them all to their main site URL. Some “park” them and either give that page a link to their main site or put up AdSense and affiliate ads. Why not try to make a few bucks off an unused site? You’ve already paid for it, right?

Right.

Your domain name, and/or your real name, when Googled, and the resulting search ranking pages, is essentially your reputation on the interwebs. You want that to be favorable and not be linked to a spam site or pornography, right?

Of course you do.

But GoDaddy, and I am sure a few other domain name sellers, are using your registered, but unused, domains to make some money for themselves.

I was first made aware of this common practice when my friend Heather, from Home To Heather, was notified by another blogger that the unused URL she had purchased through GoDaddy, and she was now offering for sale, was coming up as a parked page filled with spam porn ads. I saw this for myself as well. She said she never parked the domain. That got me thinking about the two domain names I had just bought two weeks ago through NetFirms, but hadn’t had time to install WordPress on yet.

So I checked. {Remember, I had already changed the name servers on these two domains to point to my HostGator host} I typed my URL’s into my browser and this is what I found:

Hearing Voices blog with unauthorized ads on it

Shan's Shreds with unauthorized ads on it

I did not put these ads up. Nor did I authorize anyone else to do so. I own those domain names. They are mine. The ads, and whatever revenue they were generating on my already paid for URL’s, were not benefitting me in any way. I must point out that these domains were bought at the same time through NetFirms. I immediately switched their name servers to my hosting and yet I found spam placed on them without my consent. I called HostGator to find out if it was them who placed the ads and was told that it was not them. I was also told that each of those sites should have come up as blank pages because I had not installed any CMS platform on them. I can now only assume it was NetFirms who did it. The worst part about this is that a quick WhoIs search for your domain name will give your real name as the site owner, unless you have the WhoIs privacy protection. You and your sites could then be labeled as spam in search engines like Google, Yahoo or bing. This will affect any page rank you could have if you ever do decide to utilize your URL and not just park it.

Still, others simply buy domain names up so that no one else can have them and do nothing with them. They don’t park them. They don’t point or redirect them. They simply own them and never bother with them again until it is time to renew the registration.

That is where the problem starts.

It seems that GoDaddy feels they have the right to take any domain name, owned or not, park it and place spam ads on it. While I was unable to find any policy regarding NetFirms’ claimed right to do this, I did find GoDaddy’s policy which states that they, in fact, have every right to place their ads on your unused domain as compensation for generously allowing you to “park” your paid for domain on their servers for free.

Really, now?

Let me get this straight, I pay GoDaddy or whatever domain name registrar for a URL. I don’t have that domain hosted anywhere because I either don’t want to actually use it or I just want to park it, put up my own PPC ads, just keep renewing it as necessary and the registrar feels it is their right to hijack my legally owned and paid for URL, add their own PPC ads to it and keep any revenue those ads generate for themselves?

What the fuck? Aren’t I entitled to any money earned off of a site I own?

Not according to GoDaddy.

Their policy states {From 2009}:

If You are using Go Daddy’s Parked Page services, You agree that Go Daddy may point the domain name or DNS to one of Go Daddy’s or Go Daddy’s affiliates web pages, and that they may place advertising on Your web page and Go Daddy specifically reserves this right. Go Daddy also reserves the right to collect and retain all revenue obtained from such advertising. You may terminate Your use of the Parked Page service at any time through Your online account manager.

The question remains, is it legal for GoDaddy, NetFirms or any other domain name seller, to park spam ads on their customers’ URL’s without their explicit consent and keep all the revenue? Well, someone is challenging that “common practice” and the decision in these cases could have far reaching consequences for all domain name registrars and their customers. GoDaddy, is now being sued in two separate Federal class action lawsuits {One in Phoenix, Arizona and one in Arkansas} for “unlawfully generating and retaining revenue derived from these online advertisements each time an Internet user clicks an online advertisement appearing on plaintiff’s domain names.”

I wonder how GoDaddy is going to untangle themselves from this? I am sure they will state their policies on parked domains and that all customers must agree to said policy in order to purchase a domain name from them. However, if the policy is unlawful to begin with, they cannot hold their customers to abiding by it, now can they?

Methinks GoDaddy is about to lose even more money and customers. The hacking fiasco that started two weeks ago made customers leave in droves. I suspect this revelation will have a similar effect.

UPDATE:

After Dan, from NetFirms, commented on this post and informed me that the ads I found on my domains two weeks after purchasing them were not from his company, I called HostGator. I was informed, once again, that these were not HostGator ads and that I should have seen a HostGator logo because they do not place ads on their customers’ domains unless they are parked, which I did not do. I was further informed that the registrar that I bought the domains from is responsible for any content seen on domains that have no CMS installed on them {The ads are referred to as “placeholders”}. I am not sure who to believe, to tell you the truth, but I am getting to the bottom of this and will hopefully have a truthful answer soon.

** The FTC requires me to tell you that I have put my affiliate link in this post. I was not paid or compensated to write this post. I did it because hate that GoDaddy is essentially defrauding and stealing from their paying customers. But if you click my link and purchase hosting {PLEASE make sure you clear your cache and cookies before clicking any of my links. There seems to be problem with me getting credit for my sales lately}, I will make a few bucks. That is kind of the point of having an affiliate link, now isn’t it? D’OH!!**

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Category: My Opinions

About the Author ()

I'm Shan and I 'm the creator of The Asylum and a magnet for The Free Range Stupid™. I'm a little nutty, a lot sarcastic and pretty damn smart. I am also a graphic designer, blog coder, virtual assistant, free lance writer and can whip you up a killer resume, media kit or press release that would make others green with envy. Go to Skewed Design Studios to check out my services. You won't be disappointed.

Comments (20)

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  1. Amanda says:

    So now I have to check parked domains too? Nice. GoDaddy = customer service fail.
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Calling All Military Spouses! =-.

  2. I am already extremely upset with the incessant hacking through GoDaddy on my blog (three times in the past week) and now this? Nice.
    .-= Stacie @ The Divine Miss Mommy´s last blog ..Moms Gift Pack – Clearly Beautiful, LashFood, Hit the Deck & Le Baby =-.

  3. dan says:

    I work for Netfirms and I would like to address your concerns about the ads on parked domain names.

    Netfirms NEVER places ads on domain names that are active and belong to a client (paid and up to date). We only place ads on parked domains AFTER they have expired. The ads remain on the site until the domain is either renewed by the client, or placed into redemption with the registry. Under no circumstances would we take a customers active domain name and park it with advertisements.

    As blunt as this is (and I apologize if it’s too blunt), if you are extremely concerned with the reputation of your sites and domain names, ensure that they are paid for and renewed on time.

    If you have any questions about the domain parking feel free to contact our customer care department.

    • Shan says:

      Dan,

      Thank you for your comment, I do appreciate it. However, I have only owned those domain names for a couple of weeks. If it is true that your company only parks domains and places ads on them when they are up for sale, then how did the ads get onto my paid for URL’s? Shouldn’t you remove said ads as soon as the domains are purchased by a client?

      I agree that every domain owner should keep their payments up to date, however, when it is a new purchase and you have plans for said domains, it is very disturbing to find ads on them that you did not authorize, especially if they are of a pornographic nature. HostGator assured me they did not place the ads (I switched the name servers to HostGator fairly quickly after my purchase), and since I bought the domains from your company, I can only assume NetFirms did.

      This article was really about GoDaddy and their horrible practices and policies, but since I experienced the same thing on domains bought from your company, I put that in this post.

      I would simply like to know why unauthorized ads were on my URL’s. If this was a simple mistake, then fine. But if this is, in fact, common practice amongst the majority or domain registrars (as you stated above, it is not a normal practice of NetFirms), then the consumer needs to be made aware of it and the practice needs to stop.

      Again, thank you for your comment. I did say that I could find no policy from your company stating that parked domains would be used for PPC ads. I only stated what I found when I checked my un-parked domains purchased through your company.

      • dan says:

        Hi Shan,

        I would be glad to look into that for you. If you can tell me which domain name this problem happened on I can investigate it for you. If your domain did get parked by us with ads shortly after you registered it then it was most definitely a bug and I apologize for that, but I cant say for certain until I take a look at your account.

        • Shan says:

          The domains were shansshreds.com and hearingvoices-blog.com. The ads are gone now because I installed WP on them, but the screen shots in the post above are what I saw. And each time I refreshed the page, the ads and background would change.

          • dan says:

            Those appear to be ads that were placed there by your hosting company. Since you are hosting with Hostgator, it seems they parked it like that until you uploaded your website or installed a CMS like WordPress.

            The only way for us to have placed advertisements on your parked domain (intentionally opr unintentionally) is if the domain was parked using the Netfirms nameservers (ns1.netfirms.com and ns2.netfirms.com) but according to your WHOIS they are pointed to hostgator.

            Domains parked at Netfirms use SEDO to display advertisements and the pages look like this: http://img200.imageshack.us/img200/9730/sedot.jpg

            I hope that clarifies some of the issues you’ve experienced. Bottom line: whoever the nameservers are pointed to is who is in control of the content.

            If you have any other questions feel free to ask away.

            • Shan says:

              Thank you, Dan. I called HostGator. I added an update to my post.

              • dan says:

                I saw your update. At this point I wouldn’t know what to say. The nameservers control what content is displayed. If your nameservers are pointed to another hosting company, and they have been since at least April 24, 2010, then there’s no possible way for us to redirect your domain to a parking page.

                I hope you can get to the bottom of this and if you get any more info that helps and you it leads towards us let me know.

                Registrar: NETFIRMS, INC.
                Whois Server: whois.netfirms.com
                Referral URL: http://www.netfirms.com
                Status: clientDeleteProhibited, clientTransferProhibited, clientUpdateProhibited

                Expiration Date: 2011-04-21
                Creation Date: 2010-04-21
                ***Last Update Date: 2010-04-24***

  4. Although I do not agree with the way they are doing that, they are legally allowed to do so because technically you agreed to allow them to do so when you signed up for the domain with them. You are required to mark a box that says you read and agree to the terms and policies, etc., therefore you said it was OK for them to earn money off your domain. Shitty, yeah.
    .-= Shawn Ann @ Shawn Ann’s World´s last blog ..The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you!) Review =-.

    • Shan says:

      Shawn Ann,

      I agree with you to a point. NetFirms did not inform me of this when I purchased my domains, and as Dan said above, that is not their normal practice. I do not know about what is seen when buying a domain through GoDaddy, since I did not buy anything from them. I am simply stating my situation and what I found through research and what was relayed to me by victims of this horrible practice.

      The legality of GoDaddy’s parked domain policy is being challenged in two federal courts. Just because it is a company policy, does not make it a legal policy. Or morally right for that matter.

      Just sayin’…

  5. Heather says:

    You know, I had seen that some of my unused domains were set to GoDaddy parking pages with google ads on them. Fine. Whatever. It said on that page ‘this url is parked, use godaddy to buy domains, blah, blah. It was obvious to anyone landing there that it was clearly a domain that the owner wasn’t using. But when I see my url called ‘momblogshowcase’ pointing to an out and out PORN site. That pisses me off. I guess the words ‘mom showcase’ were too juicy to pass up for them and their disgusting habits. In this case, I posted my url in a forum to let people know I didn’t want it and I would be willing to let the url go….did anyone want it… and low and behold they clicked and were taken to porn. In this case it WASN’T obvious that the url was unused and just parked. It looked like I did this on PURPOSE. That is wrong, puts my reputation on the line and has the potential to damage any value the url might have had.

    • Shan says:

      You did screen shot that didn’t you, Heather? I agree, if the page CLEARLY states “this is a parked domain” then that is better than a momblog url that links to PORN sites. And come on, doesn’t GoDaddy care even a little bit about their customers?

  6. Emily says:

    Wow Godaddy. I just looked at one of my unused domain names: momintutions.com and sure enough, it is parked- with ads about “Mom masturbating”. How is that professional?!?!

    • Shan says:

      GoDaddy needs to make that almighty dollar and this is their compensation for “allowing” you to park a domain on their server without buying hosting from them.

  7. dan says:

    One more thing to address your concern about having your full name displayed in the WHOIS.

    Netfirms offers FREE domain privacy for all .com/.net domain names. We enable this feature by default for every domain registered which means that your personal information is hidden from the general public.

    Most other registrars charge a separate fee for privacy, up to $10 extra on top of your yearly domain renewal fee.

    • Shan says:

      Dan,

      I did state that unless you have WhoIS privacy that your personal info will be available on the web. I am sorry I did not mention that I received it free through your company (A wonderful perk, by the way). Again, I am only stating my personal experience with your company and situations relayed to me by others (And what I found through research) about GoDaddy’s practices.

      If you can tell me how and why there were unauthorized ads on my newly purchased domains, I would appreciate it.

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